There is so much beauty as you look closely as the flower of the sun begins to unfurl it’s petals.

A Sunflower slowly begins to unfurl it’s petals, eager to face the sun.

Now completely open, the Sunflower embraces the desert sun.

These two beautiful photos were taken by my nephew, Mr. Green Jeans, who is the resident vegetable grower at “The Refuge”.

*For those of you who have not had a chance yet, please visit my 100th blog post and sign up for the giveaway, which ends on Friday (tomorrow).

Well, I can’t believe that this is my 100th blog post and that some of you are still reading my blog…. ;^)

I have enjoyed meeting so many of my fellow gardeners and those who want to learn how to garden.  I have met people not just from Arizona, but around the country and all over the world.  It just blows my mind how many of us there are, who love to garden and visit beautiful gardens.

The day after I started my blog, I joined Blotanical, which has been such a wonderful place to belong.  I have met many fellow gardeners and have visited their beautiful gardens through their blogs.  I highly encourage those of you who have not visited, to stop by Blotanical…a whole new world awaits you.

In honor of my 100th post, I would like to share with you one of my favorite vines….

This is one of six Purple Lilac Vines (Hardenbergia violaceae) that I have in my garden.   

You can see why it is called Purple Lilac Vine.  The flowers mimic lilacs, but have no fragrance.  They flower in February, when there are few other flowers in the garden.

It does require a trellis or other type of support to climb up against a wall.  

Today, when I went outdoors to take these pictures, the bees were happily buzzing about the flowers, greedily gathering pollen.

There is nothing not to love about this vine.  It does not suffer from frost damage in my zone 8b and so is evergreen.  It handles the heat very well, has no thorns and is absolutely beautiful.

Long ago….okay about 10 years ago, I planted the vines as a groundcover along the golf course and they worked so well, that I bought some to grow as groundcovers in my own garden.

Even when out of flower, they are just beautiful.  They need no special attention.  I do not fertilize them and only prune them every couple of years or so.

And so, this is my type of plant….low-maintenance and beautiful!

Thank you so much for visiting my blog and letting me know what you think in your comments.  I am excited to see what the next 100 posts bring! 

Yesterday was a glorious winter day accompanied with warmer then usual temperatures; 68 degrees F.  I went over to Double S Farms to help my brother-in-law (Farmer Dad), prune the fruit trees – (the fruit trees had sadly been neglected and mistreated by the previous owners, so we had to quite a bit of corrective pruning).

I brought along, my now repaired camera, intending to take pictures of how to prune fruit trees for a later post.  Once I arrived, I was so happy to see early signs of spring all around me….

A single peach bud, just beginning to show a flash of pink.

Snap Peas beginning to grow in the vegetable garden.

The grapefruit tree is heavily laden with delicious fruit.

The “Formerly Overgrown, Neglected Rose – Glamis Castle” beginning to leaf out.

The apple trees were full of buds and I was able to find this glimpse the pink petals impatiently waiting to burst out.

Double S Farms resident Costa’s Hummingbird, was happily perched on top of the almond tree watching over our activities.

Imagine a plant that lives for years, never flowering, and then towards the end of it’s life, expends all of it’s energy to produce flowers on a giant stem and then dies….

Agave colorata getting ready to flower.

The story begins with an agave starting to grow it’s flowering stalk, or inflourescence.  The growth is incredibly fast, growing up to 1 ft. each day.  Depending on the species, the flowering stalk can reach heights up to 40 ft. 

Agave murpheyi sending up it’s flower stalk.  *I took the picture, above, at a client’s house and she referred to the flowering stalk as an ‘asparagus stalk’ because that is what it looks like.

When most people think of Agave, they think of the Century Plant, (Agave americana), and believe that it will flower once it reaches 100 years old.  This is actually a myth.  Although the timeline can vary, Agave americana does not live that long and flower much sooner.  There are over 250 agave species and most flower towards the end of their life and then die.

Actually, the length of time an agave lives is largely dependent on the species.  In my experience in the managed landscapes, most agave live approximately 5 – 15 years, once planted from a 5-gallon container.

I am not completely sure what species this particular agave was. Note the ‘pup’ growing from the side of the agave.

There are two different styles of the flowering stalk (inflourescence).  The paniculate, above, and the spiculate, below.

Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana) I planted this agave (as a 5-gallon) in 1999 and it flowered in 2005. 

Agave reproduce both by flowering (seeds) and vegetatively (bulbils & offsets).

You can read more about how agave produce offsets (pups) and how to plant them from a previous post – Pups In The Garden…Not The Soft Cuddly Kind.

The flower of an Smooth Leaf Agave (Agave desmettiana) This is an agave from my garden, which was planted in 1998 and flowered in 2007.

You can see the small bulbils (baby agave) forming among the flowers above.  The bulbils will continue to grow and will receive nourishment from the stalk.  If left alone, the bulbils will eventually fall to the ground and root under ideal conditions.  They can be removed from the flowering stalk and planted, but do best if left until they have formed at least four leaves.

An agave in the desert that has died after flowering.

Close-up of the, now dead, stalk (inflourescence)

Bulbils on the flowering stalk of an Octopus Agave (Agave vilmorniana) They are ready to be picked off and can be planted in well-drained soil.

Early on as a horticulture student, I fell in love with Octopus Agave and I bought my first one at a plant sale.  I planted it in a large pot and it thrived.  Years later, the flowering stalk started to grow.  I was both excited and a little sad.  I was happy because it was finally achieving it’s crowning glory….and sad because I knew it would eventually die at the end after finishing it’s life’s work.

However, that is not the end of the story….my original Agave lives on.  I took two bulbils from it’s stalk and planted them (above) and they are ready to be planted out in my garden. (Actually, I could have planted them much sooner).

**Note the little seedling coming up on the left side of the pot.  My son planted the seed, but we aren’t sure what it is.  I think he might have planted an apple seed.  We shall see….

Journey with me through the garden to see the rainbow of color that awaits…. inspired by my fellow blogger, Rebecca of Prefer To Be In The Garden.

 Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)

RED blossoms cover my Globe Mallow in January.  Bees happily collect pollen from their cup-shaped flowers.  The bees are grateful that blooms will continue until the summer months arrive.

 Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

RED plumes of flowers with their yellow throats decorate the Red Yucca in my father-in-law’s garden.  Flowering will continue until fall for this succulent plant.

Orange Jubilee (Tecoma x Jubilee)

ORANGE tubular flowers entice hummingbirds throughout the year on my Orange Jubilee shrub that grows over 6 ft. tall.  Although flowers slow in the winter, I was able to find some protected from the frost under the eaves of my house.

Red Bird-of-Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima)

ORANGE, red and yellow flowers cover this beautiful shrub throughout the summer and fall months.  I view them through my kitchen window and appreciate their beauty.  Butterflies love them as well.

Arizona Yellow Bells (Tecoma stans stans)

YELLOW flowers adorn my large Yellow Bells shrub, attracting both bees and hummingbirds.  I enjoy their blooms beginning March and lasting through November.

Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

YELLOW, daisy-like flowers bloom throughout the winter and spring on this low-growing ground cover.  Bright winter color, drought-tolerant and low-maintenance makes this perennial a favorite of mine. 

Smooth Leaf Agave (Agave desmettiana)

GREEN leaves of my Agave are wet with raindrops after a November rain.

Floss Silk Tree (Ceiba speciosa / formerly Chorisia speciosa)

GREEN colors the trunk of the Floss Silk tree, decorated with circular thorns. 

Blue Viola

BLUE Violas with their yellow throats brighten a winter’s day.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)

BLUE, tiny flowers bloom among the leaves, proving that Rosemary is not just a popular herb, but is also beautiful.

 Baja Ruellia (Ruellia peninsularis) 

PURPLE flowers decorated with white and yellow, decorate this lovely shrub with beautiful blossoms throughout the entire year.

Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)

PURPLE clusters of flowers nestle between boulders on this Verbena plant.

What kind of plants and flowers make up the rainbow in your garden? 

During this exceptionally rainy week, we did have a one day’s respite from the rain.  I love how clean the landscape looks after it rains.

 Aloe flower

I took advantage of the sunny day and went out to do errands, when I came upon on some blooming plants.  So, I whipped out my small camera, which I always carry for opportunities like this and started snapping pictures.

 Cuphea Bloom

Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa)

Chuparosa (Justicia californica)

I believe that we appreciate any plant that blooms in January because the majority of plants are dormant during the winter.  This is also true in the desert.  During the summer months, the landscape is riot of color.  The winter months can bring shades of brown to the landscape…yet, I am so thankful for the plants that wait until winter to produce their blooms for me to enjoy.

Working as a horticulturist on golf courses meant that I came face to face with wildlife from time to time.  Often, I would see them ahead of time and would react accordingly.  Sometimes however, I was surprised at what I found and where…

I wrote about my Face Off With Wild Pigs earlier this month.  Now, I would like to share with you a new story of a face off that occurred between myself and a tarantula.  

Wikimedia Commons: Albertwap (CC-by-SA license)

Cute and fuzzy isn’t it?

Okay, not really.

My story begins as I was driving in my little maintenance golf-cart checking large planting areas alongside the road.  The plants were all watered with drip-irrigation and connected to irrigation valves.  These valves were located inside of irrigation valve boxes in the ground.

The top of the valve boxes are covered with a plastic lid and I would periodically open them in order to turn on a valve manually.

That is what I was doing on this summer’s day. I had my floppy hat on (absolutely vital for fair-skinned people like me), my gloves and my screwdriver, which I used to open the valve lid.

Now for those of you who have opened a valve box, it is common to find bugs inside.  I was used to finding crickets, sometimes small roaches and rarely a scorpion.  As a result, I ALWAYS wore my gloves and would look inside before putting my gloved hand inside.

Well, this particular day, I opened the lid of a valve box and found a tarantula staring up at me.  I had never seen a tarantula in a valve box before.  He was kind of cute as far as tarantulas go, I guess.

I sat there pondering what I should do….the plants really needed some water.  So, I worked up my courage and I actually spoke to the tarantula.  I said, “I am just going to put my hand in slowly to turn on this valve.  I won’t hurt you if you don’t hurt me.”

Now, I’m not sure if he understood me, but I put my hand inside and turned on the valve and he left me alone!  Afterward, I was kind of proud of myself, but sadly there wasn’t anyone around to applaud my bravery 😉

I went back an hour later to turn off the water and my new friend was gone…

But, I learned my lesson that day – always look before putting your hand inside of a valve box and always wear gloves.

Working on golf courses provided me with many opportunities to interact with our native wildlife.  Now, most of my interactions were welcome – roadrunners, jackrabbits,  even baby raccoons.  Some encounters were unexpected – snakes, tarantulas and coyotes.  But there was one animal with which I waged a constant battle…the Javelina, also know as the Wild Pig.

Javelina (Collard Peccary) Photo by Wing-Chi Poon

Now Javelina are not actually pigs, but are pig-like mammals that are native to the Southwestern region of the United States, ranging southwards into Central and South America.

Okay, first of all, you can smell them before you can see them.  There is no polite way to state this – they stink.  They travel in small herds and love to eat just about anything.  They can eat cactus out in the desert, but will ignore that in exchange for what is growing in your garden.

My personal battle with javelina was due to the fact that two of the golf courses I worked at had 36 tee boxes and each were planted with flowers.  In the summer, I would plant Lantana, which was beautiful and the Javelina did not touch.  But, in the winter, they loved to eat whatever type of annual flower I planted, leaving torn up plants and dirt as proof that they had been there.

Purple Petunias planted at the tee box.

Believe it or not, Petunias, Pansies and Geraniums are listed on the Javelina Resistant Plants list.  But, evidently, the Javelina did not read this list because they happily ate all of mine.

Now, I knew I had to do something besides replacing annuals up to three times a week.  The members of the golf courses wanted flowers and I was tired of making endless trips to the nursery in order to pick up replacement plants and it was eating into my budget.  So, I did some research. 

Pink Petunias with Eremophila ‘Valentine’ in the background.

Some people swore that putting shavings of “Irish Spring” soap would keep them away.  Others said that human hair would do the trick.  I honestly did not try any of these because I had seen them fail before.  But, there are some products that have had some limited success.  The first are coyote urine products that seems to help keep them away, (I didn’t want to try this one for obvious reasons).  The second is Liquid Fence, which must applied frequently and the third is Dr. T’s Squirrel Repellent.

I used Dr. T’s Squirrel Repellent with some success.  It did not eliminate the problem, but it did help decrease the amount of flowers being eaten by the Javelina.

*I did discover that the favorite thing the they would eat, was citrus fruit.  So in the winter, when citrus fruit was plentiful on the trees, the Javelina would mostly ignore my flowers.  In the summer, they would eat the seedpods from the Mesquite trees.

Geranium Flower

There are plants that Javelina are less likely to eat, but if they are hungry enough, they will eat anything.  For years, they never ate the Geraniums I had planted on the golf course.  But, one year, they came in and ate them all.  So, no plant is completely resistant to them.  The following link will send you to a list of plants that are somewhat resistant to Javelina  – be sure to cross out Petunia, Pansy and Geraniums off of the list ;-).

*Annuals that are usually resistant to Javelina include Euryops Daisy, Bacoba, Snapdragons as well as Fern Leaf Lavender.

So the outcome was that I did win some battles, but the Javelina ultimately won the war….

Thankfully, the planters were removed during a golf course renovation and now perennials are now planted in their place, which are ignored by the Javelina.  Unfortunately, this occurred after I had left….

During a visit to a park, I came upon a beautiful little garden that rests on top of 2.2 million tons of trash.  This small succulent garden is but a very small part of the park which rests upon a recently closed landfill.

Newly planted cacti, aloe and agave.  Ocotillo stand in the background. In the background, you can see that the walls are made of wire encased stones.

This landfill was closed in 2005 and the new park has not officially opened.  However, that did not keep me and my husband from exploring.

A collection of Mammillaria backebergiana. Many of them were getting ready to flower.

 Close-up of the flowers beginning to open. I love how the flowers form a ring around this little cactus.

We hiked to the top of the park, (or should I say, the top of the trash heap), which is the second highest point in the city.  Once at the top, it is very easy to view the surrounding mountains (Superstition, San Tan, South Mountain, the McDowell’s and Four Peaks).

A collection of Green Strawberry Hedgehog (Echinocereus enneacanthus engelmannii) and young Aloe.

There is just something I love about a boulder with lots of character like this one.  They add so much texture to the garden and you don’t have to water or prune them.

The canal runs by the park and paths for both bikes and horses encircle the park.

Mammillaria macdougalii 

As you can see from the photo above, contrary to popular opinion, cacti and other succulents do best when watered initially until they become established.  By using drip-irrigation, it is very easy to just plug up the emitters later or put on an adjustable emitter.

*Note how the emitter is not placed up right next to this cactus – it is placed a little ways away to help keep the roots from rotting. 

A young Agave desmettiana and the Mammillaria receive water from the drip-irrigation system. The plantings in the far background look very sparse, but will grow very  quickly. 

 I love how recycled, broken concrete was used to build the walls of this garden.

I love that used recycled, broken concrete was utilized to make the walls of this succulent garden.  

The garden is covered with canvas shade panels which look like they can be easily removed once the cacti and other succulents become established.

*Many cacti and succulents do best when temporary shade is provided when they are moved and transplanted.

I had a wonderful time visiting, but all too soon it was time to leave….for the grocery store.

But, I will be back soon….

*Please click the following link for more information about The Paseo Vista Recreational Area

To be honest, I have never wondered why before, until I met a desert tortoise who wanted to cross a road.

Stock Photo

My encounter with a desert tortoise occurred while I was on my way home in the late afternoon and I was traveling from a rather isolated community in the desert.  


I had just turned onto a two lane road when I noticed something starting to walk into the road ahead.  I slowed down and as I got closer I saw that it was a tortoise.

Well, there were several cars behind me who could not see the tortoise.  At the rate he was traveling, he was not going to survive to make it to the other side.  So, I stopped my car, put on my emergency blinker lights, and got out, lifted him up and carried him to the other side.  

On my way back to my car, I was rewarded by the smiles of those stuck in their cars behind mine once they saw why I had stopped.

So, why did the tortoise cross the road?  I still wonder why to this day….