Desert Landscape Renovation

Have you ever renovated the interior of your house? Seeing the old, outdated elements peeled away and replaced with new paint, flooring, etc. can leave you feeling refreshed and even excited. Well, I get to do that with outdoor spaces, assisting clients with already established desert landscapes, create an updated look. The key to this is NOT to tear everything out and begin from scratch – instead, it’s a delightful puzzle deciding what should remain and what is best removed and replaced.

I get so much satisfaction helping people create an attractive desert landscape, and even more when I get to see them several months later once the plants have a chance to begin to grow. Last week, I was invited to re-visit a new desert landscape that I designed, exactly one year after it was completed and was very pleased with the results.

I’d love to show you photos of the finished product, but first, let’s look at what I had to work with.

Desert Landscape Renovation

As you can see, the interior of the house was also undergoing renovation when I first visited. The front yard consisted of two palm tree stumps, a few agave, overgrown gold lantana, and boulders.

The landscape rock was thinning and mixed in with the river rock while the asphalt from the street was crumbling away.

The parts of the landscape that I felt could be reused were the boulders and the gold lantana. Also, the river rock could be re-purposed. All of the rest was removed.

Desert Landscape Renovation

To create the structure for the new desert landscape elements, additional boulders were added, and the existing contouring was enhanced by elevating the height of the mound and a swale in the front center. The circular collection of rip-rap rock serves to mask the opening of the end of a french drain which helps to channel water from the patio.

A saguaro cactus and totem pole ‘Monstrose’ (Lophocereus schottii ‘Monstrose’) were placed for vertical interest and the gold lantana that were already present were pruned back severely to rejuvenate them and others were added to create visual continuity. Along with the cactuses, other succulents like artichoke agave (Agave parrying var. truncata) and gopher plant (Euphorbia biglandulosa) were incorporated to add texture with their unique shapes.

The existing river rock was removed, washed off and replaced along with the crumbling edge of the street, helping it to blend with the natural curves of the desert landscape.

Desert Landscape Renovation

Anchoring the corners with a grouping of plants is a very simple way to enhance the curb appeal of a home. This collection of volunteer agave and old palm tree stumps weren’t doing this area any favors.

Desert Landscape Renovation

This corner was built up slightly, creating a gentle rise in elevation. A large boulder joined the existing one, and a beautiful, specimen artichoke agave was transplanted here from the owner’s previous residence. Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) will add year-round color as they fill in. ‘Blue Elf’ aloe were planted to add a welcome splash of color in winter and spring when they flower.

Desert Landscape Renovation

Moving into the front courtyard, the corner was filled with an overgrown rosemary shrub. The dwarf oleander shrubs were also taken out as they were too large for the smaller scale of this area.

Desert Landscape Renovation

Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus) helps to anchor the corner and will grow at a moderate rate, adding more height as it grows.

Year-round color is assured with angelita daisies and ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, which won’t outgrow this area.

Desert Landscape Renovation

Moving toward the front entry, this area is somewhat underwhelming. The natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa) adds a pleasant green backdrop and is thriving in the shade, so should stay. However, the Dasylirion succulent should never have been planted here as it needs full sun to look its best.

Desert Landscape Renovation

The solution in this area is quite simple. Pruning back the natal plum to a more attractive shape makes them an asset. A lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus) adds height and texture contrast and will grow in the bright shade. We kept the trailing purple lantana (Lantana montevidensis), for the color that it provides. Rip rap rock was placed to add some interest at the ground level.

Desert Landscape Renovation

Moving toward the backyard, another old rosemary shrub was removed from the corner in the background and replaced with ‘Blue Elf’ aloe and angelita daisy, repeating the same planting from the corner area in the courtyard, helping to tie these separate areas together.

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) were added along the shady side of the house where their spiky shape creates interesting shapes. The key to keeping them attractive is to remove new growth around the base as it occurs.

Desert Landscape Renovation

The corner of the backyard is a very high-profile spot and faces the golf course. The homeowner’s wanted to get rid of the dwarf oleander hedge to improve their view. Clumps of agave look slightly unkempt as volunteer agave were allowed to remain and grow. The gold lantana does add ornamental value as does the small ‘Firesticks’ (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) and can be reused.

Desert Landscape Renovation

One of the clumps of agave was removed, which opened up this area and allowed us to add two aloe vera, which will decorate this corner with yellow blooms in winter and spring. The existing gold lantana provides beautiful color spring through fall. The centerpiece of this group of plants is the water feature.

Desert Landscape Renovation
Desert Landscape Renovation

It’s been over 20 years that I’ve been doing this, and I never get tired of seeing the transformation. I love being a part of it and combining the old with the new for a seamless design.

Thank you for allowing me to share this particular project with you!

Looking for Inspiration: Low-Maintenance Desert Landscapes

UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!

I hope you enjoy it!

I started growing vegetables in pots earlier this year, and it was so easy and the vegetables so delicious AND attractive that I had to do it again.

Last week, my mother took my youngest kids to the nursery and picked up some plants for me.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

You know what?  This is one of the happiest sights in my world 😉

My son, Kai was anxious to pull out the existing plants from our pots.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

All my summer vegetables had been pulled a while ago, and all that was left was the Vinca that I had planted.  I realize the vinca looks a bit yellow and I admit that I didn’t fertilize them enough (I kind of hibernated inside this summer.

Kai got to work at pulling out the flowers.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

He used the hand shovel to loosen the roots so he could pull out the vinca.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

Then he used the shovel to ‘bang’ the root ball to loosen the soil back into the pot.  You don’t want to ‘throw away’ good soil by leaving it around the roots of plants you are pulling out.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

I think Kai did a good job getting all the soil out of the roots, don’t you?

**Vinca will over-winter in my zone 9 garden, but will not flower much.  I prefer to treat them as an annual.

Now for the fun part – planting!

I added some more potting mix (not potting soil, which can get soggy), mixed with some compost to each container.

Then each pot was planted with a combination of green leaf lettuce, purple leaf lettuce, garlic, spinach, dill, parsley, nasturtium seeds, and petunias.

Grow Vegetables in Pots!

In just a few weeks, the lettuce and spinach will be ready to start clipping the leaves for salads.  The garlic cloves that I planted will form whole heads of garlic, which will be ready in late spring.   

I will start snipping off dill and parsley soon as well.

creating edible container garden

Garlic, leaf lettuce, spinach, parsley, and petunias

Flowers look great when planted with vegetables, and I always include some.  Nasturtiums are easy to grow from seed, and their leaves and flowers are edible.  Petunias (and nasturtiums) are great companion plants for vegetables because they help to control damaging insects from eating your vegetables.

Do you want to grow vegetables in containers?

Here is more information on how to do it…

“Vegetable and Flower Containers”

I hope you try growing vegetables in containers as much as I do!

design notes landscape

I’m back with design notes from the field, where I share observations and recommendations from my work as a landscape consultant. This edition features a new build, metal art, weeds, and shade. I hope that you can pick out helpful tips that you can use in your landscape.

Up first, is a new house that is being constructed in east-central Phoenix. The home that used to stand on this lot was taken down to the foundation and an energy-efficient home is coming up in its place. I was hired by the architect to design a landscape that will fit its clean, modern lines.

Several years ago, I solely worked as a landscape designer, working with homebuilders, creating new landscapes from scratch with a blank palette. Nowadays, as a landscape consultant design is just one aspect of what I do as part of an overall plan within an existing landscape, which also includes maintenance recommendations. Now and then, I create one for new homes, and this one has some fun challenges.

The look the architect wants is simple and uncluttered with room for the new homeowner to add to it if desired. So, I am concentrating on using plants to create a framework. This includes two trees in the front along with two along the west-facing side to provide screening from the road and protection from afternoon sun.

Foundation plants will soften the base of the house while taller shrubs will soften the corners. Ground covers will add low-level interest along with a few agave and cactuses for an accent.

A splash of color will be added by the front entry with the placement of a large, colorful pot filled with an easy to care for succulent.

design notes landscape

Often, I am asked for advice on what to do in somewhat unique situations. In this case, the homeowner needed advice for what to do for the wall behind the BBQ, which keeps turning black after grilling. 

I tend to look at problems like this as opportunities for adding more interest to the outdoor space. In this case, I recommended adding garden art in the form of rusted metal botanical panels. There is a local artist in Phoenix who creates metal panels with plant shapes cut out of them. He offers standard pieces but also does custom work. 

The rusted metal garden art will add welcome interest behind the BBQ as well as disguise any blackened area on the wall.

design notes landscape

Here is an example of the metal botanical panels from another client’s home, which was where I first encountered the work of this artist. You can learn more about this metal artist here

design notes landscape

Weeds will always be a problem in the landscape, like these I saw at a client’s home growing through the patio. The solution to this area is to slowly pour boiling water on weeds growing through the cracks, which will kill them. For travertine, only do this if the stone is sealed. 

design notes landscape

To wrap our design notes, here is a landscape where the homeowner wanted to concentrate on plants up close to the house and not add any further out. Now if this front yard didn’t have any trees, the absence of plants would cause it to look barren and washed out. However, the patterns from the branches of the ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde add beautiful patterns on the ground, so you can get away with leaving it bare, which draws attention to the lovely shadows of the branches.

I hope you have enjoyed this latest session of design notes. I’ll have more for you in the future.

**Stay tuned for a special announcement that I’ll be making the beginning of September. I’m working on a new project that will enable me to help you even more to create, grow, and maintain a beautiful outdoor space in the desert. I’ve been working on it for a while and am so excited to share it with you soon!

Painted Trees

I must admit that I don’t spend much time outside in my garden in August as I quickly become a sweaty mess and the heat sucks out all my energy. So, I turn to other pursuits to occupy my time. Only one week into this month and I’ve painted trees, had a chance encounter with a roadrunner and welcomed a new princess.

While I usually indulge my creativity out in the garden with design, I had an opportunity to channel it onto canvas during a team-building event for my husband’s work.

Painted Trees

The event was held at an art studio that hosts group art painting sessions and as I approached the blank canvas, paint brushes and paint, I felt a combination of excitement and apprehension. I’ve never painted on canvas before and the last time I’ve put brush to an easel was in kindergarten.

Painted Trees

The instructor stood in front of the class, and we were to replicate a particular painting, and there was an example of the finished piece of art, and the instructor guided us step by step as she began painting her blank canvas.

Painted Trees, Roadrunners, and a New Princess

It was enjoyable, and I’m living proof that you don’t have to be an artist to enjoy the experience. However, as a certified arborist, I did feel a little bit of pressure when painting in my trees but, reminded myself that this was more impressionistic art.

Painted Trees, Roadrunners

A couple of days later, I was visiting my niece at our local hospital when I spotted a roadrunner walking toward the front door. We don’t see them very often where I live in suburbia, so I stood and watched what it was doing.

Painted Trees, Roadrunners

I just recently taught a class on gardening for birds at the Desert Botanical Garden, so I was full of facts about this type of bird, which is a member of the Cuckoo family and I started reciting them to my husband who was watching the roadrunner with me.

Painted Trees, Roadrunners

For those of us who grew up watching the cartoon feature Wiley Coyote and the Roadrunner, the coyote never seemed to catch the roadrunner. However, in reality, coyotes can reach a top speed of over 30 mph while roadrunners can only run up to 15 mph.

Roadrunners are found throughout the entire Southwest and are spreading as far to Louisiana – so now you have two fun facts to share with your friends.

Painted Trees, Roadrunners

Here is a photo of another roadrunner that I spotted several years in front of a hospice facility, coincidentally across the street from the same hospital. You’ll notice the red and blue coloring on the side of its head, which is visible during mating season.

I’ve watched these large birds run and catch lizards and snakes in the desert, and it’s always a treat when I get to see them up close.

painted trees

Hospital visits aren’t typically fun outings, but the exception is when you are visiting new parents. My nephew and his wife just welcomed a precious little girl into the world, and I am now a great aunt. We have had eight boys born into the family, yet only one girl in the past 25 years, so we are so excited to have another “princess” to love and dote on. Bring on the pink!

In a few short weeks, my focus will once again be in the garden, but for now, I’m enjoying the cool indoors. 

How about you? Have you ever gone to an art studio for a painting class or seen a roadrunner up close?

Twinkies, a Princess, Turf, Seedpods, Root Rot, a Puppy, a Shower & Thanksgiving

marley horticulture learning lab

I am always on the lookout for new and different ways that gardens are designed and the materials that they use. Recently, I was scheduled to teach a class at the Desert Botanical Garden, and as I headed toward the classroom, I admired the modern design of the building but, it was the vine-covered wall that caught my interest.

beautiful desert garden wall

This unusual wall was made up of masonry blocks, like many garden walls in the desert Southwest, but this one was decidedly different. It was made from broken masonry blocks repurposed from a wall that had been removed elsewhere. Some brilliant person realized that instead of filling up landfill space, that the broken blocks could still function as a garden wall. 

beautiful desert garden wall

The salvaged wall provides the perfect surface for queen’s wreath (Antigonon leptopus) vines to crawl up on with their twining tendrils taking advantage of the nooks and crannies within the wall.

beautiful desert garden wall

The sprays of flowers, leaves, and stems create beautiful shadows along the pavement below. Shadows are an element of garden design that is often overlooked. However, don’t underestimate the effect that the shapes of the shadows from cactuses, succulents, and even vines can add to a bare wall, fence, or even on the ground.

beautiful desert garden wall

Years ago, I used to carry a small digital camera in my purse for unexpected opportunities to take pictures of a particular plant, or design idea. Nowadays, this is just another reason that my smartphone is perhaps my most valued tool.

Book Review: Desert Landscaping and Maintenance

Aesop, the Desert Tortoise

Our desert tortoise, Aesop, has been a fun addition to our life ever since we adopted him three years ago. He typically becomes quite active beginning in June, after a very long winter’s nap. As a result, his curious nature has him coming out to see us when we venture out into the garden. The kids like to pet his shell while I stroke Aesop’s head.

Aesop, the Desert Tortoise

Aesop sleeps just over six months out of the year, so we treasure the summer months when he is active. A couple of weeks ago, he came over to visit me on the backyard patio, and I noticed how dirty his shell was – likely due to hibernating in a hole all winter long. So, I decided that he needed a bath.

Aesop, the Desert Tortoise getting bath

I wasn’t sure if he would like it or not – my dogs don’t and try to get away whenever they see me holding the hose, but Aesop seemed to enjoy his bath.

Aesop, the Desert Tortoise

He stood perfectly still until it was over and then turned to me as if to say, “that’s all”?

Aesop, the Desert Tortoise

A couple of minutes later, he was stretched out, relaxing after his refreshing bath.

I must admit that I never realized how entertaining having a desert tortoise as a pet could be and Aesop continues to surprise us with his curious nature and antics.

Aesop, The Desert Tortoise Discovers The Vegetable Garden

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

On a cold February morning, alongside my mother and sisters, I found myself at The Magnolia Silos, created and made famous by the much-loved hosts of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ program. 

We were on a girls road trip through Texas, and as fans of the show, The Silos in Waco were a must-see destination.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

The day we arrived was brisk, and we headed straight to the bakery, which is well-known for its delicious cupcakes and pastries. So, while my travel companions saved me a place in line, I headed straight for the decorative window boxes along the front and side of the bakery.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

To be honest, I didn’t expect to see much in the way of greenery or gardens in winter, and so I was pleasantly surprised to see the lovely plantings underneath the windows.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

Edible plants were mixed with ornamental plants, creating a blending of soft, complimentary shades, which suited the cloudy day.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

The rosemary pruned into little topiaries created the perfect backdrop for the white, ornamental kale.

bakery

There is almost always a line around the bakery, but we were fortunate only to have to wait for 10 minutes before entering. In the meantime, we were handed a bakery menu where we could select what we wanted ahead of time.

Shiplap (Magnolia Silos)

I picked the ‘Shiplap’ cupcake – because, where else was I ever going to have the opportunity to get one anywhere else? It was delicious!

Magnolia Silos

This sign within the bakery echoed the sentiments of all who entered and came out with a box of much-coveted cupcakes.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

Once outside of the bakery, we headed for the main store where four magnolia trees were espaliered to the left of the entrance.

Magnolia Silos

Don’t let the relatively empty facade fool you – it was filled with shoppers inside. 

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

A grouping of lavender greeted us as we climbed the steps into the store.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

Hanging tight to my wallet while trying to figure out how much I had budgeted for shopping, I entered the store.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos
Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos
Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

It was immediately evident that Joanna has a deep love for gardening and plants although all those inside the store were artificial greenery and flowers.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

Back outdoors, my sister and I posed for a picture before we headed over to the garden area.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos
Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

The garden is surrounded with beds filled with roses that had recently been cut back and tulips just beginning to emerge.

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

The Magnolia Seed & Supply shop is filled with garden decor along with seeds available for purchase. 

Texas Road Trip: Exploring the Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

Raised beds are filled with leafy greens. I like the wooden branches used to support the frost cloth.

green spaces of The Magnolia Silos

green spaces of The Magnolia Silos

To the side of the store was a little greenhouse with a planter full of gorgeous kale. 

Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

I must admit that I’ve never thought of kale as ‘gorgeous’ before, but it was in this case.

Green Spaces of the Magnolia Silos

On our way out, we took a photo of the silos surrounded by families and kids playing on a large expanse of artificial turf using old-fashioned lawn games provided for their use.

At Magnolia Silos

A quick stop for a photo.

At Magnolia Silos

I hope you enjoyed exploring the green spaces of The Magnolia Silos with me. I certainly did!

The Green Spaces of Chicago

Recommended Garden Products

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.* 

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Our New Year’s celebrations are usually spent at home, eating an extra nice dinner and enjoying game night playing our favorite board game, Ticket to Ride. Basically, it involves trains and moving across the U.S. I’ve never played a game that I like more and our friends and family agree.

New Year morning involves making deliciously sweet monkey bread and settling down to watch the Rose Parade with my mother and the kids. I remember going to the parade with my grandparents when they lived only blocks away and I enjoy reliving that memory every year when I watch a new one each year.

In regards to my garden, holiday activities mean that I don’t go outside in the garden much, but I do concentrate on my indoor garden that is located on my kitchen windowsill. I have amaryllis; a miniature rose, a single hyacinth bulb and a couple of succulents growing. But it doesn’t mind since the colder weather means that my plants don’t need much attention.

Even though it is winter, I will be concentrating my attention on the outside garden as January is the best time to prune back my roses as well as apple and peach trees. This is also the best time to add new roses and I have a fun project coming up with the folks at David Austin Roses, which I will share with you in a few weeks. 

Recommended Garden Products

Over the holidays, I was often asked about garden products that I recommend, so I have created a list of my favorites that I use myself. You can view them here, or by clicking the photo above.

I hope that you find the list helpful. There is a wide variety of items from books, garden wear, fertilizers, tools, and so much more. It is also a great way to help support the blog at no extra expense to you if you purchase an item.

Recommended Garden Products

I have a special project that I’ve been working for the past several months. It is almost ready to debut, but until it does, I’ll give you an early peek at part of the logo:

I promise to let you know all the details very soon!

With the dawn of the New Year, I am excited about possible changes to my back garden (maybe grass removal), new roses, lots of travel, a new venture, and of course, writing this blog, which is so near and dear to my heart.

What are you excited about in this coming year?

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

The holiday season is a time where I try to balance out the preparations for Christmas with time to sit back and enjoy the particular elements that only occur this time of year. On that note, I’m happy to report that I’ve finished shopping for gifts, which are all neatly wrapped underneath the tree or on their way to recipients who live far away. I must admit that I have never finished this early before and it is a bit disconcerting as I keep feeling as if I’m forgetting something important.

Phoenix Symphony Orchestra

Last weekend, my mother treated us to an outing to The Nutcracker, by Ballet Arizona and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. 

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

We arrived a bit early, which gave us the perfect excuse to walk through the downtown area. Years ago, I worked in a tall office building as a landscape designer, but it had been a long time since I had spent any time there.

I was delighted to discover a tall Christmas tree in the center of an ice-skating rink – yes, there is ice-skating in downtown Phoenix.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

Walking further on, we saw a unique use of umbrellas as art.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

My younger daughters couldn’t figure out why the umbrellas were hanging upside down, but I quite liked the artistic effect.

yellow bell shrubs (Tecoma stans stans)

A row of yellow bell shrubs (Tecoma stans stans) added a welcome splash of lush green and yellow color. While you’ll see them grown as a shrub, here they are pruned into small trees. Underneath is the groundcover yellow dot (Wedelia trilobata).

inside the Phoenix Symphony Hall

Once inside the Phoenix Symphony Hall, we admired the colorful Christmas trees. It was all quite festive, and my daughters were excited to watch their first ballet performance.

My mother and daughter, Gracie.&nbsp

My mother and daughter, Gracie. 

Although Gracie has autism, and many things cause her acute anxiety, she was doing very well as she had always wanted to see The Nutcracker.

My sister-in-law, daughters, and me!&nbsp

My sister-in-law, daughters, and me! 

There is one thing about the performance that I haven’t mentioned yet. My cousin’s daughter is one of the dancers in this ballet. She is a ‘snowflake’ in Act 1, and a ‘wildflower’ in Act 2.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

This is all I can show you of the stage as photos of the performance aren’t allowed.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

It was marvelous, and everyone enjoyed themselves. After the performance, we met my cousin’s daughter at the stage door, (Gracie hoped that she would still have her costume on). She was so happy that we had come to see her performance and I was struck by the fact that all the dancing genes in the family went to her (as well as her mother) – I certainly didn’t get any 😉

chuparosa (Justicia californica), octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana), and yucca

On our way back to the car, we passed by a striking vertical garden, filled with chuparosa (Justicia californica), octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana), and yucca. Even though the chuparosa was a bit too overgrown, the overall effect was lovely.

Back home, things are rather quiet in the garden, with one exception:

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

My Halloween pumpkins that I filled with birdseed are still creating quite a buzz with the neighborhood birds. We have had Alber’s towhees, curved bill thrashers, finches, Inca doves, and sparrows come for a visit. It’s been a real treat watching them out the kitchen window. The pumpkins will probably have to be thrown out in another week, but it’s been nice to find a way to reuse them.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

Lastly, we’ve been busy baking cookies for upcoming holiday events as well as to give to friends and neighbors. Snickerdoodles are by far our favorite, and they are so easy to make with ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

The recipe I use is an old one. I received it at my wedding shower, back in 1986, from a college friend. It has never failed me and cookies are delicious. I’ve had many requests to share it, so here it is:

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles
December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

*Please feel free to print it out and start your own annual Snickerdoodle cookie tradition.

December In The Garden….Sit Back And Relax

plant sales

If I had to pick the busiest month of the year, it would be November.

Life is filled with the kid’s school activities, plant sales, speaking engagements, and a lot of WORK helping people update their outdoor spaces. But, is also a time where my garden is reveling in the cooler temperatures of fall and I start to make some tweaks to it. I love the quote, “That a garden is never finished” and that is certainly true of mine, hence the little green flags indicating new plants that need irrigation run to them.

local plant sales

Earlier this month, I was a special guest expert at a local plant sales that raises money for community services. I enjoyed coming up with creative combinations for those who were shopping and answering their questions about the best exposure for the different plants offered for sale.

plant sales (Phoenix Public Library)

A few days later, it was all about creative container gardening as I spoke to a group of interested gardeners at a local branch of the Phoenix Public Library. While I like to talk about gardening to groups, there is always a little fear before it begins when you stare at a sea of empty seats and pray that they will be at least half filled by the time it starts. I must say that I was thrilled when they had to bring in extra chairs for my talk. Yeah!

plant sales (cool-season plants)

Fall is my favorite time of year in the garden when the summer bloomers are still producing colorful flowers and my cool-season plants are beginning to show off as well. 

You know what else I like about November? It means that Christmas is just around corner! I wonder how early I can get away with putting up Christmas decorations?

November Blooms