Native Ground Cover, Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Native Ground Cover, Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Most of us are familiar with the idea of using ground covers in the landscape and how they can add a welcome carpet of color.  

Goodding's Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)

Goodding’s Verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)

But, you may be surprised to find that they serve another purpose that is especially appreciated in hot climates. Ground covers help to reduce the heat from the sun. They do this by preventing the sun from heating up the ground that they cover. When the ground heats up, it absorbs heat only to re-radiate it outward. So, using ground covers is just one way to help cool down the landscape by a degree or two.

I recently shared my favorite 10 Southwestern ground covers in my latest article for Houzz.

 

What is your favorite ground cover? 

Historic District Landscape Styles

Have you ever moved to a new area with no clue what type of plants you have or how to care for them?  Well, your plight isn’t unusual – people find themselves in this situation often.

Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to learn about your landscape, the plants in it, how to care for them and what types of new plants will do well.  

Believe it or not, it doesn’t matter what region you live in – the steps are the same.

Michigan

In my last post, I shared about my daughter’s move from Arizona to Michigan.  She and her husband became new homeowners the beginning of this summer and were faced with many questions about their landscape.

I invite you to join them in their garden journey, learning helpful tips finding out about their new landscape, what plants to choose, and how to care for them.  

Even if you live in a completely different climate than Michigan, my hope is that you’ll learn what steps to take when you find yourself in a new place with no clue how to take care of your garden.

How to gardening in a new climate

How to gardening in a new climate

1. Take stock of the existing landscape.

We walked around the entire landscape, including the areas up against the house and further out.  The front of their home had a combination of shrubs, perennials, and flowering bulbs while the outer areas had a number of different trees.

Lilac shrubs

Lilac shrubs were in full bloom and peonies were just beginning to open…

Gardening In a New Climate

 I must admit to being slightly envious since my Arizona garden doesn’t get cold enough in winter to be able to grow these lovely plants.  However, I was fortunate to be there when hers were in bloom.

2. Take pictures of large areas as well as individual plants – particularly those that you don’t recognize.

 How to gardening in a new climate

How to gardening in a new climate

While I knew what most of the plants were in my daughter’s landscape, she didn’t and there were a few that even I couldn’t identify (plants from more temperate climates aren’t my specialty).

 How to gardening in a new climate

If you see something that you think is wrong with your plants, take a picture of that too.  I wasn’t sure what was growing on the surface of the maple trees.  (It turns out they are leaf galls, which are fairly common and don’t seriously impact the tree.)

3. Visit a local nursery.

 How to gardening in a new climate

You will find most of your answers at a local plant nursery.  Show the nursery staff pictures of your plants.  They can help you identify what you have and can often tell you how to care for them. 

 How to gardening in a new climate

How to gardening in a new climate

Often, you will find the same plants at the nursery, where you can check the labels for the names along with instruction on how to care for them.

dappled willow

We found that the shrubs alongside the house are ‘dappled willow’.

Red Prince WEIGELA

During your visit, take pictures of plants that you like along with a clear photo of the plant label.  But, avoid buying anything at this point.

Be sure to show pictures to the nursery professionals of any suspected problems of your plants.  They can often tell you what it is and how to treat it, if needed.

Local nurseries often have free (or inexpensive) guides on a range of gardening subjects.  Be sure to ask if they have any.

**I advise against going to a big box store for advice on plants.  Not all the staff is particularly knowledgeable and you’ll often find plants for sale that aren’t always suited for that climate.  Local nurseries are best.

Gardening In a New Climate

For example, I found this Texas sage for sale at the local big box store.  The problem is that this shrub can only handle temperatures as cold as 10 degrees F.  In northern Michgan, winter temperatures can get down to -20 degrees.  Unfortunately, this isn’t isolated to just this instance – it happens everywhere.  So, visit local nurseries for the best advice and plant selection.

4. Contact the local cooperative extension office.

If you’ve never heard of cooperative extension services, you are missing out on a valuable resource.  They are an “educational partnership that offers numerous programs implemented by county field faculty and supported by university-based specialists”.  

Master Gardeners work for the cooperative extension office in your area, which is usually divided up by counties.  

They have many resources for homeowners, especially in regards to their landscape, that is specifically tailored for that specific region.  Often, much of the information can be found online and/or you can talk to a master gardener on the phone.  

Here are some helpful questions to ask:

– What USDA planting zone do you live in?

– What type of soil is present in the area?  Acidic or alkaline?  That’s important to know since certain plants do better in one or the other.

– What is the average first and last frost date?  In other words, how long is the growing season?  For my garden in Arizona, the growing season is 10 months long while my daughter’s is only 6 months.

– When is the best time to prune roses, trees and shrubs?

– What are the planting dates for specific vegetables?

– Are there any insect pests that are particularly troublesome?  How do you get rid of them?

For a listing of cooperative extension services, click here

5. Take pictures of local landscapes and plants that you like. 

When you are walking your dog or taking a stroll through the downtown area, grab your phone and take photos of plants that you like.  

Gardening In a New Climate

How to gardening in a new climate

If it’s growing and looks healthy, than it will probably grow in your garden.  You can take the photos to your local nursery to help you identify what they are.

6.  Wait 6 months to a year before making dramatic changes to the garden.

A garden undergoes several transformations throughout the year as plants bloom, change colors and fade.  It is helpful to observe the plants, to see what you want to keep and those that you went to remove.  

In addition, this is also a period of time to see how functional the design of your garden is.  If plants are struggling, it may be because they are planted in the wrong exposure, get too wet from storm runoff or don’t have enough room to grow.

Once you have lived with your new landscape for awhile, it’s time to make changes.

Gardening In a New Climate

How to gardening in a new climate, BEFORE

I invite you to come back to see the changes that we undertook in my daughter’s landscape.  We took out some plants while adding some new ones.  I’ll also provide some helpful planting tips.

See you next time!

Have you ever moved to a new area with no clue what type of plants you have or how to care for them?  Well, your plight isn’t unusual – people find themselves in this situation often.

Thankfully, there are steps that you can take to learn about your landscape, the plants in it, how to care for them and what types of new plants will do well.  

Believe it or not, it doesn’t matter what region you live in – the steps are the same.

Michigan

In my last post, I shared about my daughter’s move from Arizona to Michigan.  She and her husband became new homeowners the beginning of this summer and were faced with many questions about their landscape.

I invite you to join them in their garden journey, learning helpful tips finding out about their new landscape, what plants to choose, and how to care for them.  

Even if you live in a completely different climate than Michigan, my hope is that you’ll learn what steps to take when you find yourself in a new place with no clue how to take care of your garden.

gardening in a new climate

gardening in a new climate

1. Take stock of the existing landscape.

We walked around the entire landscape, including the areas up against the house and further out.  The front of their home had a combination of shrubs, perennials, and flowering bulbs while the outer areas had a number of different trees.

Lilac shrubs

Lilac shrubs were in full bloom and peonies were just beginning to open…

Gardening In a New Climate

I must admit to being slightly envious since my Arizona garden doesn’t get cold enough in winter to be able to grow these lovely plants.  However, I was fortunate to be there when hers were in bloom.

2. Take pictures of large areas as well as individual plants – particularly those that you don’t recognize.

Gardening In a New Climate

gardening in a new climate

While I knew what most of the plants were in my daughter’s landscape, she didn’t and there were a few that even I couldn’t identify (plants from more temperate climates aren’t my specialty).

Gardening In a New Climate

If you see something that you think is wrong with your plants, take a picture of that too.  I wasn’t sure what was growing on the surface of the maple trees.  (It turns out they are leaf galls, which are fairly common and don’t seriously impact the tree.)

3. Visit a local nursery.

Gardening In a New Climate

You will find most of your answers at a local plant nursery.  Show the nursery staff pictures of your plants.  They can help you identify what you have and can often tell you how to care for them. 

Gardening In a New Climate

gardening in a new climate

Often, you will find the same plants at the nursery, where you can check the labels for the names along with instruction on how to care for them.

dappled willow

We found that the shrubs alongside the house are ‘dappled willow’.

Red  Prince weigela

During your visit, take pictures of plants that you like along with a clear photo of the plant label.  But, avoid buying anything at this point.

Be sure to show pictures to the nursery professionals of any suspected problems of your plants.  They can often tell you what it is and how to treat it, if needed.

Local nurseries often have free (or inexpensive) guides on a range of gardening subjects.  Be sure to ask if they have any.

**I advise against going to a big box store for advice on plants.  Not all the staff is particularly knowledgeable and you’ll often find plants for sale that aren’t always suited for that climate.  Local nurseries are best.

 gardening in a new climate

gardening in a new climate

For example, I found this Texas sage for sale at the local big box store.  The problem is that this shrub can only handle temperatures as cold as 10 degrees F.  In northern Michgan, winter temperatures can get down to -20 degrees.  Unfortunately, this isn’t isolated to just this instance – it happens everywhere.  So, visit local nurseries for the best advice and plant selection.

4. Contact the local cooperative extension office.

If you’ve never heard of cooperative extension services, you are missing out on a valuable resource.  They are an “educational partnership that offers numerous programs implemented by county field faculty and supported by university-based specialists”.  

Master Gardeners work for the cooperative extension office in your area, which is usually divided up by counties.  

They have many resources for homeowners, especially in regards to their landscape, that is specifically tailored for that specific region.  Often, much of the information can be found online and/or you can talk to a master gardener on the phone.  

Here are some helpful questions to ask:

– What USDA planting zone do you live in?

– What type of soil is present in the area?  Acidic or alkaline?  That’s important to know since certain plants do better in one or the other.

– What is the average first and last frost date?  In other words, how long is the growing season?  For my garden in Arizona, the growing season is 10 months long while my daughter’s is only 6 months.

– When is the best time to prune roses, trees and shrubs?

– What are the planting dates for specific vegetables?

– Are there any insect pests that are particularly troublesome?  How do you get rid of them?

For a listing of cooperative extension services, click here

5. Take pictures of local landscapes and plants that you like. 

When you are walking your dog or taking a stroll through the downtown area, grab your phone and take photos of plants that you like.  

*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.

I love to can fruit, and so I was very excited when the publishers of The All New Ball Book Of Canning And Preserving: Over 350 of the Best Canned, Jammed, Pickled, and Preserved Recipes asked me to test a recipe from their book, free of charge, for my honest review. 

My love affair with canning began a few years ago when I made my first batch of jam, under the guidance of my mother and I have never looked back.

The inspiration for me wanting to learn how to can food came with the family farm, which had a mini-orchard filled with apple, peach, and plum trees.  Since then, I’ve made blackberry, peach, plum, and strawberry jams as well as applesauce.

apple and peach

In fact, I enjoyed canning so much, that I planted apple and peach trees in my garden.

I must admit that it took me a long time to decide what recipe to choose because all of them were so tempting.  Who wouldn’t want to make blueberry-lemon jam, grapefruit marmalade, raspberry-lemonade jam, or vanilla bean-citrus marmalade?

jam recipes

In addition to creative jam recipes, there are also many delicious recipes for preserving fruits and vegetables as well as savory selections.

jam recipes

In the end, I chose to make a variation of nectarine-sour cherry jam.  

For this recipe, you could use blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, or even strawberries in place of the sour cherries.  Because my husband and kids love blueberries, that’s what I chose.

jam recipes

Isn’t the color combination beautiful?

jam recipes

As it cooked, the jam mixture began to turn a delicious shade of purple.

Once the jam was finished cooking, I poured it into sterilized mason jars and processed it in a boiling water canner.

jam recipes

Now, I have seven jars filled with delicious jam for my morning toast.

It’s important to note that the cookbook doesn’t have a beginners section for those learning how to can and preserve fruit and vegetables – its focus is more on creative, canning recipes.

The equipment needed for canning isn’t expensive or complicated to use.

Shop Ball® and Kerr® products at FreshPreserving.com

I blogged about my first canning lesson from my mom, when we made peach jam several years ago, that you can read here.

 I’ve also written about my experience at making applesauce and blackberry jam recipes.

How about you?  Do you like to can?  What is your favorite fruit, meat or vegetable to preserve?

**I received the book, “Ball Brand, Can It Forward” for free.  However, my review and opinions are my own.**

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the television camera?  

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

What we often see is just a small portion of what goes on behind the scenes as I have learned during my occasional appearances on television.

Today, I thought that I would let you see what goes on behind the scenes getting ready for a gardening segment on television. I documented what went on behind the scenes of my television appearance last Friday.

You may be surprised to find that appearing on camera is the easiest part.  Here is how it all happens…

– Typically a week ahead of time, I am contacted by the producer of the show I am being asked to appear on.  They give me a general gardening topic and then send me a guest sheet to fill out.  On the guest sheet, I list general questions for the host to ask and send in photos for them to use in the segment as well.

– Two days before my scheduled appearance, I visit my local nursery to get the plants and other ‘props’ that I will need.

– The day before, I am busy ‘cleaning’ up the plants – removing any dead leaves and/or flowers and wiping down the nursery containers with a wet rag to remove any dirt.  Often, I plant some of the plants in decorative pots.  Believe it or not, I have a stash of ‘props’ that I only use when I appear on television, which I will show you later.

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera
A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

The next day begins with an early arrival at the television station.  Plants are unloaded onto large plastic carts located in the television station’s lobby for transporting props.

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

I usually bring someone with me to help me set up.  For me, it’s usually a family affair with various members of my family accompanying me. This time, my nephew came along to help.  He recently graduated from the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences and I thought that he would like to experience the workings of a television studio.

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

There is security in the lobby and only those on the list are allowed to enter.  Guests are expected to arrive 1 hour before the show airs.

After entering, you are shown to the ‘green room’ where you wait with others who will also appear on the program.

newsroom

Most often, I bypass the green room as I am shown directly to the outdoor area in back of the studio where I will set up.  Along the way, we pass the newsroom.

rectangular table

In the outdoor area there is typically a rectangular table set up for me and I get to work on setting up my props.

colorful flowers

When selecting props, color is an important element, so I always try include colorful flowers whenever possible.  

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

In this case, I was asked to talk about what to plant in winter, so I picked out the most colorful annuals that my local nursery had – in this case, primrose.

Earlier, I mentioned that I have a stash of ‘props’ that I use when I am to appear on television.  Well, I used three of them; a hand shovel, a hand rake as well as a galvanized steel container.  I don’t use them in the garden so that they will always look nice and I’m not having to clean them.  A nice pair of leather garden gloves usually appear alongside my other props as well.

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

Setting up my props is called ‘staging’ and I must admit that it’s not my strongest suit.  In general, tall plants go in the back with smaller ones in front.

My sisters and mother are very good at staging and have been especially helpful when they have come with me when appearing on television.

plants and props.

However this time, I was on my own when it came to arranging my plants and props.

plants and props.

This is the perspective from where I will stand when talking in front of the camera.  The small TV shows a live feed of what is currently being broadcast and is helpful when being interviewed since I can see what the viewers see – especially when the photos I sent in are shown on screen so I can speak directly about them.

About a half-hour before my segment, a producer comes out and sets up my mike, which is threaded through my clothes and clipped to my collar.

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

After a busy morning of getting up early, loading plants, driving to the studio, unloading plants and staging plants and getting ‘miked’ – it’s time to sit and wait until it is time for my segment to go on.

Since my segment is being filmed on the back patio and not inside the studio, I usually spend my time in the break room waiting until the television host comes to find me to talk about the upcoming segment.

It’s interesting to note that I never know before I get to the station, when I will be on.  I’ve been on at the beginning, middle and end of the show – I prefer to be on at the beginning instead of waiting.

teaser

Shortly before my segment, a ‘teaser’ is shown with close-ups of my plants being shown after which, a commercial is shown.

filming a garden

During the commercial, the host talks to me about what I brought and we both go over what I will talk about.

Finally, it is time for my live segment.  At this point, everything goes very fast.

filming a garden

My four minute garden segment feels like it only takes one minute to do.  I admit that this is the part that I like best – helping people learn how to enjoy their garden and hopefully inspiring them to try something new.  In this case, we talked about adding lettuce and other leafy green alongside colorful annuals in pots.

If being on camera makes you nervous, it helps to just talk directly to the host and try to ignore the camera.  I do that most of the time, but I do try to talk directly to the camera a few times as well.

After the segment is over, I load my things back onto the plastic cart and leave.  Sometimes, I make it home before the program is over.

Later in the day, I receive an email from the producer with a link to my garden segment.  I don’t like to watch myself on TV a lot, but I do watch it once to make sure that I didn’t make any mistakes.  Every time I go on, I find myself becoming a little more comfortable with the process.

And so, that is a behind the scenes look to filming a garden segment on television.  I hope that you enjoyed it.  

**If you would like to view this particular garden segment, click here.

My New Garden Video

Do you enjoy seeing “before and after” photos?


I do – especially with landscapes.


Just over a year ago, I was asked to help renovate a local church’s landscape.

Church Landscape Renovation 1 Year After...

As you can see their landscape had become rather bare as plants had not been replaced over the years.  In addition, there were some old plants that needed replacing.

So, I got to work on a new design. When renovating an existing landscape, it’s important to determine which existing plants to keep.  I rarely get rid of all the plants since mature plants help anchor a new landscape while the new plants take time to fill in and grow. Also, why waste a perfectly good plant as long as it is still attractive and can fit into your design?  You can always create a design to go with an existing plant.

A year after being installed, I was asked to come back to work on a different area of the church,  During that time, I took some “after” pictures of what the landscape looks like now.  

Church Landscape Renovation 1 Year After...

Church Landscape Renovation

This area was filled with two old shrubs, which we elected to keep.

Church Landscape Renovation 1 Year After...

Some contouring (mounding) was added for elevation and river rock washes were added for drainage.

feathery cassia(Senna artemisioides) , angelita daisies(Tetraneuris acaulis) and 'Blue Bells' (Eremophila hygrophana)

Church Landscape Renovation

And this is what it looks like 1 year later. Flowering feathery cassia(Senna artemisioides) adds color in winter and spring. Year round color is supplied by angelita daisies(Tetraneuris acaulis) and ‘Blue Bells’ (Eremophila hygrophana).

Agave and boulders will add texture contrast.

Church Landscape Renovation

In this area, I tagged two struggling shrubs with paint for removal along with a yucca plant that the church landscape committee wanted removed due to it poking people with its sharp leaves as they walked by.

The Mexican bird-of-paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) tree would remain in this area.

Golden barrel cacti(Echinocactus grusonii) ,  'Blue bell' shrubs

Church Landscape Renovation

The small wash was redone, which serves double duty – it adds a decorative element to the landscape and helps channel water from the roof.

Golden barrel cacti(Echinocactus grusonii) were planted in the corner where they will lend sunny yellow color all year long. ‘Blue bell’ shrubs complete the planting in this area.

 (Calliandra eriophylla)

While pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) is a beautiful desert shrub in spring, it makes a poor hedge. In addition, it does not flower 9 months of the year. A plant that would look great throughout the majority of the year was needed in this area.

Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

Ornamental grasses fit the bill perfectly in this area. Pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is green from spring through summer and puts on a show in fall when burgundy plumes appear that fade to an attractive wheat color in winter. Instead of a hedge, which would need pruning throughout the year, pink muhly needs pruning once, in spring.

This area had a few sage shrubs, a single red yucca and a barrel cactus.

I had everything removed in this bed except for the barrel cactus. The church had a large number of old Texas sage shrubs (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Green Cloud’). The reason that I had many of these taken out was because a the majority of the members of this church are winter visitors. Texas sage flowers in summer and early fall when they are gone.  I was asked to add plants that would provide winter and spring color.  

feathery cassia and Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata 'Valentine),

Now this area is filled with feathery cassia and Valentine bush (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine), both of which flower in winter and spring. Desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri) adds both color and texture contrast and ‘Blue bell’ shrubs will add colorful flowers throughout the entire year.

This corner section of the landscape was filled with formally pruned shrubs that offered little beauty to the area.

angelita daisies, 'Blue Bell' and feathery cassia

The ocotillo and yucca remained and angelita daisies, ‘Blue Bell’ and feathery cassia were added.

I must admit that I was quite pleased at how everything looked.  It’s one thing to create a design on paper and another thing entirely to see it growing in beautifully.

On a slightly different note, I also took time to check on the streetside landscape by the church that I had designed 2 years ago.  

Church Landscape Renovation

In the beginning, there was nothing there but an old cactus or two.

palo blanco tree(Acacia willardiana), feathery cassia, Valentine and purple trailing lantana.

What a difference 2 years makes!  A young palo blanco tree(Acacia willardiana) grows among feathery cassia, Valentine and purple trailing lantana.

The plant palette for the church mirrored that of the street landscape for a visually seamless transition.  

Agave americana

Along this section fo the street, all that was present were 3 Agave americana and utility boxes.

Church Landscape Renovation

The agave were relocated along this stretch of road with trees and colorful shrubs. You can hardly see the utility boxes now.

Thank you for letting me share with you some of my favorite “before and after” photos. Learn more about the plants that I used in this project by clicking their names: ‘Blue Bell’ shrubs, feathery cassia, Valentine bush and pink muhly grass.

*Do you have an area in your landscape that needs a little help? Take some time and drive around and take pictures of landscapes that you like. Then take them to your local nursery or landscape professional and have them help you renovate your landscape.

Most of us are familiar with teak wood and its beauty.  Often, you can find it in a garden setting being in the form of benches, which weather the sun and rain with no problem.

Teak wood is extremely durable and unlike many types of wood, can handle water with no problem. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by Teak Closeouts if I would try out some of their teak bowls, which would be suitable as planters.

I am always on the lookout for unique and unusual items for the garden that can be both functional and beautiful, so of course, I said said yes!  

One of the reasons I was excited to try out the teak bowl planters was that over the summer is that I saw a rustic wooden planter on a visit to the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.

Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters

I loved it’s rustic look and how the annual flowers fit into the interior of this piece of tree trunk.

So, when the FedEx deliveryman dropped of a large box, I couldn’t wait to open it.

Inside were several pieces, but it was the two teak bowls that got my attention right away.  

Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters

The first bowl, was a piece of art.  Its sides were very smooth, which showed off the beauty of the teak wood.

You may notice the hole at the bottom, which is essential for a planter.

The next teak bowl that I unwrapped was a bit more rustic in nature, much like the tree trunk planter I had seen over the summer.

Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters

I always like pieces of wood that allows you to see the grain, which you could see on different parts of the bowl.

Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters
Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters

This bowl also had holes for drainage and I couldn’t wait to plant them both.

planted my favorite cool season annuals - violas

To keep the potting mix from falling out the holes, I put a coffee filter over them, which is a cheap and effective way to keep the dirt in and allow the water to drain.

I planted my favorite cool season annuals – violas.

white alyssum for fragrance

I added a variety of colors in this large teak bowl and a touch of white alyssum for fragrance.

'Johnny Jump-Ups'

For my rustic teak bowl, I decided to add ‘Johnny Jump-Ups’, which were the first flowers I planted as a child.  I have always loved their sunny faces.

Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters

As you might expect, the amount of soil is rather shallow, but it is enough to grow cool-season annuals.  However, there wouldn’t be enough soil to grow warm season flowers through the summer – the soil would get too hot.

Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters

You could however, plant small succulents in them and keep them in light shade – maybe located on a patio?

Teak Bowls Make Unique and Beautiful Planters

Although I used this teak bowl as a planter, however it is so beautiful, you could certainly use it to grace a patio or large dining room table.

I often have clients, like those above, who want decorative, yet functional items for their patio.  Either of these teak bowls would work beautifully in this type of setting.

When exposed to the sun, teak will fade to a light gray color, which will provide great color contrast for plants.

As you can imagine, no two bowls are the same – each one retains the unique character from the part of the teak wood it was carved from, which lends to the uniqueness of these bowls.

lovely teak vase

In addition to the bowls, I also received a lovely teak vase – wouldn’t that look beautiful filled with flowers or perhaps a dried arrangement?

Teak Closeouts has a large variety of teak items including outdoor furniture and garden art at closeout prices.  I encourage you to visit their online store where you will find great gift ideas for the gardener in your life or for yourself!

*I was provided these items from Teak Closeouts free of charge to review, but my opinions are my own 🙂

Newly Planted Vegetables

*This blog post contains affiliate link for a product that helps get rid of caterpillars. 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.*

Fall is a busy time for me in the garden.  However, you will usually find me in other people’s gardens helping them achieve their goal of a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. I did manage to get my cool-season vegetable gardens planted.  I planted my favorites, which include carrots, cauliflower, garlic, a variety of leaf lettuces and radishes.

my mother's garden)

I included broccoli in my list of vegetables this year, despite the fact that I have yet to grow a healthy head of broccoli (the broccoli in the photo above is from my mother’s garden).

Every year, I grow beautiful cauliflower while my broccoli decides to produce very few flowering stalks.  At the end of the season when I look at my less than stellar broccoli harvest – I promise myself that I won’t try again.

But, after 6 months pass, I am always tempted to try again hoping that this year will be different.

With the exception of carrots and radishes, I planted all of my other vegetables from transplants.  Normally, I almost always use seed, (with the exception of broccoli and cauliflower, which do better when grown from transplants) but I knew that I wouldn’t have time to come out and thin excess plants later.

Newly Planted Vegetables

This smaller vegetable garden is closer to my kitchen and so I put in vegetables that I would harvest more frequently throughout the season in this area. Leafy greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and kale all went in here.

The larger garden is a bit further away and so it was planted with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic and radishes, which are harvested once.

My artichoke plant from next year died back to the ground in the summer, (which is normal by the way) and is now growing again.

bell pepper plant , Newly Planted Vegetable

In addition to my artichoke, my bell pepper plant is also a holdover from last year’s garden.  Actually, it is 2 years old.  Although pepper plants can die from freezing temperatures, I protect mine when the temps dip below freezing, so they are qutie large and produce a lot of peppers much to the delight of my husband and children who like to eat the bell peppers raw.

bell pepper plant

I also dice them and freeze them for using in my favorite Mexican rice recipe.

I’ve already had to spray my leafy greens with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to deal with the caterpillars that had started to eat holes in the leaves.  It worked great, but I will need to reapply every once in a while. I use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.

Nasturtiums ,

Nasturtiums are coming up again from seed in the gardens.  I just let them go to seed each year and they always come back.  I use nasturtiums in my vegetable gardens because they repel bad bugs.  Besides, they look pretty, don’t you think?

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums aren’t the only flowers in my vegetable gardens – marigolds are also great at keeping damaging insects at bay.  This year, I planted a marigold at the end of each row of vegetables.

I love how their orange flowers brighten up the garden in the middle of winter.   Marigolds and nasturtiums are just a few of the flowers who actually help vegetables.  For more information on other plants to include in your vegetable garden you can visit my previous post, “Even Vegetables Need Friends”.

weed

I am having a problem in one of my vegetable gardens that began this past summer – spurge!  I have come to truly hate this creeping weed and it has decided to move from the nearby landscape areas into my vegetable garden.

It got pretty bad last summer and we ripped it all out.  To help combat it, we added 4 inches of compost/manure, which did help to smother some of the weeds.  But, some are still coming up.  So, I go out every week and spray them with my homemade weed killer, taking care not to spray my vegetables by accident.

You may see homemade weed killers that list salt as one of the ingredients.  DON’T add salt to weed killers – especially if you live in the desert Southwest. Our soil and water already has a lot of salts in them and adding more is not good for your plants – in fact, too much salt can kill them.

Homemade weed killer made from vinegar and soap works just fine on most weeds, except for the really tough ones.

Have you planted a vegetable garden this year?  What are you growing?

Do you ever find yourself pulling into the drive-thru of a fast food restaurant?

I do.

Lately, I have been very busy with landscape consults as well as working on a large golf course re-landscaping project, which have resulted in more than my share of visits to the local drive-thru.  Add to that my preparations for a local craft fair in November (along with my sister and mom where I am making basil salt, seed bombs and air plants mounted on creosote roots), preparations for an upcoming family reunion as well as hosting my daughter’s baby shower – we will probably be making quite a few more visits to the drive-thru.

Normally, drive-thru restaurants are places where you can see examples of poor design showcasing overplanted and over pruned shrubs that are too large for the narrow landscape spaces by the drive-thru lane.  However, I was truly surprised during one trip through at my local fast food restaurant.

First, let’s look at the landscaping you normally find as you visit the drive-thru…

drive-thru landscapes

Over pruned feathery cassia shrubs (Senna artemisioides)

These shrubs would actually work well in this space if you reduced the amount down to three and allowed them to grow to their natural size and form…

Feathery cassia in bloom

Feathery cassia in bloom

Do you think that those overpruned shrubs ever have any flowers appearing in late winter and spring, like this one?

I didn’t think so.

drive-thru landscapes

In the Southwest, the types of shrubs that you are most likely to see growing along drive-thru landscapes are oleander and Texas sage species.

Lately, Valentine bush, which is one of my favorite shrubs, has also been showing up more often in these areas.

Again, the problem is too many plants in not enough space.  Couple that with the compulsive need to strip the natural beauty from these beautiful, flowering shrubs in an attempt to create anonymous green shapes and you have the perfect scenario for drive-thru landscapes.

With so many bad examples of landscaping while visiting the drive-thru, I must admit that I’ve become somewhat de-sensitized and purposely ignore it.

However, a recent visit to the drive-thru made me take a second look as I drove past this…

drive-thru landscapes

Notice anything different?

The plants actually fit into this space and without over pruning!

There is room for the bougainvillea against the wall to grow and while the lantana could use a little more room – it is looking great too.

What I really liked about this landscape was the use of banana yucca.  Its leaves added great spiky texture and the flowers are just lovely.

*I did notice the overpruned dwarf oleanders in the background, but I’m ignoring them.

Using fewer shrubs and allowing them room to grow is a great start to rethinking the drive-thru landscape.

The next important part is to stop the frequent pruning of flowering shrubs.

I’d love to see a mix of shrubs and succulents in drive-thru landscapes for more interest, less maintenance and that is more water efficient.

For now, I will keep trying to keep my eyes open for another great example of a drive-thru landscape.

drive-thru landscapes

But, I think it may be awhile…

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For other examples of drive-thru landscapes, click here.

If you have shrubs that resemble this and would like to have beautiful shrubs with a pleasing natural shape that actually flowers as well as see some other examples of bad pruning – click here for some of my favorite pruning posts.

Do you like cactus?

I find that even people who aren’t huge fans of cacti, tend to like make an exception for golden barrels (Echinocactus grusonii).  

Golden Barrel Cacti

I think one of the reasons for its popularity is because of its globular shape and yellow spines.

Golden Barrel Cacti

Another reason may be that golden barrel cacti are extremely versatile in the landscape.  Whether you prefer a contemporary landscape with golden barrels planted in neat, orderly rows or in a more natural grouping – they can be used both ways.

Golden Barrel Cacti

I like to place golden barrel cacti next to boulders, where their round shapes and sunny color provide great contrast.

desert Southwest

These popular cacti are native to the desert Southwest and can be grown outdoors in zones 9 and above.  However, larger specimens have been known to handle temperatures in the teens.

In colder regions, they can be planted in containers and brought inside in winter.  

golden barrel's spines

If you look closely at a golden barrel’s spines, you’ll notice how they criss-cross each other, forming an interesting geometric pattern.

You can probably guess one of the spines purposes – to provide protection from predators who may want to eat them.

However, there is another, somewhat surprising way that the spines help the cactus, which you read here:

“Why Do Cactus Have Spines?”

golden barrels

The care for golden barrels is quite simple.  They do best in well-drained, native desert soil in full sun to filtered shade.

Although they start out small, mature specimens can reach 3 feet tall and wide.  However, they can take years to reach that size, so they are often planted in much smaller areas and later replaced.

Now for the big question – how much water do they need?  Established golden barrels can get by with existing rainfall, but will grow faster and look their best with they recieve a deep watering once a month May through August.  The rest of the year, they should be fine with existing rainfall.

Earlier today, I mentioned on my azplantlady facebook page that I had seen golden barrel cacti growing in a very unusual place.

golden barrels

Well as promised, here is the answer:

I came across this cluster of golden barrel cacti growing in Michigan!

To be precise, they were located in a greenhouse at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, which I visited back in June.  I was looking forward to visiting these beautiful gardens and seeing examples of plants that grow in more temperate climates, so I was quite surprised to come across a plant from home.

So, even if you live in a climate that experiences frigid winter temperatures – you can grow golden barrels….inside.

How about you?  Do you have golden barrel cacti growing in your landscape?  Do you like seeing them in a more formal setting or a natural one such as when planted next to a boulder?