I am always on the lookout for design inspiration, seeing how others create beauty in the garden so that I can help inspire you with your outdoor spaces. So, here are some design notes from the field that I found that I hope you will find useful.

REFLECTIONS:

Often when walking through the garden, I find myself pausing to admire the view of a garden’s beauty reflected on a window.

It is much like looking at a landscape in a mirror, which expands on its beauty while making it appear even more extensive.

SUCCULENT NOOK:

On a visit to a client’s landscape, I noted a unique way that they display their succulents. Little nooks were created along the bare expanse of wall, where small pots filled with succulents were nestled inside.

What a lovely way to break up what would otherwise be a bare wall.

CIRCULAR STEP STONES:

Pathways are an essential element of the landscape, allowing us to move from one area to the other. Normally, you see square step stones, a continuous path, or flagstone in a variety of shapes forming the path. However, I like these circular step stones, which create a distinctive look. The concrete is poured into molds onsite to make these step stones.

COLORFUL PORCH:

While strolling among the buildings of the La Villita Historic Village in downtown San Antonio, Texas, I spotted a delightful splash of color on a front porch. Vintage-inspired chairs in vibrant red and turquoise created a welcoming seating area in front of an old, historic home.

I hope that you enjoyed these design elements that speak to me. This is a series of design-inspired posts that I hope to feature from time to time with you. Have you seen any unique design that inspired you?

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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. 

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

A quick stop for a photo.

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

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Plants can do some spectacular things, and the dramatic process when agave send up their flowering stalk, definitely qualifies. Yesterday, I noticed that my octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) had begun to send up its fleshy shoot. 

I must confess that I had mixed feelings about it. My first reaction was excitement in getting to view the impressive growth of the fleshy stem and the flowers that will follow. But then, I felt sad that this signaled the beginning of the end for my octopus agave. 

You see, this agave is the ‘grandbaby’ of the first agave that I ever planted, back in the late 1990’s, making three generations of flowering agave in my Arizona garden.

Eventually, that agave flowered, and I harvested one of the babies and planted it in a pot. Several years later, that octopus agave went through the same process, and I collected two babies.

The two siblings started out growing in a pot, and when they got large enough, I transplanted them out into the garden.

One was planted in a corner but had a short-lived stint in the garden as construction near the wall meant that it had to go.

Its sibling did great in its new spot in the front garden when it was planted in 2010, and now it is getting ready for babies.

The tiny baby agave are barely visible, and the stalk will grow several inches a day.

Octopus agave don’t have a long lifespan and mine average eight years in the ground before they flower. 

In a few months, miniature octopus agave will cover the flowering stalk, which can be easily detached and replanted in the garden. It’s hard to believe that I will be planting the fourth generation of agave in my garden.

*I will keep you updated as it continues to grow and the arrival of baby agave.

I’m counting down the days until Christmas and am helping you whittle down your gift list with great ideas for the gardener in your life. Yesterday, we talked about shopping online for Plants (amaryllis, air plants, roses, and succulents) and today; it’s all about Garden Tools and Gear to help to make your time in the garden easier and more enjoyable. I’ve created a must-have list of colorful tools and garden totes, including a pair of gardening shoes that I hope find their way underneath my Christmas tree.

*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.*

1. Slogger Garden Shoes 

I desperately need a pair of shoes that I can slip on whenever I step out into the garden that I can easily clean afterward. Slogger makes plastic clogs and boots with fun floral designs. These are at the top of my Christmas list, which is a good thing as I’ve been known to walk in the garden in my slippers. Click here to order your pair. 

2. TubTrug

I’m not afraid to admit that this unassuming plastic tub is in the top five of my most used garden tools. Tub trugs are flexible garden containers that can be used in some ways – as a planter, to collect plant clippings and debris, or to harvest fruit and vegetables.  There are probably other uses, but I use mine in the garden when I am deadheading my perennials and roses. They come in some pretty bright colors and multiple sizes. Click here to order.

3. Planter Inserts

In many cases, large to medium-sized planters don’t need to be  filled all the way with soil as plant roots don’t necessarily reach down that far. Planting mix is expensive and makes containers heavy, so planter inserts have come along and solved both of these problems. The inserts are placed inside of the pots, about two-thirds of the way down where they rest and potting mix is added on top of them. They come in a variety of sizes and are extremely useful. Click here to order yours.  

4. Felco Hand Pruners

A good pair of hand pruners is probably the most-used garden tool. From deadheading a favorite rose bush, to pruning small branches, they do it all. While there are a large number of different brands, some are better than others, and the very best are made by Felco. They cut cleanly and are comfortable to use. Also, their blades can be sharpened, making this a garden tool that will last you for years. I’ve used many different hand pruners and Felco the best. Click here to order. 

5. Ergonomic Hand Shovel

For those who do a lot of container planting or work in the vegetable garden, hand shovels are an indispensable tool for making shallow trenches and digging small holes. But, digging over time can be hard on your wrists, so I use one with a uniquely-shaped handle that puts less stress on my hands and wrists. It also comes in a lot of different colors as well. Click here to order. 

 

Gardening is more enjoyable when you are equipped with the proper tools, and the gardeners in your life will appreciate these items that will make their outdoor hobby easier.

Tomorrow, I am going to share my top five gardening books that are specific for Southwest gardens. So please stop by for another visit. 

 

 

The holidays are here and if you are like me, you a long list of people to find the perfect gift for. Because I love plants and gardening, I like to look for gifts with a garden theme to give, as well as to give my husband some hints as to what to get for me.

I’ve created lists of some of my favorite garden gifts and have split them up into different categories, which I will share with you over the next week, so be sure to check back daily.  For your ease and convenience, all items can be purchased online, so grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started.

*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.*

What is gardening without plants? Thankfully, it is easy to order a variety of plants for the gardener in your life. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Waxed Amaryllis

I’m starting out with my favorite this year. Imagine a plant that needs no water, fertilizer or any special care other than to place it by a window? While the dramatic blooms of amaryllis are a popular holiday gift, these waxed amaryllises take it one step further. Covered in wax, they have all the water and fertilizer needed for them to bloom, which makes them an excellent choice for people with a self-professed ‘black thumb’. Click here to order.

Want to learn more about this pretty, low-maintenance flower? I talk about it in my newest Facebook Live video:

Since I’ve posted the video, I’ve heard from several of you that you have seen these for sale at their local grocery and big box stores, so they shouldn’t be hard to find if you don’t want to order them online.

 

2. David Austin English Rose

Christmas is the best time to buy a new rose for the garden, ready for being planted in January. David Austin has created a class of roses the couples the beautiful shape and fragrance of the old-fashioned roses with the repeat blooming of more modern roses.  Why else should you want to add one of these beauties to your garden? They are disease resistant and much lower-maintenance than your more traditional roses. My favorite is ‘Olivia Rose’, which grows in my side garden where I view their pretty pink blossoms from my kitchen window. David Austin roses can be ordered here.

 

 

3. Potted Succulents

Dive into the latest gardening craze, which is all about succulents. You don’t need a lot of space to grow your own – just a pot, potting mix, and a pretty little succulent. Imagine how nice this would look on your windowsill. There are a number of potted succulents available such as this one with a gold-toned planter. Click here to order.

4. Air Plants

Create your own little garden world with this kit, that has all you need, including an air plant, moss, rocks and a lovely hanging glass container. Air plants have such unique shapes and are easy to care for. Click here to order.

5. Assorted Agave

Did you know that there are over 200 species of agave? The different shapes, colors, and sizes mean that there is one (or more) that are right for your garden. You can get a good start on an agave collection by ordering this assortment either for yourself or divide it up into four separate gifts. Click here to order. 

Do you have a favorite plant that you received as a gift? I’d love to hear about it.

Come back tomorrow when I’ll share my picks for garden tools and gear.

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For those of us who love succulents, there is a price to pay. These water-wise plants often cost a lot of money. If you have a bottomless wallet, that may not be a problem, but for those of us who live on a budget and want to include these lovely plants in our landscapes, it can be a problem.

Thankfully, there is something that you can do in many cases to turn one succulent plant into several. I’ll show you how I did this when I bought a ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, which I had wanted for a long time.

‘Blue Elf’ aloe is somewhat unique among aloe species. They thrive in hot, reflected heat handling full sun where most other aloes turn brown, while yearning for winter. Orange flowers appear in later winter and last into spring adding a welcome splash of color to winter gardens.

I visited the Desert Botanical Garden’s fall plant sale the other day and had a list of plants that I wanted in my garden. One of my must haves was three ‘Blue Elf’ aloe plants. The holes were already dug, and all I needed were my little aloes.

The problem was that initially, I could only find 3-gallon specimens for $30 and not the smaller 1-gallons I was hoping to find. Later, I did see them in the 1-gallon size, for $20 a piece. Ouch! So, what was I to do? I certainly didn’t want to spend $60 for three 1-gallon plants.

I went back to look at those in the 3-gallon containers and noted that there were at least three good-sized clumps of aloe, which was all I needed. So I bought it and took it home.

Using a sharp hand shovel, I cut my way through the root ball, isolating each clump.

Out came several nice-sized aloes, ready to be planted. 

I planted them in my pre-dug holes where they will root out nicely with some supplemental water.

It turns out that there weren’t just three, but five clumps of ‘Blue Elf’ aloe, so I found two more areas to plant them. 

So, instead of paying $60 for three 1-gallons, I got 5 ‘Blue Elf’ aloe for $6 each, which for succulents, is a great deal!

Another type of succulent where you can sometimes find ‘extra’ plants in a nursery container include agave.

At the same plant sale, many different species of agave were on display ready to be purchased. While not all types of agave make ‘babies’ (pups), a lot of them do. Can you spot the two agave containers in the photo above where there is more than one agave growing?

The next time you are shopping for aloe or agave for your garden, take a close look at them in their nursery containers – you may find two or more plants for the price of one. How cool is that?

I’m about to show you my messy container plants, which have been sadly ignored for the past few months.

Shocking isn’t it? I’m embarrassed to show this to you, but I’m the first to admit that I’m not a perfect gardener. Sometimes, life gets in the way of garden maintenance tasks, and since I don’t have my own personal gardener on my payroll, my plants sometimes look like this.

While the plants are perfectly happy and healthy, they are messy, and you can’t even tell how many plants and pots there are.

The center pot is filled with a lush green Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) shrub and some overgrown ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia.

Arabian jasmine loves shade and can handle filtered shade too. It’s fragrant white flowers greet visitors who pass by it on the way to the front door. As you can see, it does well when planted in the ground or a large pot.

In this corner, my lovely blue pot is filled with a hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa), bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum), and foxtail asparagus fern (Protasparagus densiflorus ‘Meyeri’).

I planted this arrangement of plants last year and was inspired by a collection of containers that I saw in California.

I love the combination of plants known for their foliage and wanted this for my front entry. Needless to say, mine doesn’t look like this and won’t without a little attention from me.

This is my succulent container that is filled with a single ‘King Ferdinand’ agave (Agave ferdinandi-regis) and elephants food (Portulacaria afra).

*The witch decoration is a little outdoor decoration for Halloween.

I started in by pruning the most prominent plant, the Arabian jasmine. Using my hand pruners, I cut it back, removing approximately 2/3 of its total size. The ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia was cut back as well, but it is on its way out as it’s usually used for as a warm season annual, but it may come back and bloom for me before winter arrives.

As I pruned back the overgrown jasmine, I discovered a forgotten trailing plant that I had added several months ago. I can’t remember what it was – perhaps bacopa or scaevola.

That looks so much better! The Arabian jasmine will grow back a little before the cold of winter halts its growth. I lightly trimmed the elephants food and tied up the hop bush to a wooden stake to help promote more upright growth. 

In about a week, I’ll add some flowering annuals to the black pot, and I’m open to suggestions. *Do you have a favorite cool-season annual?

Have you ever visited a garden filled with more than just trees and plants? Different types of garden art can add welcome interest to outdoor spaces along with a touch of whimsy.

It’s the unexpected element of encountering an unusual planter, wall hanging, or recycled items throughout the garden that can add a touch of whimsy that makes a garden unforgettable.

I was inspired by the creative uses of garden decor on a recent visit to Buffalo, and while the plants may be different than what I grow in my Arizona garden, the look can be easily replicated using desert-adapted plants.

Here is a look at my favorites.

A small bistro table is all set for tea along with moss planters in the shape of a purse and high shoe.

Got a dull expanse of wooden fence? Grab some chalk and draw some flowers – this would also work for a block wall fence too.

Old glass dishes make beautiful flowers, don’t you think?

Got an old portable fire pit? Dress it up by filling it with succulents.

Creating artistic pieces from old silverware is quite popular and I quite like this dragonfly made out of butter knives.

An old mirror not only makes a unique wall hanging, but it also reflects the beauty of the garden in front of it.

Old garden benches paired with old watering cans add a new look to this corner of a garden.

Transform an old tree stump by adding a plant on top and wooden planters below.

‘Head’ planters are a trendy whimsical element, and I love the extra splash of color that these add.

Elephants food (Portulacaria afra) would make an excellent ‘hairstyle’ for a head planter.

The elegant beauty of a rusted steel hummingbird.

Faced with the view of an uninspiring blank wooden fence? Break up the monotony by adding planters across the base and through the middle.

Succulents would look great used this way through the middle with potted lantana at the base.

An antique store kettle finds new life as a planter for purple alyssum.

Cool season annuals such as petunias or pansies would go nicely in here. Succulents are a good choice for a year-round planting.

Metal wall hangings are a great way to decorate vertical spaces.

Another stump makes a suitable resting spot for a couple of birdhouses and a colorful ladder.

A simple, yet elegant way to display the blooms in your garden in small glass jars.

Lantana, roses, Texas sage or yellow bell blossoms would look lovely displayed like this for a party.

Are you feeling inspired? I certainly am. I invite you to stroll through an antique shop, a thrift store, or even the garage sale down the street. You never know what will catch your attention and be used to add artistic flair and whimsy to your garden.  

 

I enjoy traveling – especially when I get to explore new places. Last month, I journeyed to Buffalo, New York where I toured gardens, attended a writer’s workshop, and best of all, spent time with one of my favorite people.

Why Buffalo you may ask? Well, it turns out that this industrial city has beautiful green spaces, whimsical private gardens, as well as test gardens. Each August, the city hosts Garden Walk Buffalo where people from all over the U.S., Canada, and other countries descend to tour over 400 private gardens. I was in Buffalo for the Garden Communicator’s Annual Conference, which is held in a different city each year. Each year, I look forward to the conference where garden tours, educational sessions, and the tradeshow fills our days. It is also a very good time to reconnect with fellow writers.

 

I arrived in Buffalo a few days early to meet up with my BGF (Best Garden Friend), Andrea who flew all the way from Australia to attend. We met two years ago when we attended our first conference and bonded instantly. Throughout the year, we keep in touch via Facebook Messenger and look forward to spending a week together at the conference. 

Our agenda for the first day was to explore the downtown area down the street from our hotel. There were many older buildings, including our hotel, which had been beautifully refurbished, including the city hall and its art deco architecture.

 

The day was sunny, humid, and hot. Desert dwellers like me don’t deal very well with humidity, but that didn’t stop us from exploring.

 

We walked down to Canalside, which is along the banks of Lake Erie. As we explored the area, we walked through beautifully landscaped garden beds. The hosta and coleus were stunning with their contrasting colors.

While I may not be able to grow many of the plants we passed by, it doesn’t keep me from enjoying their beauty and getting inspired to create similar plantings using different plants that thrive where I live. However, there was ONE plant in this bed that currently grows in my garden – pink flowering gaura.

As we continued walking along the water front, splashes of color caught my eye. 

We had stumbled upon a ‘pot of gold at the end of a rainbow’ or in other words, a test garden where the latest flowering annuals are being tested.

Large containers filled with ‘Supertunia’ petunias look as if they are on steroids. But, this type of flower is smaller than regular petunias and flower more abundantly as you can see. The tall spikes of white and purple angelonia add a lovely vertical accent.

White alyssum, black sweet potato vine, and gomphrena make a unique grouping that works. 

I was thrilled to note that many of the plants in the test garden would grow nicely in my desert garden – during the cool season.

More pink gaura was to be seen, blooming in front of masses of Supertunia.

Lantana is a very familiar sight in arid gardens where it can survive outdoors throughout the year. However, in cold winter regions, it is treated as an annual.

Black-eyed Susan vines grew against a wooden fence surrounded by vibrant verbena and double petunias.

I love trellises made from natural materials on hand like this wood, likely fished out from the lake.

Here is another plant that currently grows in my desert garden – Salvia amistad.

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)

After the long trek from our hotel and exploring the test garden, Andrea and I were content after seeing such beautiful plants, but we were also hot, tired, and hungry.

Thankfully, we found this wonderful restaurant a couple of blocks away. The food and service were fabulous, so we came back again for dinner.

I invite you to visit Andrea’s blog where she writes about her adventures gardening in Perth, Australia. Please come back to join me for day two of our adventure where we discover another garden – this one filled with edible plants along with whimsical garden signs.

 

Disclosure: 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.

Do you have a container, or two, filled with flowers or maybe a succulent? Chances are you do. Many of us settle for the bland shades of brown or beige when choosing pots and miss out on an excellent opportunity to add interest and color to our outdoor spaces.

I am a strong proponent ditching boring neutrals in favor of colorful pots with unique shapes and textures in my ongoing attempt to encourage people to think of plant containers as outdoor decor. As a result, I was thrilled with I was contacted by Annette Gutierrez, one of the authors of Potted: Make Your Own Stylish Garden Containers and asked to review her book.

Innertube from an old tire converted into a planter at the Tucson Botanical Garden.

Within the pages of Potted, Annette and her co-author, Mary Gray, inspire as they show the reader how to create unique and unusual containers that create instant interest.

During my garden travels, I seek everyday items that are reimagined and converted into unorthodox planters such as a recycled tire innertube. 

Annette and Mary refer to themselves as decorators rather than gardeners and own a store in Los Angeles, aptly named Potted where they create innovative receptacles for plants using everyday items such as cinderblock, PVC pipe, and even old wood doors to name but a few. 

If you have ever shopped for colorful or unique containers, you’ve undoubtedly experienced sticker shock at the high prices and settled for a boring, but sturdy terra-cotta pot. Over twenty container ideas await the reader, each of which, meet the following criteria:

  • It must be affordable
  • Materials must be easy to find
  • A good DIY project for the average person

I must admit that after finishing the book, I was looking at ordinary items like paint cans and plastic garbage pails in a different light – decorated and filled with plants.

I can hardly wait to get started! How about you?

Disclosure: I received a copy of ‘Potted’ free of charge for my honest review.