Petoskey, Michigan lighthouse

Petoskey, Michigan lighthouse

While spring break is a time where masses of people escape the cold for warmer climates (like Arizona), we decided to do the exact opposite.  We flew out of warm, sunny Phoenix and headed to cold and snowy Michigan.

Petoskey, Michigan lighthouse

Now before you start to question my sanity, I have an excellent reason for bundling up and bracing myself for the cold, windy weather. My daughter and her family call Michigan their home now, and since then, we try to make it out at least twice a year, and spring break just happened to be the best time to do it.

Petoskey, Michigan

I always look forward to visits to their town of Petoskey, Michigan which sits on the shore of Little Traverse Bay.  It is a popular summer destination, and I spent several weeks here last year helping my daughter move into her new house and add new plants to her garden.

Petoskey, Michigan

It is always fun pulling out my warm weather gear, which seldom gets used at home.  I knit these fingerless mittens a few years ago and rarely have a chance to wear them.

Petoskey, Michigan

As a Southern California native and Arizona resident, I must admit that I have relatively little experience with cold weather so, it has been fun exploring the landscape and seeing the effects of winter.  Seeing the bay frozen in time where we waded in with our feet last June was exciting.

At the beginning of our week, the temperatures were in the mid 20’s with a brisk wind, and we were excited to see an unexpected snow shower.

I realize that many of you who have lived in areas with cold winters may be rolling your eyes at this point, but for someone who has always lived where winters are mild, the weather has been a novelty.

Petoskey, Michigan lighthouse

However, the novelty quickly wore off this morning when I stepped outside, and it was a frigid 16 degrees, and I learned why people start their cars a few minutes before they get in to let them heat up inside.  But, I braved the few steps from the house to the car, and we were off to my granddaughter Lily’s preschool class where I was to give a presentation on the desert and Arizona.

AZ Plant Lady

I brought photographs of the animals, cactuses, and flowers of the desert.  The kids were a great audience and seemed especially impressed with the following pictures:

  • The height of a saguaro cactus with people standing at its base 
  • A bird poking its head out of a hole in the saguaro
  • Cactus flowers
  • Aesop – our desert tortoise

I was struck by how different the desert is from the Michigan landscape and felt honored to expand their horizons.

Petoskey

On the way back from pre-school, we were tasked with bringing the classroom pet, ‘Snowball’ the guinea pig home where he will stay with Lily for spring break.  Doing little tasks such as this bring back happy memories of when our kids were little.

We will be home soon, and spring is a busy time for me.  I have new plants coming in the mail (straight from the grower) for me to test in my Arizona garden, I’ll be showcasing two new plants from the folks at Monrovia, and in a couple of weeks, I’ll be traveling again – this time to Savannah, Georgia for a fun project that I’m excited to share with you soon.

*What are you doing for spring break?

Native plants have become increasingly popular choices for the landscape due to the fact that they not only survive, but thrive with little fuss.

Santa Barbara Botanical Garden

On a visit to California last month, our family decided to spend a morning exploring the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden.

The city of Santa Barbara has always held a special place in my heart.  When I was a child, my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents lived in Santa Barbara.  We only an hour away, so we made many trips there throughout the year for family gatherings, including Christmas.

Santa Barbara Botanical Garden

Aside from being a special place where I spent many happy times as a child, I also fell in love with Santa Barbara.  I attended a small Christian college called Westmont, which is located in the hills above Santa Barbara, where I met my husband.  So, it’s not surprising that we often find our way to this picturesque city whenever we can.

We were visiting our daughter, who is stationed with the Navy a short distance away and we had come out to spend a long weekend with her.  Her service with the Navy is due to end soon so we wanted to take advantage of spending time in Santa Barbara.  The decision to go to the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden was an easy one.  Surprisingly, I had never been there before and wanted to experience its beauty.

Santa Barbara Botanical Garden

Anyone who has visited gardens with me knows that I am always lagging behind as I observe the beauty of plants close up and pause to take a lot of photos.  I just tell them to walk on ahead as I do my best to keep within visual range of them.

open meadows planted with native wildflowers

The first part of this garden consisted of open meadows planted with native wildflowers.  Being that it was January, most weren’t flowering yet, but it was easy to imagine how beautiful they would look in just a month or two.

California native plants.

Looking off in the distance, you could see the ocean and the Channel Islands.

One of the things that are unique about this garden is that they only grow California native plants.

 'Arroyo Cascade' Manzanita
 'Arroyo Cascade' Manzanita

‘Arroyo Cascade’ Manzanita

Santa Barbara has been hit very hard by drought several times in recent years and as a result, residents are looking for drought-tolerant alternatives.

Erigeron divergens

Erigeron divergens

Botanical gardens who feature native plants serve as inspiration for homeowners, landscape architects and designers to help them create landscapes with plants that thrive in the local climate with no little to no fuss.

My family waiting patiently for me to catch up.

My family waiting patiently for me to catch up.

In addition to wanting to learn more about California native plants, I was also looking forward to exploring the California landscape that I grew up in with its graceful oak trees and stately redwood trees.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The garden trails are winding and go up and down hillsides.  It often felt like we were on a camping trip while hiking through the mountains.

At first, the trail is level, but then you are faced with steep steps, called the Indian Steps.  This steep trail is thought to be the trail taken by the Indians who built the dam that is located farther in the garden. 

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

We had brought a stroller for my one-year-old grandson but soon learned that it wouldn’t make it down the steps with him in it, so I carried him down the steps with his mom following with the stroller.

tall coast redwoods, shading the pathway.

At the base of the steps, we were greeted by the sight of tall coast redwoods, shading the pathway.

oak trees

As much as I love oak trees, as a California native, visiting redwood forests scattered throughout the state has always been a special treat.

The sheer size, age, and beauty of redwood trees are truly majestic, especially when you realize how small you are when you stand next to one.

oak trees

As we journeyed on, I was excited to see the old dam, which was built by the Indians to funnel water down the mountain toward the historic Santa Barbara Mission.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

The redwood trees weren’t the only large things in the garden – the boulders were very big too.

Mission Dam

The Mission Dam and Aqueduct were built in 1807 to help direct water toward the mission.

old aqueduct
old aqueduct

This old aqueduct had to be cleaned out frequently to keep debris out so that the water could flow freely.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

As we continued our journey through the garden, I must tell you that it was a beautiful, sunny day in the upper 60’s.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

I took a moment to take a photo of my daughter and grandson in front of a fallen tree.  As you can see, my grandson is having a great time!

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

So were my husband and I.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Eventually, our path took us to a ‘fork’ in the road where we had a decision to make – walk further on and take the bridge back to the entrance or walk across the marked creek crossing.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

When you are with a 13 year-old boy, there is no question about which way you will choose.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

I was especially excited to see the Home Demonstration Garden section, which showcased ways to use California natives in a residential landscape.

The house was built onsite in 1926 from a Sears Roebuck kit.  It now houses the offices of the garden.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

There were nicely designed garden beds filled with California natives, clearly marked.

It was easy to envision seeing oneself landscaping their house in natives that are equally as beautiful as the more flashy non-natives. 

Newly planted landscape beds

Newly planted landscape beds.

After seeing a wonderful example of a residential garden planted solely with natives, it got me to thinking again why so many people in the desert southwest coddle gardenias, hibiscus, and even queen palmsin order to get them to do well in our hot, dry climate where they struggle.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

As I walked around to the back of the house, I found my husband.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

I did tell you that I always lag behind whenever I visit gardens, didn’t I?

My husband is always so patient and doesn’t complain.  I always keep this in mind when he gets excited about looking at cars and motorcycles.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

At the end of our tour through the garden, the fun was just beginning for me because they have a nursery filled with California natives grown on site.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

My camera and I went on an expedition, exploring the different natives.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden
Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

Like many desert natives, these California natives aren’t very exciting in their containers, which can sometimes cause shoppers to skip them in favor for high-maintenance, flashy non-natives.

Erigeron cultivar 'Wayne Roderick'

Erigeron cultivar ‘Wayne Roderick’

But, once planted and given a little time to grow, they put on a show.

California poppy

I was drawn to the different colored California poppy seedlings, ready for planting in the spring wildflower garden.  I would have bought a white and pink variety, but have some already planted in my garden.

desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).

There were a number of California native plants that are also native to Arizona including desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua).

If you ever find yourself in Santa Barbara, I strongly recommend that you take an hour or two to explore the garden.  It is a wonderful walk through the California countryside filled with the beauty of native plants.

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

I came away with three California native plants that I am unfamiliar with.  Since many aspects of our climate are similar, I am wanting to see how they perform in my garden.  The biggest test will be how they handle the summer heat.  My hope is that they will be fuss free and beautiful.  

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden

I’ll be sure to let you know how they do. 

**If you love to grow and cook fresh vegetables there is still time to enter the free giveaway for the fabulous book, Growing For Flavor.**

Do you love hummingbirds?  If asked, most people would say that these tiny birds are among their favorite bird species.

Anna's Hummingbird whose head and throat are covered in pollen

Anna’s Hummingbird whose head and throat are covered in pollen.

I always pause whatever I’m doing whenever I see a hummingbird nearby as I marvel at their small size along with their brilliant colors and flying antics.

Last weekend, I enjoyed an unforgettable experience observing and learning about hummingbirds at the annual Hummingbird Festival, in beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

hummingbird gardening

At the festival, I gave two presentations on small space hummingbird gardening, showing people how they could create a mini-hummingbird garden in a container.

When I wasn’t speaking, I was enjoying the garden tour, visiting local hummingbird gardens along with attending other lectures given by noted hummingbird experts.  

Hummingbird Banding

While there were wonderful events throughout the weekend, this was one particular event that I’ll never forget.

Immature Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Immature Male Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Imagine being able to observe hummingbirds up close being banded and re-released. It really is as incredible as it sounds! In fact, I was able to hold and release a hummingbird myself!

So, what is hummingbird banding?

Hummingbirds are captured, tagged and re-released and is done to track hummingbird migration, the age and health of hummingbirds.  

Mature Black-Chinned Hummingbird

Mature Black-Chinned Hummingbird

This hummingbird banding site was located in the backyard of a home in Sedona.

hummingbird feeders

Multiple hummingbird feeders are set out to attract a large number of hummingbirds.

hummingbird feeders

A few of the feeders are inside of cages with openings for hummingbirds to enter.

hummingbird feeders

A hummingbird enters to feed from the feeder.

hummingbird feeders
Hummingbird Banding
Hummingbird Banding

Each little hummer is carefully put into a mesh bag in order to safely transport it to the nearby table to be examined and banded.

It’s important to note this process does no harm to them and it is a very quick.

The tools needed for banding hummingbirds

The tools needed for banding hummingbirds.

Hummingbird Banding

The birds are carefully removed from the bag and the process begins.

Young male Anna's hummingbird

Young male Anna’s hummingbird.

Hummingbird Banding
Hummingbird Banding

They are carefully inspected for general health and to identify the species of hummingbird.  On this day – Anna’s, Black-Chinned and Costa’s hummingbirds were seen.

Hummingbird Banding

Measurements of the beak and feathers are taken to determine the age.

Hummingbird Banding

Feathers on the underside are softly blown with a straw in order to see how much (or how little) fat a hummingbird has.  A little fat indicates that a hummingbird is getting ready to migrate.

Hummingbird Banding

Special eyewear is required for the banders to see what they are doing with these tiny birds.

Hummingbird Banding

For the banding process itself, hummingbirds are placed in a nylon stocking so that one of their legs is more easily manipulated.

Hummingbird Banding

The small band is carefully placed on the leg.

Hummingbird Banding

As you might expect, it isn’t easy to band hummingbirds because of their tiny size – the bands themselves are so small that they fit around a toothpick.  In fact, hummingbird banding is a highly specialized job and there are only 150 people in the U.S. who have permits allowing them to band hummingbirds.

drink of sugar water

After the banding has been done, hummingbirds are given a drink of sugar water before being released.

hummingbird bander is from St. Louis

This hummingbird bander is from St. Louis, MO and was so excited to see his first Costa’s hummingbird (which aren’t found where he lives). 

newly-banded hummingbirds

For me, the most exciting part is when observers have the opportunity to hold and release the newly-banded hummingbirds.

hummingbirds

The hummingbirds would sit for a few seconds in the palm of your hand before flying off.

Holding a hummingbird in your hand is as amazing as you would expect!  The hummingbird that I released was a young black-chinned hummingbird that had hatched earlier this year.

hummingbirds

One of the observers who got to release a hummingbird was a gentleman who was 100 years old + 1 month old!

How wonderful to be able to experience new things at that age ๐Ÿ™‚

red rocks of Sedona.

The garden where the banding was held was beautiful – especially with the backdrop of the red rocks of Sedona.

hummingbirds feeding

I must admit that I was equally split between observing the banding and watching the numerous hummingbirds feeding.

Can you tell how many hummingbirds are in the photo, above?

Seven!

I have got to add more hummingbird feeders to my own garden!

***********************

I am so grateful to the folks at the Hummingbird Society who put on a wonderful festival.  I enjoyed speaking and learning about these wonderful “flying jewels”.

The festival is held every other year in Sedona, AZ.  There were over 1,000 attendees this year.  I highly encourage you to consider attending this special event next year.  

A Butterfly / Hummingbird Garden Finished!

I have been enjoying sharing with you about my recent trip to the beautiful gardens of Vizcaya, located in Miami, Florida. The trip and garden visit came as a part of my partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt.  These gardens are inspired by Italian gardens and use plants that thrive in tropical climates.

Last time, we explored the secret garden, climbed up the man-made hill and saw a most magnificent, covered patio.

Today, I invite you to journey with me as we explore the gardens furtherโ€ฆ

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

The second part of our garden journey begins at the top of the man-made hill, looking toward the house.

On top of the wall, are examples of the stonework present throughout the gardens.  Most of it was made from limestone, which had a real ‘aged’ appearance.

mangrove forest

This is a photo that I shared on my Instagram account of the mangrove forest.

Mangroves are trees that grow along coastal areas in the tropics in areas where most other plants cannot grow because of the salty water.  They are an important of the ecosystem and help to prevent erosion.

*Imagine how spooky this area would look on a foggy day?

Platycerium bifurcatum

A large staghorn fern (Platycerium bifurcatum) was mounted from the side of a Royal Palm tree.  They are epiphytes, which mean that they get water and nutrients from the air and not from the host plant.

When wet, this large staghorn fern can weigh up to 200 pounds!

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

If you look carefully, you can Spanish moss hanging from the Southern Live Oak, which also grow in the desert – they just don’t get as big here.

*Did you know that Spanish moss is NOT a moss?  It is another example of an epiphyte and gets its water and nutrients from the air.  I have some from my trip to Savannah, Georgia last year that I used to make a terrarium.

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

A brown anole, which is a lizard native to Cuba and the Bahamas.  They are considered an invasive species in Florida.

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

This is a green anole, which is NOT considered invasive.

**A special thanks to my friend and garden companion, Steve Asbell, who explained the difference between these two lizards.

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

More examples of the statuary throughout the garden with ferns in the background.

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

Orchids grew naturally outdoors, which made me slightly jealous, although I have been able to grow them indoors.

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya
beautiful gardens of Vizcaya
beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

There were even orchids growing in trees, which is where they are often found growing in the wild. Most cultivated orchids are epiphytes, which means that they get their water and nutrients from the air.

beautiful gardens of Vizcaya

As we neared the end of our journey through the garden, we encountered a fence with vines growing all over it concealing another secret garden.  There was a small hole, so I peeked through.

Marine Garden

Looking through the hole, I saw another area of the garden that was closed off from the public.  I’m not sure if there are any plans to open this section called the Marine Garden, but I definitely wanted to explore it further.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens

As our time in the garden ended, I was so grateful to have been given the chance to view such a beautiful place.

I hope you enjoyed this ‘virtual’ tour.  If you are ever in Miami, I encourage you to take time to explore the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

***********************

If you want to explore this garden further and learn more about its history, check out my friend Steve’s latest blog post.

Next time, I will share with you our next Floridian adventure, which was to create a community garden.  While vegetable gardening is much the same wherever you live (except for the plsnyinh calendar) we did encounter an unusual barrier, which I will share in my next post.

*I traveled to Miami as part of a group called the Saturday6, which is a group of six garden-bloggers from around the country brought together by the folks at Troybilt.

Last week, I visited Miami along with five of my garden-blogger friends, hosted by Troybilt.  We had two days together, packed with activities including building a community garden, which I’ll tell you about later.  

The first part of our trip took place at the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens.

A Visit to the Italian-Inspired Gardens of Vizcaya

I had flown on the red-eye from Phoenix to Miami and was running on 2 hours of sleep when we arrived at Vizcaya.

Though I was running on empty by the time I arrived at Vizcaya, once I entered the Italian-inspired gardens, I felt like I had stepped onto an European estate and I was instantly re-energized and ready to explore.

We all enjoyed a personal tour of the house (no picture-taking allowed in the house).  While the mansion was beautiful – I am a gardener through and through – not an interior decorator, so I was anxious to get out and see the gardens.

My friend, Steve Asbell (who has a blog called The Rainforest Garden) accompanied me as we explored the gardens.  His knowledge of tropical plants would prove invaluable as he showed me many of his favorite plants in the gardens.

Italian gardens

The gardens were created to mimic the look and feel of Italian gardens, using plants adapted to Miami’s warm, tropical climate.

I really felt as if I was in Europe as we strolled through the gardens.

I would love to share with you some of the beautiful plants and areas of the gardens in the photos below.

Enjoy!

Biscayne Bay

As we stepped out of the house, we were greeted by the sight of Biscayne Bay and a stone barge that was built as a breakwater to help protect against the rising tide.

Euphorbia tirucalli 'Firesticks'

Although there are quite a few differences between gardening in the tropics and the desert – there are quite a few plants that grow well in both places.

The first plant that I recognized was Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’, which is a huge favorite of many desert dwellers.  I have two growing from cuttings in my own garden.

Venetian- style bridge

A tea house stood amidst a backdrop of mangroves that was accessed by crossing a Venetian- style bridge.

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)

This beautiful, flowering perennial is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha).  I have seen it grown as an annual during a visit to the White House and as a perennial here in AZ.  In Florida, it also grows as a perennial.

I really love the red backdrop, which really makes the fuzzy, purple flowers ‘pop’ visually.

secret garden

Every garden should have a ‘secret garden’ don’t you think?

Italian-Inspired Gardens

A decorative stairway leads down to the secret garden of Vizcaya where colorful plants include yellow Peruvian Candle (Sanchezia speciosa) while the fuchsia plants are a variety of Ti Plant (Cordyline ‘Red Sister’).

Italian-Inspired Gardens

Wall pots held a variety of succulents.

Italian-Inspired Gardens

I fell in love with the colorful Kalanchoe luciae ‘Fantastic’ growing alongside a ‘Blue Elf’ Aloe (which is often seen in desert gardens).

*I have a Kalanchoe growing in a container, but it is not this colorful variety. 

Italian-Inspired Gardens

Formally-pruned shrubs form a maze in the center of the gardens.

Italian-Inspired Gardens

A row of statues flanked the walkway, which is a design element that I really love to see in large gardens.

Italian-Inspired Gardens

Barefoot in the garden.

Italian-Inspired Gardens

You could easily think you are in Spain as you view this formal fountain and the palm trees in the background.

Notice the Australian Pine trees in the pots?  They are old!  These trees were last repotted in 1922.  

Italian-Inspired Gardens

Water is a vital element in many large gardens. 

Italian-Inspired Gardens
Italian-Inspired Gardens
Italian-Inspired Gardens

A hill was installed across the garden from the house to block the sun’s rays.  The narrow tracks in the middle were created so that the gardeners could get their wheelbarrows up the steps of the hill.

Italian-Inspired Gardens

At the top of the hill stood this stone planter with some very pretty plants – I have no idea what they are, but that didn’t stop me from admiring them just the same.

the Casino

At the top of the hill stood the ultimate patio, or as it is called in Vizcaya – ‘the Casino’ where guests could sit outdoors in the shade.  

Here in the desert, we would add misters, which would make it a great place to hang out in the summer.  

A Visit to the Italian-Inspired Gardens of Vizcaya

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of our garden tour.  Next time, we will explore a ‘spooky’ forest, view another secret garden and see an orchid garden.

* My trip to Miami and the gardens of Vizcaya was a result of my being one of the Saturday6 – a group of six garden bloggers brought together by Troybilt.

If you have been following along with my last couple of posts (Part 1 and Part 2), then you know that I have been showing some of the highlights of this year’s Arcadia Edible Garden Tour.

Well, here is the last installment, showing some of our favorite highlights from the last few gardens we toured.

Boho Farm and Home

I was looking forward to visit Caroline’s garden.  She blogs about growing and cooking great food at Boho Farm and Home.

The first thing you notice as you enter her back garden is that you start to feel relaxed amidst the beauty and shade.

beautiful summer's day

Who wouldn’t want to spend time enjoying a beautiful summer’s day in the shade?

vegetables gardens

Galvanized tubs are all the rage for planting vegetables gardens, flower, etc.  I may need to get one for my garden…

Boho Farm

I love the wire mesh arch connecting both of these raised vegetable beds at Boho Farm.  I can just imagine growing Scarlet Creeper vines up and over this arch.

Arcadia Edible Garden

The vegetable beds were full of delicious vegetables, which Caroline serves to visitors.

Arcadia Edible Garden

I like her fence, don’t you?

Arcadia Edible Garden

Her apple trees are espaliered along the fence.

Arcadia Edible Garden

Throughout the gardens at Boho Farm were artichokes mixed with ornamental plants.  Artichokes are a beautiful plant, so why not combine them with the rest of your garden?

Our last stop was a home where I was inspired to create my own trellises…

Arcadia Edible Garden

This scarlet creeper vine, which are very easy to grow in the summer, is growing up a vine made up of rebar and wire mesh.  

How simple would that be to make?  I think my husband and I are up for it.

Rebar is the hot trend in garden art right now.  I love trends that are cheap – you can’t get much cheaper then rebar.

Arcadia Edible Garden

Of course, we saw more apples growing.  They won’t be ripe until mid June.

Which reminds me – it is almost time for me to haul out my canning supplies and get ready to make peach, plum and strawberry jam. You can read about my adventures in canning hereif you like.

Of course, I will also make some applesauce too using apples from my mother’s trees.  My apple trees are too young to be producing apples yet.  I’ll probably have to wait a few more years.

As you can see, we had a wonderful morning together and I came home with some new plants and a few new ideas for my garden.

Arcadia Edible Garden

Would you like to go on this tour next year?

The Arcadia Edible Garden Tour has been held the past 2 years in early May.  Tickets sell out quickly, so start looking for them on Sweet Life Garden’s blog in early April.

Who knows…we may bump into each other next year!

Earlier this week, I shared with you the first garden on the Arcadia Edible Tour.  It was just wonderful to see the Sweet Life Garden in person.

However, we had to tear ourselves away from the first garden because there were more to see…

Micro Farm

We stopped by Larry’s “Living the Dream Micro Farm”.  

Arcadia Edible Tour

Like many of the gardens we visited, Larry had chickens.

But, what really caught my attention was his row of trash can compost bins.  

trash cans

Each trash can was filled with compost in a different stage.  The trash cans are re-purposed by the City of Phoenix and are available to their residents for $5 a bin.   Other cities offer free or inexpensive trash cans or compost bins.  Check your local city’s website under waste management to see what they offer.

Larry loved talking about his composting.  He primarily uses chicken manure, coffee ground and leaves.  It takes approximately 2 1/2 months from start to finish according to Larry.

tomato plants

Larry had huge tomato plants growing, heavily laden with fruit (yes, tomatoes are technically a fruit).

Bird Cage

After leaving Larry’s garden, my mother asked to stop by Baker’s Nursery, which is her favorite place to buy vegetables.  Baker’s is the favorite nursery of locals and is located on 40th Street, South of Indian School Rd.

Arcadia Edible Tour

The problem with me going to a nursery as nice as Baker’s, is that I become like a child in a candy store.

Arcadia Edible Tour

I always come home with plants and seeds.  In this case, I bought more bush beans for my garden along with some perennial flowers and Angelita Daisy.

Back on tour, we saw some great examples of vegetables being grown.

Eggplant

Eggplant.

Arcadia Edible Tour

Aren’t these cucumber vines impressive?  The trellis is made up of rebar and wire mesh.

cucumber flowers

I think cucumber flowers are so pretty, don’t you?

vegetable garden

I do love the bright colors of blanket flower, which attract pollinators to the vegetable garden.

Arcadia Edible Tour

I think vegetables are beautiful.

Arcadia Edible Tour

This may look like a green tomato – but it isn’t.  It’s a tomatillo.

Arcadia Edible Tour

Zucchini is so impressive in the vegetable garden. They grow so quickly and get so big.  I have them growing my garden too.  Now, I just have to get a recipe for chocolate zucchini cake so my kids will eat it ๐Ÿ˜‰

Arcadia Edible Tour
Arcadia Edible Tour

I haven’t grown strawberries in my garden, although they are my favorite fruit. I spent time in Germany as a child with my grandparents who had a huge strawberry garden and one of my favorite memories is chasing the rabbits away.

I may have to try growing some next year.

In addition to fruit and vegetables, we did see a beautiful lily pond…  

Arcadia Edible Tour

And something quite unexpected…

Arcadia Edible Tour

That’s the thing with garden tours, you never know what you will see…

As you can tell, we were enjoying ourselves very much.

There was so much to see, that I still have one more post showing you some of our favorite parts of a few more gardens.

So come on back….you hear?

One of my favorite stops on our road trip this year was visiting the gardens at the University of Tennessee.


Earlier in our trip, I visited the gardens of the University of South Carolina, so I was looking forward to seeing more campus gardens.

Even though, I had heard great things about the gardens at UT, I was surprised at how much there was to see. 

The kitchen gardens were the first area we came up to.

kitchen garden

The kitchen garden was bordered by trash cans filled with flowering annuals and tulips.

kitchen garden

Roses and a clematis vine greeted us at the entrance of the kitchen garden.

I wish I could grow clematis vines in Arizona.  I tried once – it did grow, but wouldn’t flower.  Definitely NOT a ‘fuss-free’ plant for a desert garden.

kitchen garden

The fence was made up of tree stakes, sawed in half and painted lavender.  The area inside was filled with vegetables, herbs and other plants.  The garden was a also a test garden for many yet to be released plant varieties.

kitchen garden

Here is a strawberry with red flowers, called ‘Toscana’.

kitchen garden

Garlic planted among leaf lettuce look so attractive, don’t you think?

Did you know that garlic keeps bad bugs away from the lettuce?  It’s true!

square-foot gardening

Here is a great example of ‘square-foot gardening‘.

Flowering chives

Flowering chives were just a few of the herbs that bordered the outer area of the garden.

The flowers are so pretty, that I think I’ll let some of my chives go to flower this year.

artichoke plants

The artichoke plants were huge – my mother posed beside it so you could see how big it was.

kitchen garden

Some of the beds were full of what many would call weeds.  But this crop of ‘hairy vetch’ is actually a cover crop, which is planted in between seasons because it adds nitrogen to the soil.

kitchen garden

Have you heard of the newest trend of vertical gardening?  I love this display.

kitchen garden

Of course, a kitchen garden should have a compost pile.

Do you see the plastic tube in the middle?  That is perforated all the way down, in order to get air to all layers of the compost pile, which helps with decomposition.

kitchen garden

Outside of the kitchen garden was an old, rusty truck that had potatoes growing in its bed.

This was a great example of what I like to call ‘functional garden art’.

A Rusted Pick-Up, Trash Can Containers and a Kitchen Garden

Here is a cute praying mantis figure.

Glandularia pulchella

I did see some familiar plants that are equally at home in the desert southwest like this prickly pear and verbena (Glandularia pulchella), below.

university garden

After leaving the kitchen gardens, I walked through the larger part of the university gardens.

university garden

One of the things that I enjoy about traveling, is discovering new plants that don’t grow where I live.  

Viewing this garden, I was often surprised to find quite a few plants that I also grow, even though my garden was about 1,800 miles away from here.

beautiful shade plants

As I walked through the larger garden, there were beautiful shade plants, like these hosta.

Brightly colored azaleas

Brightly colored azaleas dotted the landscape.

University of South Carolina

Isn’t this ‘Encore’ azalea beautiful?

delicate flowers

Lily of-the-Valley was blooming.  I love their small, delicate flowers.

hosta

I love the lime-green color of this hosta, don’t you?

honeysuckle

This honeysuckle smelled heavenly!

University of South Carolina

It was so pretty, too.

wisteria vine

We also found a huge wisteria vine, which also had a wonderful fragrance.

dogwood trees

The dogwood trees were blooming.

Did you know that the outer white petals aren’t the actual flower?  They are called ‘brachts’.  The real flower is in the center and isn’t too showy.

Road trip
Road trip
Willowleaf 'Blue Star

Willowleaf ‘Blue Star’ was in full bloom.  

lawn

Throughout the lawn areas were softly mounded planting beds, which I liked because they added height and interest to this large expanse of lawn.

red-flowering plant

From a distance, I could see a red-flowering plant. I walked closer to see what it was…

Trifolium rubens

I was surprised to find that it was Red Clover (Trifolium rubens).  It was very pretty, but you need to be careful when using it as a groundcover, because like other clovers; it can be invasive.

shade garden

As we got ready to leave the garden, we walked through the shade garden, which had places to sit and eat.

The UT Gardens have so many different events for the public.  I only wished that I lived closer ๐Ÿ™‚

I encourage you to take some time and visit the gardens at your local university.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find there.

Our trip is nearing its end, but I am looking forward to visiting Kentucky.

****************

“Thank you” to my friend, Dave Townsend (from Tennessee) who sent me to this wonderful garden.

I encourage you to visit Dave’s blog, Growing the Home Garden, which is a hugely popular blog – once you visit, you’ll see why.

We have left South Carolina for one of my favorite parts of North Carolina – Asheville.

I had visited Asheville 2 1/2 years ago and was so excited to return. 

North Carolina Asheville

Each time we go on a road trip, we stay in regular hotels – (Hampton Inn is our favorite).

However, we usually pick one special place to stay for one night of our trip.

My mother knew where she wanted us to stay – The Grove Park Inn.  She had visited the inn years ago with my dad, but they had never stayed there.  Sadly, my dad died before they got the chance to visit again.

The inn is over 100 years old and just beautiful.  As you walk through the inn, rocking chairs are scattered along the property, inviting you to sit down and take some time to relax and enjoy the view.

North Carolina Asheville

When we arrived, we were water-logged from seeing a lot of rain.  It was chilly and I took advantage of a warm seat in front of the fireplace.

North Carolina Asheville

The fireplace was huge…

North Carolina Asheville

Over 30 ft. tall.

We had a delicious dinner overlooking the gardens from the balcony.

In the morning, we were happy to see a bright, sunny day.  

North Carolina Asheville

But, before we left, I had to see the gardens.  

North Carolina Asheville

The hotel sits atop a steep slope, so access to the gardens is via a LOT of stairs.

North Carolina Asheville

The creeping phlox and the flowering dogwood were just lovely.

North Carolina Asheville

After we left the hotel, we headed to the Historic Biltmore Village, which is filled with small shops housed in what was formerly a planned community built in the 1890’s at the entrance to the Biltmore Estate.  

Later, we headed downtown for shopping the unique shops filled with the work of the local crafts people.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Just before we left Asheville, we hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, is over 400 miles long and runs through the Appalachian mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. 

Folk Art Center

One place that you must visit in Asheville is the Folk Art Center, which features crafts made from artisans who live in the Southeastern Appalachians. Another wonderful reason to visit is that they feature a local artisan who creates his/her craft in front of you and answers questions.

Now, it was time to get back on the road and head for Knoxville, TN.

On our way, we drove through some small towns and visited some roadside stands.

'boiled peanuts'

Seriously, ‘boiled peanuts’ are a big deal in the South.

Asheville

Jars of cider, honey and preserves filled the shelves.

Asheville

I bet you didn’t know there was such a thing as ‘kudzu’ and ‘moon shine’ jelly, did you?

Asheville

Fresh pork rinds were available.  I must confess that I have never tried them before.  

Asheville

We stopped by this roadside stand in order to buy ‘toe’ and ‘frog’ jam.

Toe jam

Toe jam is made from tangerine, orange and elderberry.  Frog jam is made of a combination of fig, raspberry, orange and ginger.  I bought a jar of each.

Cherokee Indian Reservation

Along the road, we journeyed through the Cherokee Indian Reservation.

Parkway

Then we took the road through the Smoky Mountain Parkway.  It is so picturesque.  

Garden on a Hill and a Forest of Trees

The road was windy and fun to drive.

Garden on a Hill and a Forest of Trees
Garden on a Hill and a Forest of Trees

We arrived to our hotel in Knoxville and then headed out for dinner.  On our way, we passed a restaurant whose billboard advertised ‘chicken livers and gizzards’ for dinner.

We went to the local Italian restaurant instead ๐Ÿ˜‰

Come back tomorrow for our next day of adventures.

I love school holidays….

I don’t have to get up early to get kids ready… 

I don’t have to worry about helping getting their homework done…

And the kids are happy!

Last Monday, while my wonderful husband was busy nailing wooden planks for our new vegetable garden fence, I spent the morning outside with my youngest daughter, Gracie in the garden.

dried sunflowers

First, we took down our regular bird feeder and hung dried sunflowers for the birds.

We grew sunflowers last summer and saved the flower heads for a winter treat for our birds.

vegetable garden

Then we turned our attention to our older vegetable garden.

Gracie planted some new sunflower seeds while I planted cucumber and basil seeds.

I have been working on a new project.  I am growing vegetables and flowers together in pots.

vegetable garden

All my pots are in the ‘in between’ stage.  This one has red and green leaf lettuce and dianthus.

I also just planted a small cucumber variety in front of the small trellises and there are also some newly germinated cosmos as well.

nasturtiums

The nasturtiums are beginning to bloom.  They make great companion plants in the vegetable garden and help to repel damaging insects.

sugar snap peas

My sugar snap peas are also beginning to bloom.

We had a great time in the garden, enjoying our warmer then usual February weather.

How about you?

Have you gone out in your garden lately?