AZ-Plant-Lady

Have you ever taken a peek behind the scenes? If you have, you know it reveals so much that you never knew. In the past, I’ve had a look of what goes on in the background in a variety of places including a Kentucky bourbon factory, the Lawry Spice Company, the Wheel of Fortune game show, local television news programs, U.S. Mint, to name a few.

Well, now I can add a visit to a seed company – ‘Botanical Interests’ to be precise.

palmers-penstemon-seed-packet

Botanical Interests is most recognized for the beautiful drawings of plants on individual seed packets. But, they are so much more than that.

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AZ Plant Lady (me) and friend/fellow blogger, Teresa Odle of “Gardening in a Drought.”

Last month, I toured gardens in the greater Denver area where Botanical Interests also is. We had the unique opportunity to visit their facility and learn all that goes into getting high-quality seeds into hands of gardeners throughout the U.S.

The first floor consists of a large warehouse with floor to ceiling shelves filled with the 600 different varieties of seed. The seed they carry include heirlooms, organics, and open-pollinated flowers, and vegetables.

Imagine a seed warehouse filled with 80 garden bloggers, and you have a pretty good idea of our vision of heaven! I admit it was hard to keep up with the tour as I wanted to read each package of seed we passed by.

Our tour was led by the owner of Botanical Interests herself, Judy Seaborn. She is warm, funny, and passionate. I am so impressed with her attention to detail. From the artistic seed packets to how the seeds are packaged as ‘gifts.’

Here are what the seeds are kept in before they are put into individual packets. Seeds like to be kept in a cold, dry area. Not surprisingly, Denver is the perfect location for a seed company.

Seed quality is essential as you want it all to be viable. Unlike many seed companies who have their seed tested by outside companies, Botanical Interests do their own testing to ensure that the seed is up to their high standards.

Can you guess what this is? It is a special machine from Germany with a micro-doser and seed counter. It makes sure that the exact amount of seeds make it into each packet.

Here is a little known fact – many seed companies have a ‘vault’ where they keep expensive seed to keep it at its peak.

Judy tells the story of when a delivery of seed came in via FedEx. The driver didn’t understand why the owner of the company had to sign for the delivery. That was until she told him the small bag of rare tomato seed was worth $10,000.

I love pretty things, which is why I enjoy the beautiful (realistic) artwork that adorns each packet of seeds.

Upstairs is an entire art department made up of several artists who are responsible for the drawings on each packet.

I have a confession to make – I wish that I could create drawings like this. My siblings and I are artistic, but display it in different forms. My sister is good at watercolors, my youngest sister is a sought-after professional photographer, and I show my creative talent in designing gardens.

Our tour wrapped up too quickly, but we each carried a gift of seeds to take home to our gardens.

I buy seed from Botanical Interests and have done so for years. I encourage you to do so as well as you will have a garden full of beautiful plants.

You can order a free catalog from them to see all that they have to offer.

 

 

flowering perennial firecracker penstemon
flowering perennial firecracker penstemon

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

Have you ever noticed that spring has a way of surprising you in the garden? That is indeed the thought that I had earlier this week as I walked through my front landscape.

After spending a week visiting my daughter in cold, wintery Michigan, I was anxious to return home and see what effects that a week of warm temperatures had done – I wasn’t disappointed.

I want to take you on a tour of my spring garden. Are you ready?

pink blooming Parry's penstemon

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

Penstemons play a large part in late winter and spring interest in the desert landscape, and I look forward to their flowering spikes.

flowering echinopsis Ember

Echinopsis hybrid ‘Ember’

One of the most dramatic blooms that grace my front garden are those of my Echinopsis hybrid cactuses. I have a variety of different types, each with their flower color. This year, ‘Ember’ was the first one to flower and there are several more buds on it.

blue flowering shrubby gerrymander

Shrubby Germander (Teucrium fruiticans)

Moving to the backyard, the gray-blue foliage of the shrubby germander is transformed by the electric blue shade of the flowers. This smaller shrub began blooming in the middle of winter and will through spring.

Calliandra red powder puff shrub

Red Powder Puff (Calliandra haematocephala)

This unique shrub was a purchase that I made several years ago at the Desert Botanical Garden‘s spring plant sale. If you are looking for unusual plants that aren’t often found at your local nursery, this is the place to go. This is a lush green, tropical shrub that is related to the more common Baja Fairy Duster. However, it only flowers in spring and has sizeable red puff-ball flowers. It does best in east-facing exposures.

flowering annuals Callibrochoa

Million Bells (Calibrachoa)

I am trialing a new self-watering hanging container that was sent to me free of charge by H20 Labor Saver for my honest review. I must say that I am very impressed. Growing plants in hanging containers is difficult in the desert garden as they dry out very quickly. But, this is a self-watering container, which has a reservoir that you fill, allowing me to have to water it much less often.

In the container, I have Million Bells growing, which are like miniature petunias. They are cool-season annuals that grow fall, winter, and spring in the desert garden.

severely pruned yellow bells

Yellow Bells recently pruned

Not all of my plants are flowering. My yellow bells shrubs have been pruned back severely, which I do every year, and are now growing again. This type of severe pruning keeps them lush and compact, and they will grow up to 6-feet tall within a few months.

onions arizona vegetable garden

Onions growing in my vegetable garden

This past fall, my daughters took over the vegetable garden. I must admit that it was fun to watch them decide what to grow and guide them in learning how to grow vegetables. They are already enjoying the fruits of their labor and onions will soon be ready to be harvested.

blossom of meyer lemon

Meyer Lemon blossom

My Meyer lemon tree hasn’t performed very well for me and has produced very little fruit in the four years since I planted it. I realized that it wasn’t getting enough water, so I corrected that problem, and it is covered in blossoms – I am so excited!

fragrant chocolate flower

Chocolate Flower (Berlandiera lyrata)

Moving to the side garden, chocolate flower adds delicious fragrance at the entry to my cut flower garden. It does well in full sun and flowers off and on throughout the warm season.

purple flowering verbena

Verbena in bloom

In the cut flower garden, my roses are growing back from their severe winter pruning. Although the roses aren’t in bloom yet, my California native verbena is. This is a plant that I bought at the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden – I don’t remember the exact name, but it does great in my garden.

ripening peaches

Young peaches

I have some fruit trees growing in the side garden including peaches! I can just imagine how delicious these will taste in May once they are ripe!

flowers of apple tree

Apple tree blossoms

While the peaches are already forming, my apple trees are a few weeks behind and are still flowering. It surprises people that you can grow apple trees in the desert garden and they will ripen in June – apple pie, anyone?

I hope that you have enjoyed this tour of my spring garden. All of these plants are bringing me joy.

*What is growing in your garden this spring that brings you joy?

Please join me in congratulating Lori J. who won the giveaway. 

She will receive a free copy of Maureen Gilmer’s book, The Colorful Dry Garden

Thanks to everyone who entered, and special thanks to Sasquatch Publishers who sponsored the giveaway.

Noelle Johnson, AKA, ‘AZ Plant Lady’ is a horticulturist, landscape consultant, and certified arborist who lives and gardens in the desert Southwest. While writing and speaking on a variety of gardening topics keeps her busy, you’ll often find her outside planting vegetables, picking fruit from her trees, or testing the newest drought-tolerant plants. 

 

 

I love using color in the garden, which is why I welcomed the opportunity to review the book, ‘The Colorful Dry Garden‘ and host a giveaway.

In my work as a horticulturist and landscape consultant, I find that people often have the mistaken impression that desert landscapes are destined to be brown and barren, but nothing could be farther from the truth. There are many plants that offer vibrant color to outdoor spaces while thriving in an arid climate.

Horticulturist, Maureen Gilmer, makes her home in the Palm Springs area, in the midst of the California desert, and she has put offered her expertise in creating colorful dry gardens in her latest book.

Her book is broken up into two different parts, with the first taking you through the steps of how to convert your landscape into one that saves water. Whether you want to do a total renovation or do it in phases, the book provides you with helpful guidance.

Part two has a comprehensive list of plants that add welcome color to the arid landscape. However, unlike many plant lists, the author groups plants into groups that focus on their role in the garden such as structure (shrubs), canopy (trees), accent plants, and those that add beautiful texture.

I have reviewed a large number of books that deal with gardening in a dry climate and ‘The Colorful Dry Garden’ approaches it a bit differently by focusing on color, design, plant function, as well as real steps on how to transition your landscape to one filled with water-saving, colorful plants.  

I enjoyed reading through the book and feel that it deserves a spot in your garden library. 

**The folks at Sasquatch Books are giving away a free copy of ‘The Colorful Dry Garden’ for readers of my blog. To enter, leave a comment telling me what your favorite colorful plant is. I will announce the winner on March 22nd.

Please feel free to share via social media or email, using the buttons below. 

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

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

What are you excited about in this coming year?

 

It’s Day 3 of our garden gift ideas and today it’s all about books.

Gardening in the Southwest can be challenging because many of the traditional gardening rules and plants just don’t work here and traditional garden literature often ignores the unique opportunities and challenges that our arid climate presents. A good book that focuses on our distinct region can become an invaluable tool. As a garden writer, I know many garden authors and have been asked to review many books, and I include my top eight with you.

As a garden writer, I’ve been asked to review some garden books and know several of the authors personally and can attest to their expertise in gardening in the Southwest.

*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. Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Our dry climate is an ideal region for growing fruits and vegetables because we have fewer insect pests and disease than more temperate areas. From apples, peaches, to citrus – many types of fruit can be grown here. Vegetable gardening is a favorite pastime of mine, and due to our relatively mild winters, we can grow them throughout the entire year. Tucson native, Jacqueline Soule, teaches you how to create your own edible, southwestern garden. Click here to order. 

2. Gardening In The Deserts of Arizona

Mary Irish is one of my favorite authors and worked for years at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Her books are what I like to refer to as the ‘bible’ of growing ornamental plants in the Southwest. From lists of plants that grow well in our climate to how to maintain them each month, this book is a must-have for new (and old) desert gardeners. She has written several books, but this is a good one to start with as it breaks down how to care for your garden. I met her at a conference in California and found her utterly charming and down to earth. Click here to order. 

3. Lawn Gone

Austin, Texas resident, Pam Penick, is well known for her blog, Digging, as well as her frequent contributions to a variety of gardening magazines. Her approach is saving water in the garden by removing or minimizing lawn areas, with an emphasis on simple and creative design solutions. I am fortunate to call Pam my friend and have toured gardens with her in Arizona and California. I’ve owned this book for several years, and it still ranks as one of my favorites. Click here to order. 

4. Potted

Earlier this year, I was contacted by Annette and asked to review her book. She and Mary own a trendy garden shop in Los Angeles that focuses on outdoor accessories and design services. As its title suggests, this book focuses on instructing readers on how to create unique containers using everyday items. The results are eye-catching and add a welcome design element to garden spaces. This book is for those on your list who like to be on the cutting edge of gardening trends. Click here to order. 

5. Growing Vegetables in Drought, Desert, and Dry Times

If you or someone on your gift list like to grow vegetables, this is an invaluable book which speaks specifically to growing an edible garden in an arid climate. Tips for maximizing your harvest while managing water is an important skill to learn and the author draws upon her experience of living and gardening in the desert regions of California. Grouping this book along with packets of vegetable seeds and a raised bed kit, would be a much-appreciated gift for a beginning vegetable gardener. Click here to order. 

6. Homegrown Herb Garden

Herbs are very easy to grow and flourish in arid climates. I grow them in pots, in my vegetable garden, as well as indoors. One of the authors, Ann McCormick, also known as the ‘Herb n’ Cowgirl’ has a blog by the same name. This book provides helpful growing tips along with how to use them to flavor your favorite dishes making it a great choice for the gardener and cook on your list. Click here to order yours.

7. Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest

Many gardening books contain smaller lists of plants, but this Mary Irish book has comprehensive lists of shrubs and trees that flourish in the Southwest. It delves beyond the often repeated plant palette of bougainvillea, oleander, and Texas sage, and goes further into the impressive variety of plants that can grow here. This book is a thoughtful choice for those who want to learn more about the plants that can grow in our arid climate. Click here to order.

8. The Water-Saving Garden

This book holds a special place for me because of the author, Pam Penick, who made a journey to visit me in Arizona while researching her book. We spent an entire day together visiting gardens throughout the greater Phoenix area (including mine), covering over one-hundred-fifty miles. Many of the photos that she took that day are in the book, which as its title suggests, focuses on how to create lovely gardens that don’t need a lot of water. Click here to order. 

All of these books will serve to inspire and teach the gardener on your list, how to create a beautiful garden that will thrive in the arid Southwest climate.

Want more ideas? Check out Day 1 and Day 2 of my garden gift ideas. 

Tomorrow, I’ll share my picks for garden gifts for kids. 

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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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Disclosure: This post is paid for by the folks at Lava Soap. The opinions expressed, are my own.

Are you afraid to get your hands dirty when you garden? I’m not. In fact, I seldom wear gardening gloves when I’m working in the soil. Oh, gloves are useful when using pruners, raking, or dealing with thorny plants. However, I find elemental pleasure with working in the soil with my bare hands.

I especially like to ditch the gloves when I am working in my vegetable garden where whether I am planting seeds, smoothing out a new layer of compost, or harvesting plants – touching the plants and soil with my hands makes me happy.

Last week, I spent the morning out in the vegetable garden, cleaning out old plants and getting it ready for sowing seeds in mid-September. The experience was not unlike the feeling you get after spring cleaning. I have an almost blank canvas on which to add new vegetables this fall.

After the plants are ripped out, I add several inches of new compost to prepare the beds. I buy my compost in bags, which makes it easier to add just where I want it to go.

This year, I am changing things up a bit by adding mushroom compost, which has composted horse manure and straw among other things. I like to try new things to see how they perform and then communicate that information to you.

All told, we added a total of 6 inches of regular and mushroom composts to the garden.

Our desert tortoise, Aesop, came out to see what we were doing. Unfortunately, we discovered that he is able to climb up into the vegetable garden, which we don’t want as he will eat our leafy greens. So, we will have to replace the short wood sides with taller ones.

As if my hands weren’t dirty enough after pulling out plants, they became more so as I smoothed out the newly added mulch around the few plants that remained. Of course, any chance of getting his hands dirty, brings out my grandson, Eric, to help me out in the garden.

Back in the house, we had two pairs of messy hands. So, out came my favorite hand cleaner that I reserve for the dirtiest of messes. Lava Soap is the most effective way that I have found to get rid of the ground in garden dirt from my hands, and Eric was anxious to get started first. Within a couple of minutes, his little hands were nice and squeaky clean.

My hands were worse than Eric’s, coated with soil and plant debris and I knew from experience that regular soap wouldn’t do the job. So I grabbed my bar of Lava and got started.

That is a lot of dirt!

Almost done!

Finished!

In the past, whenever I would use regular soap, it never got them completely clean, and I would have dirt remaining in the small cracks in my hands. I also didn’t like how dried out my hands would feel after working in the garden.

Lava Soap not only gets my hands (and Eric’s) cleaner than regular soap, it doesn’t dry them out either. Most of us have heard of this famous cleaning bar and how it is useful for getting rid of grease, paint, and glue due to the pumice that within it. However, I’m here to state that it also did a fabulous job removing the garden soil from my hands while leaving them moisturized afterward.

So, ditch the garden gloves, reach your hands into the soil and experience the joy of gardening. Just be sure to have some Lava Soap ready to help you clean up afterward.

Lava Soap is available at retailers across the country, including Ace, Walmart, Dollar General and Family Dollar. To find a store near you, visit LavaSoap.com and click on the Where to Buy button.

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.

**UPDATE: The giveaway is over, but you can always order your own copy of Potted.

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