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Desert Landscape Renovation

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 Seeing the old, outdated elements peeled away and replaced with new paint, flooring, etc.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

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

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

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

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

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

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

Desert Landscape Renovation

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

Desert Landscape Renovation
Desert Landscape Renovation

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

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

Looking for Inspiration: Low-Maintenance Desert Landscapes

September Gardening Tasks

September Gardening Tasks

After a seemingly endless summer, we have finally made it to the finish line.  This is the season where we experience a ‘second spring’ and venture out into the garden again.

citrus fertilized

Soil is ready to be amended, citrus fertilized, and some light pruning can be done.

 September Gardening Tasks, Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings

September Gardening Tasks, Un-pruned lantana on the left.  Two light pruned lantana are to the right with a pile of clippings.

September is the gateway to a busy time in the garden, but there are a few things that it is still too early to start on yet.

I’ve made a video of what you should do and shouldn’t do this month:

 
 
 

What is your favorite season of the year?

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

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

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

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

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

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

newsroom

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

rectangular table

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

colorful flowers

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

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

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

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

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

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

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

plants and props.

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

plants and props.

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

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

A Look Behind and In Front of the Television Camera

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

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

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

teaser

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

filming a garden

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

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

filming a garden

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

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

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

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

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

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

My New Garden Video

January is off to a busy start.  We have gone from a house bursting at the seams to one that seems suddenly spacious after my two oldest daughters left for home with their children.  While I do miss them, I must admit that I never thought a house filled with 3 teenagers would seem quiet.

Enjoying last minute cuddle time with Lily before she flew back to Michigan.

Enjoying last minute cuddle time with Lily before she flew back to Michigan.

As I drove my oldest daughter and her family to the airport, I felt that familiar tickle in my throat and knew that I was getting sick.  I wasn’t too surprised with all of the busyness of the holidays that my resistance was low.  

A few days later, I was due to make an appearance on the television show, Arizona Midday, which airs on our local NBC television station.  The topic was to be about winter gardening tasks.

While I have been on television a few times before, this was my first time on this particular program.  

As with the other times, I made a trip to the nursery for plants and other things for the television spot since the producers like a lot of props to make things look more interesting.

I came away with a bare root rose (my favorite Mr. Lincoln red rose), leaf lettuce and kale, parsley and cool season annuals for color.  Other props included different types of frost protection including frost cloth, old towels, and sheets.

Unfortunately, as the date of my television appearance neared, my cold got worse and evolved into a full-blown sinus infection.  

television show, Arizona Midday

So on a brisk winter morning, loaded up with cold medicine and a pocket full of kleenex, I loaded up my plants and other props and headed to the TV station along with my mother who came with me to help me stage the table and provide moral support.  

We spent a delightful time waiting to be escorted to the studio in the green room with a pair of chili cooks who were talking about an upcoming chili cookoff.

television show, Arizona Midday

Television show, Arizona Midday

Finally, it was time for the gardening segment, which went quite smoothly – I didn’t cough or sneeze once.  The host was kind, gracious and most importantly – laid back and relaxed.

After returning home, I got on my favorite pair of sweats and got back into bed.  I am determined to kick this cold!

I hope that your January is off to a great start!

Do you write a family Christmas letter telling people what has been happening in the past year? I confess that I have never done this before.  But today, I thought that I would write one for you that talks about our Christmas celebration and what the coming year holds in store.

Christmas was spent with a house filled with my 5 children (including my oldest daughter from Michigan and my second-eldest from California), my son-in-law, 2 grandchildren, my husband, me plus our 4 dogs.  So that makes 10 people, not counting the dogs.

Christmas celebration

While things have been busy and chaotic, juggling bedrooms and bathrooms, keeping the dogs from eating wrapped Christmas gifts, cooking dinners for 10 people, picking up stray toys and finding time to take the grandkids on grandma and grandpa dates- I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

The Christmas tree has since come down and most of the holiday decorations are stored away and our house has begun to resemble its former self, which allows time to reflect on the past month and look forward to some exciting things happening soon.

My daughter Ruthie, my twin nephews and my niece, Sofie.

My daughter Ruthie, my twin nephews and my niece, Sofie.

Every year, I host our annual cookie baking day for my nieces, nephews, grandkids as well as my own kids.  The kids look forward to it every year and it is fun to see them decide what cookie cutters they will use and how messy they get decorating their cookies.

My granddaughter Lily, nephews and my son Kai (the tallest one).

My granddaughter Lily, nephews and my son Kai (the tallest one).

While their parents sit and visit, I scramble to keep up with the kids helping them find the right color frosting and sprinkles to create their masterpieces.

After they have finished, each one can pick one cookie to eat and the rest we save to eat together when we gather with extended family on Christmas day.

Christmas celebration

This is the aftermath of a successful cookie baking day.  After an hour and a half, I am exhausted.  However, each year I am pleasantly surprised that the older kids still look forward to participating and it is so much fun seeing my young grandkids now taking part.

Christmas celebration

This Christmas was extra special because it was my grandson’s first one.  What also made it especially happy was that my daughter was able to spend Christmas with us for the first time since she joined the Navy.

Christmas celebration

The kids all enjoyed their gifts, including Gracie who especially liked the ‘sugar’ cereal and chocolate bar that her brother gave her – food that her mother doesn’t buy her 😉

Christmas celebration

The day after Christmas was a big one for me.  I turned 50 this year and we celebrated with extended family at my sister’s house. 

To be honest, it wasn’t as much of a milestone for me as I thought it would be.  The reason is that I have spent the entire year thinking about turning 50, so I might as well as have skipped over being 49 years old.

I do feel great and am embracing my age and being in the position to have lived long enough to have learned quite a few things and young enough to still be able to do just about anything I still want to do.

Christmas celebration

I look at my mother as she spends time with my grandchildren and am thankful that I will probably be around when these two have children of their own.

Christmas celebration

This is my newest wallpaper for my phone.  My husband and I took this picture when we took Lily and Eric out on a date to McDonalds. One nice thing about little kids is that McDonalds is as fancy as you need to get and they love it.

The coming year is filled with a lot things to look forward to.

 plants growing in my garden

I have several test plants growing in my garden, which were given to me by growers who want to see how they will perform in the desert Southwest.  Of course, as a horticulturist, I am interested in seeing how they do as I like to be able to recommend a greater variety of plants to both you and my clients.  It also doesn’t hurt that they were free 🙂

California poppies.

My former side vegetable garden is planted with wildflower seeds, many of which, I am growing for the first time such as different colors of California poppies.

English Roses

New roses are also on their way, which will also be added to the side garden amongst the wildflowers.  (I still have two other vegetable gardens, which grow plenty of produce for us.)

AZ Plant Lady's Christmas and New Year Newsletter

On the business front, I keep getting busier each year helping others create beautiful, low-maintenance landscapes using plants that thrive in our climate.  In 2015, I had over 85 consultations – I so enjoy meeting with people and helping them with their landscape.

Later this week, I will be appearingon a local television program, Arizona Midday, to talk about winter garden tasks.  Frost protection, planting roses, bare root fruit trees and other winter chores will be covered.  

Travel will be another big part of this year with trips planned to Seattle, California, Georgia, and Michigan already planned.  I’ll be sure to take you along with me as I blog from the road.

Arizona Federation of Garden Clubs.

Speaking engagements are also filling up my calendar with the first one happening the end of January.  Later in the year, I will be a landscape instructor for an upcoming Landscape Design School given by the Arizona Federation of Garden Clubs.

Of course, I will continue to write garden articles for Houzz and for other companies as well.  

**I wanted to take a moment to thank you for taking time out of your day to read my blog.  It means so much to me and I look forward to sharing more with you the coming year!

Last week, I had one of my best days at work.  I had to do some work out in the field, which entailed placing 3 large boulders in a high profile landscape design of a golf course.

high profile landcape area of a golf course

While placing boulders may seem rather boring to some, I must say that I always enjoy this job.

large boulders

Why you may ask?

Well first of all, it can be quite exciting.  Moving very large boulders isn’t without its risks.  There is always danger of damaging nearby structures.  You can also get a sense of how heavy a particular boulder is when the back tires of the backhoe comes off the ground.

landscape design

But, the reason that I most enjoy placing boulders is that I have several people listening and following my directions as to where to place each boulder.

Now, lest you think that I may get carried away with my power – there is no chance of that.  After a busy day in the field, I came home and tried my best to get my 3 teenagers to listen and do what I asked.  Needless to say, the ‘power’ I had earlier in the day, mysteriously disappeared  ðŸ˜‰

landscape design

landscape design

But at the end of the day, I did have three nice-sized boulders to anchor my landscape design.  Plants were ready to go in a couple of days later.

A Snapshot of My Crazy, But Happy Life…

Our second day in Oregon started out with an even greater appreciation of this beautiful state.

The day started out with walking down the street from our downtown hotel for a gourmet breakfast.

Okay, not really.  But we did walk down the street toward Pioneer Square, we ended up eating at McDonald’s for breakfast.

Although our road trips typically find us in a new place each day – there are a few things that we do each day.

Starbucks

The first being, my mother stopping by the nearest Starbucks for coffee.

Sometimes, it isn’t always easy to find a Starbucks, but, in the Northwest, there is just about one on every street corner.

The first stop on our itinerary today was to visit Portland’s Saturday Market, which is the largest continually running arts and crafts market in the country.    

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

The vendors have to make the items that they sell and each item must be approved.  So, you can imagine that the quality of what was offered was quite high.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

There was a unique variety of things to tempt shoppers, including the booth filled with items made from old silverware.  I must confess that I was tempted to buy the hummingbird wind chime, made from old butter knives, forks and spoons.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

Another booth offered duct tape wallets, custom made to order, which made a great birthday gift for my son. I enjoyed watching them make it.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

How about a custom-made garden gnome made in your likeness while you watch?

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

If you are into bonsai, there were several types of bonsai plants you could choose from.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

I liked this succulent shadow box, but there was no drainage for the succulents, which would be a problem eventually.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

Other items included hand carved children’s toys, beautiful woodwork kitchen utensils, clothing, jewelry and much more.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

At the end of one aisle was a florist booth with buckets of fresh flowers.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

The florists created absolutely beautiful bouquets and I would have gotten one if possible.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

Those interested in henna tattoos, having their palms read or buying bracelets and necklaces made from hemp, also had places to shop.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

The Saturday Market was the place to be on the weekend and it was fun to people watch.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

Of course, there were street performers and best of all, lots of food trucks.

Portland's Saturday Market, Portland, Oregon

There was so much to do and see there, that we had to go back to our car and put more $ in the meter.

After a fun morning of shopping, we headed back to our car and passed by the Oregon Duck store…

Duck Store

As an ASU alum, I decided to pass right on by and tried to forget the last game I went to when the Ducks were playing and leveled our team.

Portland, Oregon

It was time to leave Portland, but I could have easily spent a few more days there.  But, the nature of our road trips is to spend only 1 day in each area before moving on.  So we concentrate of a few activities and usually make plans to return at a later date to spend more time there.

Tillamook

Our next stop was the coastal town of Astoria. On the way, we visited the small town of Tillamook. Now for those of you who think that name sounds familiar, you would be right.

home of Tillamook Cheese

Tillamook is the home of Tillamook Cheese and they offer free factory tours and cheese tasting. So of course, we made a stop since enjoying regional food is a large part of our trip.

home of Tillamook Cheese

The factory was large and tourists packed the parking lot in front while trucks delivering fresh milk from the county’s farms were in the back.  You could also see 18-wheeler trucks ready to deliver the finished product to stores.

home of Tillamook Cheese

The factory is a huge draw and I was surprised at how many people were there. There is a cafe, ice-cream shop and a self-guided tour where you can go and observe the cheese making itself.

home of Tillamook Cheese
home of Tillamook Cheese

After watching blocks of cheese coming out, we were hungry and headed downstairs for the cheese tasting.

home of Tillamook Cheese

My favorite was the medium cheddar.

home of Tillamook Cheese

After buying some cheese in the adjoining gift shop, we found ourselves in the long, but fast-moving, line for Tillamook ice cream. We shared a bowl, which was delicious. I should mention now, that we leave behind our mostly healthy eating habits whenever we go on our road trips.

road for Astoria

We got back on the road for Astoria, where we would be spending the night. While you may have never heard of Astoria, you’ve certainly heard of a very famous movie that was made there called ‘The Goonies’.

'Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery'

It was dinner time by the time we arrived and we headed for the ‘Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery’ which was located on the Columbia River.

'Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery'
'Wet Dog Cafe and Brewery'

You could see the ships passing by at the windows where we sat.

Astoria Brewing

While I like to eat at breweries, I don’t particularly enjoy beer.

Astoria Brewing

 But with names like these, I wish I did!

Tomorrow, we are off to explore the area around Astoria, including a look at the house from ‘The Goonies’ before heading north to Seattle.

We are having a great time!

We’ve just finished the first day of our Northwest road trip.

Northwest road trip

It all began very early this morning.  We left the house at 4:50 a.m. in order to get to the airport on time for our 6:50 flight to Portland, Oregon.

While I have traveled to the Northwest twice, this was to be my first time in Oregon and I could hardly wait to explore Portland.

Many of you may know that I am crazy for roses and that my love for them inspired me to go to school to become a horticulturist.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

So, it should come as no surprise that the International Rose Test Garden in Portland was our first stop.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

It is not only a beautiful garden open to the public – it also serves an important function to test new roses to see how they do. The pink roses, above, were undergoing testing and as a result, not been named yet.  As far as I’m concerned, they deserve to pass – they were gorgeous and had healthy foliage.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

I confess to having a preference for roses with multiple shades of color.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

I loved the unique colors of this ‘Distant Thunder’ rose, don’t you?

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

The garden was large, but not overwhelming in its size. We were able to walk around and see the roses within an hour’s time.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

There were all sorts of roses growing there from climbing, floribunda, hybrid tea, grandiflora, miniature and old-fashioned.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

There were a few differences in the rose bushes that is not often seen in drier climates like the desert Southwest.

For one, we don’t see moss growing on rose canes.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

Also, blackspot is a fungal disease that is prevalent in humid climates and while it is a problem in the humid climate of the Northwest, it isn’t often seen in the Southwest.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

The peak bloom season for roses in Portland is still a couple of weeks away, but there were still plenty in bloom.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

Almost as fun as enjoying the roses was seeing all the different types of people who came to visit these gardens, including this little girl who was having fun by the fountain.

International Rose Test Garden in Portland

Not surprisingly, I took over 200 photographs of roses and have more than I will need for upcoming rose articles. Who knows? I may create a rose calendar for my wall next year 🙂

William Shakespeare's sentiments

I happen to share William Shakespeare’s sentiments when it comes to roses.

After a quick lunch, we headed to the Oregon Historical Society Museum, in downtown Portland, to learn more about Oregon’s history.

We then took a stroll along the South Park Blocks, which is a green space that runs through the center of Portland that is made up of 12 squares (or city blocks).  

Theodore Roosevelt

In the middle of each square is a statue or other artwork. Here is one of Theodore Roosevelt.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln can also be seen enjoying the beauty of Portland.

Lan Su Chinese Garden.

Okay, when people say that Portland is ‘green’, they aren’t kidding. While it is so beautiful, it can be a little overwhelming to this Southwestern resident.

Our next stop was to the Far East, better known as the Lan Su Chinese Garden.  

Chinese Garden

To be honest, this wasn’t a scheduled stop on our itinerary, but we had some time to kill before we could check into our hotel and so we drove through the downtown and drove past this garden.

Well, as a mother of 3 children from China as well as having visited China myself a few times, I looked forward to looking through the garden.

entrance to the gardens.

Chinese lions guarded the entrance to the gardens.

As we stepped toward the entrance, a kind visitor offered to take me with her, using her 2-person guest pass, saving me the admission fee. (Did I mention that all the people we have met in Portland are exceptionally nice?)

Road Trip: Roses, Presidents and a Trip to the Far East

Upon entering the gardens, I was instantly transported back to China and the gardens that I had visited years ago.

pink blooms.

Rhododendrons are in full bloom everywhere you look and I really liked how the pond reflected their pink blooms.

pink blooms.

The blossoms are huge!

Chinese garden.

Being in Portland, some rain is to be expected and we got sprinkled on at the Chinese garden.

Chinese garden.

Visitors and workers enjoyed each others company. I got a kick out of seeing this garden worker working in the pink taking care of the water lilies.

Road Trip: Roses, Presidents and a Trip to the Far East

Decorative pathways made from pebbles stretched throughout the garden.

Bonsai plants

Bonsai plants were scattered about.

Road Trip: Roses, Presidents and a Trip to the Far East

While I like the look of bonsai, I lack that patience to use the technique.

Road Trip: Roses, Presidents and a Trip to the Far East

Before we left the garden, I stopped by the gift shop to buy a Chinese gift for my daughter, Gracie, who is very proud of her Chinese heritage.

Portland is a great place to visit.  The gardens are beautiful…

Road Trip: Roses, Presidents and a Trip to the Far East

And water is not in short supply as is evident from the drinking fountains that run non-stop…

Road Trip: Roses, Presidents and a Trip to the Far East

Tomorrow, we will visit Portland’s Saturday Market, which is a large arts and crafts market with ver 250 vendors. Then we are off to Tillamook (cheese) and Astoria, Oregon.

Road Trip: Roses, Presidents and a Trip to the Far East

I’ll be sure to post more tomorrow!

Do you like to travel?

I bet you do. But, if you are like me, you don’t like the having to tasks such as packing, finishing up last minute things at work and such.

Since I will be traveling without my husband and kids, I’ll also need to stop by the grocery store so that they don’t starve while I’m gone.

Below, is my kid’s puzzle of the United States and on it, I have placed the states that I have visited – many of them on annual road trips with my mother.

puzzle of the United States

As you can see, there are some empty spaces and our road trips are an ongoing effort to visit all the different regions in the United States.

So before I reveal where we will be going this year, let’s look at the options for the road trip we considered:

Southern and Plains states

Southern and Plains states.

A few Rocky Mountain states.

A few Rocky Mountain states.

Bags Are Packed - Destination ?

New England, including Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine.

world famous rose garden

The Northwest, including British Columbia, Canada.

and

Texas and surrounding states.

Texas and surrounding states.

Before I reveal our destination, I have to confess that it wasn’t our first choice.  We had initially decided to travel to New England and had worked hard on an itinerary filled with fun things to do and see.

But, that was before the harsh winter that they experienced.  We were advised by many New England natives that a trip this year would be difficult due to spring being delayed and numerous road crews repairing damaged streets due to pot holes left from the cold winter.

So, we decided to postpone our New England trip to next year (hopefully).

The destination that we finally decided on for this year is a region that we have both visited, but wanted to explore further…

world famous rose garden

We will be visiting the Northwest and British Columbia, Canada and I can hardly wait!

I have been to Seattle twice, but not by car and I look forward to exploring more of this dynamic city.

I’m ashamed to admit that I have never visited Oregon.  It has always been a state that is flown over on my way to Washington and I have always wanted to explore it further.

Here is a detailed map of where we will be going:

world famous rose garden

Our journey begins in Portland, where we will visit the world famous rose garden. Of course, we will also explore other areas of this fun city.

After leaving Portland, we will drive to Astoria and spend some time before heading up to Seattle.

Later, we will stay in Port Angeles and visit the Olympic National Park.

The next leg of our journey involves a ferry to get us to Victoria, Canada.  I was fortunate to have spent a day in this very English city including Butchart Gardens, which I plan on seeing again.

Another ferry ride will take us from Victoria to Vancouver, which I have always wanted to visit since the Olympics was held there.

The last portion of our trip will bring us back toward Seattle with a stop in Mount Vernon and more gardens to visit.

**If you have any helpful advice on what to do and see in this area, I’d love some advice.

I hope you will join me as our journey begins!  I will be blogging from the road, sharing the sights and experiences along the way.

It all begins on Friday…    

Do you ever go on road trips?

As a child, we traveled almost everywhere by car. My parents would load up our station wagon complete with its ‘faux’ wooden panels and my sister, brother and I would argue about who would have to sit in the middle first.

Tanaya Lake in Yosemite.  I'm on the left :-)

Tanaya Lake in Yosemite.  I’m on the left 🙂

Most of our road trips involved camping throughout the state of California. I have great memories of sitting by the campfire, my mom making chicken and dumplings on the camp stove, dirty feet that had to be washed before walking into the tent and most of all, just having fun.

Now that I am grown, road trips are still a part of my life. While I take many with my own family, I also go on a special road trip each year with my mother.  

road trip adventures

For those of you who have followed my blog for awhile, you have undoubtedly participated in our road trip adventures. In fact, I am often asked where our next destination will be.

Every year, we both sit down and decide where our next adventure lies. The goal is to explore different regions of the United States by car.

We typically fly into one city and days later, end up several states away. Our road trips have taken us to a variety of fun places and experiences including:

Lexington, Kentucky

Touring a horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky.

Savannah, Georgia.

Walking through the grounds of an old plantation in Savannah, Georgia.

old Amish farmer

Observing an old Amish farmer, throwing manure onto his corn field.

South Carolina

Strolling through the streets of Charleston, South Carolina and admiring the lovely window boxes.

Mackinac Island in Michigan

Touring Mackinac Island in Michigan and coming back with several pounds of fudge.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin.

Visiting some beautiful botanical gardens like Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin.

Point Betsie, Michigan.

Exploring lighthouses, including the one at Point Betsie, Michigan.

On the Road Again: New Adventures Await!

Of course, wherever we go, I am always on the lookout for new gardens to visit, which I love to share with you.

As we hit the road, I blog about each day’s adventures – usually daily.

My bag is almost packed and I am finishing up a few things before I go, which leads me to the question that many of you have been asking:

“Where are we going?”

Earlier this year, I asked you for some suggestions and mentioned five different options we were considering, which you can read here.

I’ll be back on Wednesday, to let you know what region we decided to visit!