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We’ve just finished the first day of our 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.


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


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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 🙂


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).


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


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


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.  


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.


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?)


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


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


The blossoms are huge!


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


Decorative pathways made from pebbles stretched throughout the garden.


Bonsai plants were scattered about.  


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


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…


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

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.  


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.




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.


A few Rocky Mountain states.


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


The Northwest, including British Columbia, Canada.

and


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…


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:


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 🙂

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.


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:


Touring a horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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!

Where did you learn about gardening? 

I have shared about learning to garden as a young child when my dad gave me my own little plot of land and let me plant whatever I wanted.


Later, I learned more about gardening in school.  It was an elective gardening class and it was one of my favorites. 

So last fall, when I was asked to visit and help out the Johnson Elementary School Garden Club.  Of course, I said “yes”.



As I walked into the school, I spotted a greenhouse and rain barrel sitting in the courtyard.     I was getting excited to see what else they had and wondered how I could help.


Farther in, I saw raised vegetable beds, which were implementing the ‘square-foot’ gardening method for growing vegetables.

Once I arrived at the classroom where the gardening club met, I was greeted by several teachers and the students themselves.  This is an after school club that is made up of 5th and 6th graders.  It is a very popular club as was evident by the filled classroom.

I was asked to talk with the students and was then taken around to see even more of what they were learning about.


I was blown away by their aquaponic garden and grow light set up.  

After viewing the classroom, our next stop was a prospective area where they wanted to grow vegetables, which they called “The Back Forty Garden”.


Along the wall that bordered the school, was a raised bed.  Their question for me was how and if they could grow vegetables in this area.

The answer was “yes”, but there were some challenges to deal with.

First, there was no irrigation, so drip irrigation would have to be added.  The second challenge was that this wall faced west, so growing vegetables in summer would be almost impossible without shade cloth.  But, growing vegetables fall, winter and spring would be fine.

I talked about how to amend the soil with compost, composted steer manure, blood and bone meal.  I gave them information on what vegetables to plant and when.

Fast forward 6 months later and I received a very nice email along with photos of the new vegetable garden.


I love the painted mural, don’t you?


As you can see, a variety of vegetables were planted along the long length.  Wouldn’t you love a garden space this big?


The kids planted the vegetables and later harvested them.  Each kid got to take home some of the bounty.


Look at these proud faces!

School gardens are a great resouce as they teach kids about the environment and nature.  Most of all, it can inspire a lifelong passion for gardening.  

I wonder how many of the kids in this photo will have vegetable gardens of their own when they are grown up?  Once you get a small taste of growing your own vegetables, it’s hard to stop.

The teachers who work with the Garden Club at Johnson Elementary School in Mesa, Arizona are wonderful people with a passion for teaching and gardening.

What a perfect combination!

Do you like to travel?  How about traveling by car?


I love taking road trips and over the past several years, my mother and I embark on an annual road trip in our continuing mission to learn about the different regions of the United States.



Both my mother and I are native Californians and now Arizona is our home.  So, our cultural journey has been decidely West Coast and Southwestern.

As a result, we enjoy learning and experiencing the varied sub-cultures that each region of the U.S. has, from its food, history, gardens and people.

Interesting past experiences include:

-Walking into the living room of our bed & breakfast in Indiana Amish country to find two old Amish women watching the royal wedding of William & Kate.

– Touring thoroughbred horse farms and participating at a bourbon tasting at distillery in Kentucky.

– Learning what ‘Kentucky burgoo’ tastes like and deciding to pass on trying ‘dandelion gravy’ in Amish country.

– Seeing the actual kitchen where the recipe of Kentucky Fried Chicken was developed.

I could go on and on, but it’s time to decide where our road trip this year will take us.


We have several options to choose from and you may think that this is funny, but I drag out my kid’s United States puzzle to see where we have been and to help us decide where to go.

This is where we have traveled in the past few years.

So for this year’s trip, here are our options:

Option 1: Oregon and Washington.  
I have been to Seattle and Spokane, Washington, but have never traveled to Oregon.  

Options for this trip would include visiting Portland, Oregon and driving up to Seattle, visiting the San Juan Islands and going on up into Canada to Victoria and Vancouver before driving over to Spokane where we have family who live there.

Option 2: Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

We would land in Birmingham, Alabama and drive through Nashiville & Memphis, Tennessee before heading to Little Rock, Arkansas and ending up in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Option 3: Wyoming, Montana and South Dakota.

I’ve never traveled to any of these states and would love to see Yellowstone and Mount Rushmore.  

Option 4: Louisiana, Arkansas, eastern Texas and Oklahoma.

I am anxious to visit the vibrant cities of Texas such as Austin and San Antonio and visit some of my fellow garden blogger friends who live there.  

My grandmother was born in Louisiana and that would be a fun place to visit with a stop in New Orleans.  For this option, we would also visit Little Rock, Arkansas and Tulsa, Oklahoma.


Option 5: Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.



Okay, I realize that this is a lot of states to see, but they are small, so we would be able to fit them all into a road trip.  I have visited parts of New Hampshire and Vermont, but would like to see the other states in the Northeast.

So, those are the options we have to choose from.  We will be traveling in early May and our trip will last approximately 8 – 9 days.  

**Do you have a favorite option?  I’d love to hear your recommendations!

No matter where we visit this year, we hope to eventually fulfill all of the options listed above.

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Baby Watch Update:

Not yet, but very, very soon!  The doctor says that the baby is settled as low as he can be, which is a good thing.  

I honestly think that it is harder waiting for your grandchild to be born than your own children.  


Okay, on second thought, not really – being pregnant for 9+ months and not being able to see your feet, much less tie your own shoes – I think waiting for your own baby is harder, but not by much!

When you visit a nursery, do you wonder which plants are drought tolerant as opposed to those who will wilt if not given enough water?


There are a few different traits that many drought tolerant plants share.  For example, did you know that small leaves and gray foliage can be signs that a plant may be drought tolerant?  


I recently shared several traits to look for when shopping for drought tolerant plants for Houzz.com



I hope this article will help you to create a beautiful, drought tolerant garden!


Have you ever gardened in an area where spiny cacti, dry heat and scorpions are common elements?


I was recently invited to be on the podcast, “Back to My Garden” where I shared some of the highs and lows of gardening in the desert along with some helpful tips.

So, if you are wanting to pick up some helpful tips on how to garden in the desert Southwest OR you just want to know what I sound like (just kidding), I invite you to listen to the “Back to My Garden” podcast, which you can listen on iTunes, or you can listen by clicking here.

I would be thrilled if you took a few minutes to listen.  My hope is that you enjoy it and come away with an understanding that you really can grow a beautiful, drought tolerant garden in the middle of the desert!

Do you love roses?  I do.


I used to have 40 roses in my Phoenix garden – I must admit that I went a little overboard.  

Showing my sister a few of my roses back in the 90’s
Now my rose garden consists of three well-loved roses…

Abraham Darby

Although my passion has steered toward using drought tolerant trees and plants to add beauty to the landscape, I still have a special place in my heart for roses.

So, whenever I am on the road and a rose garden is nearby, I always take some time to “walk through the roses”.


Back in 2001, we took a trip to Ireland.  This was when we had two kids and not five (we adopted three children from China a few years later).

Of course when traveling in Europe, castles are always on the ‘must-see’ list.  While visiting the city of Kilkenny, we decided to make a stop at Kilkenny Castle.

The problem was, was that all of Ireland and Great Britain was under quarantine conditions at many of the tourist attractions due to ‘foot and mouth’ disease, which was highly contagious and speading to livestock.

So, much of our trip was spent looking from the outside in.


Fast forward 2 years later and we found ourselves in Kilkenny again and we were thrilled that there were no restrictions.  

My husband was anxious to go on the tour of the inside of the castle, but the problem was, was that I couldn’t tear myself away from the rose gardens surrounding the castle.


It was June and the roses smelled heavenly and were so beautiful.

Whenever I find myself on a large estate or castle (which isn’t all that often), I like to dream of what I would do with the gardens.

In this case, I would probably tear up more grass and add more roses!

I look cranky in this photo, but I blame it on the jet lag from arriving in Ireland the day before.
After spending an hour touring the grounds, we did make it indoors for the tour, which was very interesting – I like history too!


The next day was spent touring the surrounding countryside, but in the afternoon, we found ourselves drawn to the rose garden again and sat on the benches reading.

I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon, do you?

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For more information on roses and how to grow them in the desert, I have listed several blog posts that will help that you can access, here.

Have you ever had something happen to you that was such a coincidence that it was hard to believe?  Recently, I had one such experience. 


It all happened on a beautiful, sunny morning in August… 

But first, a little background:

Those of you who have been reading my blog for a long time may remember me sharing about my past job as a landscape designer.  I wrote about my adventures that you can read about, here.


There were things that I enjoyed about my job and others things that I did not.

However, I did enjoy working with clients and helping design the landscape of their dreams.

*Okay, back to my amazing ‘coincidence’ story.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and I was on my way to an appointment for a landscape consult – (I work for myself now).

As I got off the freeway and started driving through the residential streets, I realized that I had designed a landscape there years ago when I worked for the landscape design company.

As I got closer to my destination, I saw that I was in the same neighborhood.  I promised myself that I would try to find the same house after I was finished with my appointment.

My GPS directed me down the street where my ultimate destination was and soon I found myself sitting in front of the SAME house that I had originally designed back in 2008.

Hard to believe?  

My first reaction was “I can’t believe it!” 

I had designed hundreds of landscapes and the chances of being called back to the same one by a different owner was so small.

The second reaction was, I hope they don’t hate their existing landscape – if they did, I wasn’t sure I would tell them that I was the original designer.

But then I remembered that my client had told me via email that she and her husband had just moved into their new home and wanted to learn about the plants in their landscape and how to take care of them – they had no idea that I was the original designer.

I knocked on the door and my client greeted me and proceeded to take me into their backyard.

Now

The first thing I saw was the pathway made up of broken concrete (called ‘urbanite’) that was had already been present the first time…

Then

I did have pictures of the landscape when it had been newly installed in 2008.

The new homeowner told me that she and her husband had bought the home because they loved the relaxing backyard landscape.

I then told her that I had been the original designer.  She couldn’t believe it either!

Now

As we walked into the backyard, the details of the design came flooding back.

Would you believe that there used to be a swimming pool in this backyard?  

Then
Back in 2008, we filled in the pool and added mounds, boulders, drought tolerant plants and a palo verde tree. 
Now
The original owners wanted to get rid of their pool, which they hardly used to convert it into a drought-tolerant landscape with a seating area underneath a tree.

I had designed a meandering path from the patio which ended in a seating area made from flagstone.

Then

You can really tell how much the tree and other plants have grown over the past 7 years.

Now

While the overall landscape looked good and I was happy with how the design turned out – but there was an issue.

Most of the plants were brown and straggly – not very attractive and showing signs of under watering.  

The new homeowner provided me with the irrigation schedule that the original homeowners had been using and it was easy to see why some of the plants were a bit small for their age and didn’t look great – they were getting too little water.

Then
I helped her adjust her irrigation schedule and assured her that her plants would soon improve in appearance.

Although some of the original plants had been lost due to under watering, I remembered what they were and was able to give her a list of replacements to buy.


As I got ready to leave, the homeowner told me that she couldn’t wait to tell her husband that by sheer coincidence, their landscape consultant turned out to be the original designer.

I drove away with a huge smile on my face because it isn’t often that a residential landscape designer gets to see their designed landscape a few years later.

It made my job feel very rewarding that day 🙂

**For information on watering guidelines for the low desert including how to avoid over & under watering, click here.

Do you like using fresh herbs when you cook?


I do.  But, I don’t like buying herbs from the store because they can be expensive and often aren’t very fresh looking.


Purple basil and chives
I enjoy growing herbs outdoors in my garden, but I also grow herbs indoors on my kitchen windowsill.

Whether you have a garden, a balcony or a windowsill, you can grow herbs inside.


Many people grow herbs indoors during the winter time, but you can grow them inside all year long.

So, are you ready to grow your own fresh herbs?
Let’s get started…

1. Select a place to put your potted herbs that has a sunny window. – 
A window that faces south is best, but east facing will also work.  West facing windows may be too hot in if you live in the desert, but you can experiment with it.  
Herbs need at least 4 – 5 hours of sun.


It’s important to note that herbs grown indoors won’t look as compact or lush as those grown outdoors, which is due to the fact that they don’t get as much sun indoors.

2. Choose plastic or glazed containers with holes for drainage.  
It’s best to avoid terra-cotta pots, which can dry out – especially during the winter when the air in our homes can be dry from heating. 


You can also use cans as recycled containers.  I have grown herbs in tomato cans as well as coffee cans.  

A row of cans with their labels removed, filled with herbs would add a real contemporary look to the kitchen, don’t you think?  


3. Use potting or planting mix.  
Avoid using potting soil, which is not formulated for containers and can become soggy.
4. Select what herbs you want to grow.
There are many different herbs that will grow well indoors, which include basil, chives, lemon balm, mint, parsley, sage and thyme. 

You can buy herb transplants from your favorite nursery or sometimes at the grocery store.




Another way to grow certain herbs is to start them from cuttings.


I ran out to the garden to grab two types of basil and some apple mint to show you how to do this.  
Basil and mint are both easy to start from cuttings.


Remove the leaves from the bottom as shown, above.  Place the cuttings in a glass of water so that most of the stem is submerged in water, but take care that no leaves are in the water.




Place in a window with bright, indirect sun.  Change the water every other day and watch for roots to develop.  Once roots have grown 1/2 – 1 inch, transplant each cutting into a container filled with potting mix and your are done!
I told you it was easy.


5. Water your potted herbs when the top of the soil feels dry.
Herbs don’t like soggy soil, so it’s best to allow the top of the soil to dry out before watering deeply until the water runs out the bottom.  

An easy to tell when it’s time to water is to stick your finger into the soil till you reach your first knuckle – slightly less than an inch.  If it feels barely moist, then it is time to water again.

6. Fertilize your herbs.
When plants are grown in pots, they need to be fertilized and herbs are no different.  You can apply organic fertilizer granules and work into the top inch of soil OR you can use an organic liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion.  

Follow directions on the granular fertilizer package when applying and guidelines for frequency.  In general, liquid fertilizer can be applied every 2 weeks.


Soon you will have fresh herbs close at hand and ready to use in your favorite dishes.

I recently made herbs salts from my herbs, which is fun and easy to do.  The flavor that they add to food is just delicious!


Click the links below to learn how to make:


Basil Salt


Herb Salt


For more information on how to grow herbs and how to preserve them, click on the following links:


Preserve Herbs By Freezing Them Into Ice Cubes


Preserve Herbs By Drying Them