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We have had a busy start to our upper midwest road trip.  


Our journey started with a 4 hour delay in our layover in Denver.  Thankfully, it is a nice airport.


We arrive in Grand Rapids and got straight to our hotel and collapsed.


This morning started out with blue skies, dotted with puffy white clouds and a lot of wind.


The hotel shuttle took us to the airport to get our rental car and the driver asked us where we were from.  We said Arizona and he got very excited.  It turns out that he and his wife are planning on retiring in a few years and want to live in Chandler.  So, he was happy to find people who actually knew about the area.  He asked us if we would send him a copy of the local paper and told us to use his tip for the postage.


As we do on every road trip, as soon as we get the rental car, we head to the store to get some snacks and supplies.


Our first ‘official’ photo of our trip.
Our plan for the day was to head up to Traverse City by way of Manistee, Michigan.  But, our road trips have always been full of unexpected detours. 



As we were driving down the highway, we saw signs for Frederik Meijer Gardens.  Well, needless to say, we took a U-turn and drove into the parking lot.  


Walking up the gardens, you see the large greenhouse dominating the entry.

Gardens in cold climates often have impressive collections of plants that would not survive the cold winters and as a result, a large amount of their collections are grown in greenhouses.

We were able to enter the garden without having to pay an entry fee because this garden had reciprocal membership privileges with the Desert Botanical Garden, of which we are members.

Near the main entry were entrances to different parts of the greenhouse including there arid garden.

I stepped inside to see what types of arid-adapted plants they had.


These are the largest golden barrel cacti (Echinocactus grusonii) I have ever seen.

Many of the plants I was quite familiar with and a few are growing in my Arizona garden.  You can see a fan in the photo, above, which I am sure they use to keep the humidity levels down.

I did not spend more then a couple of minutes in the arid garden because I wanted to see some plants that were different from home, so I decided to explore more of the garden.

Bachelor’s Button

During my previous travels to the midwest, I have become more familiar with the plants that are grown here.  However, many can be grown in my desert garden including bachelor’s button which I’ve grown as a companion plant in my vegetable garden.


There was so much to see in the garden.  I headed to the Children’s Garden, the Michigan Farm Garden and passed by the Horse Garden.


No matter where you live, vegetable gardening is much the same with the planting calendar being the main difference.  


Lilacs were in full bloom and perfumed the air with their fragrance.


As I was walking from the Children’s Garden to the Michigan Farm Garden, I was startled to see the trees part where a HUGE horse stood, which is part of the Horse Garden.  

*To get an idea of how big it really is, to the left of the horse is a navy blue stroller that you can barely see.


I loved the farm garden which depicted a typical Michigan farm of the 1920’s.

While the day was beautiful, it was windy.  As I was walking, I heard a young boy say to his dad, “It’s windy today?  Do you see a funnel cloud?”
Definitely not something you hear in Arizona.


There was so much to see in the gardens and I took over 200 photos, which I will include in a separate post.

After we left the gardens, we stopped by Robinette’s Apple Haus, which is a family-owned orchard that grows 21 different varieties of apples along with other types of fruit.


They are really into apples 😉

After leaving Grand Rapids, we headed north up the west coast of Michigan toward Manistee.

Before exploring the historic downtown of Manistee, it was time for lunch.

I decided to try a traditional Michigan salad with dried cherries, blue cheese, red onions and bacon with cherry vinaigrette.  It was good!



I love the character of old buildings, don’t you?

A small garden was located in the downtown area with various garden sayings.  This one was my favorite.


Paralleling the main street was the Riverwalk, which was beautiful.  It was nice seeing the drawbridge opening for a large sailboat.

I am always on the lookout for interesting container plantings.  But, I was really excited to see this zebrine plant for a different reason.  Back in college as a horticulture student, we had to dissect zebrine plants all the time because they showed up so well under a microscope.  I know that sounds weird, but I’m a plant lady 😉


While I am not a big shopper normally, I do enjoy shopping when on our road trips.  I also love mittens – a lot.  These were so cute, but I have no need for them.  Fingerless mittens are warm enough for Arizona winters.


After we left Manistee, we drove north toward Traverse City and stopped by the Point Betsie Lighthouse.

We parked right by the beach and heard the waves and wind.


As a Southern California native, I found myself frequently referring to Lake Michigan as the ocean.  It is hard to imagine that this is a lake and not an ocean.


The lighthouse is only open on the weekends, so this was as close as we could get, but it was worth it.

Our day ended with dinner in Traverse City where we had some local options for soda flavors…


Have you ever tried ‘Local Northwoods Soda’ or ‘Wild Bill’s Root Beer’?

Tomorrow we are off to explore Traverse City, Petosky and more adventures…

Do you love visiting your local Starbucks for that perfect cup of coffee?  Or maybe you prefer an iced coffee like I do.

 Well, my mother absolutely LOVES coffee and Starbucks is a frequent stop of hers.  The other day, she brought over a bunch of used coffee cups and sleeves.

She had the great idea of using the sleeves for starting seeds in.
Of course when my mother has a good idea, I usually listen 😉
So I got to work….
The kids helped me plant the seeds.
Then I started looking at the cups and I thought that they would make great planters too.
So I cut them in half and then cut out the bottom of the lower  part of the cup using a knife.
Because there are no bottoms to the planters, it is important to place the containers before you fill them with soil.  
I think it turned out pretty good, don’t you?
Tomato, Bachelor’s Button and a Marigold plant.
Once your plants are ready to be transplanted, simply plant the cardboard coffee sleeve in the soil.  The cardboard will break down.
The coffee cup containers won’t break down easily, so place the plant and container in your prepared hole and then simply cut down the side of the container and carefully remove it and finish filling in the hole with soil.
So the next time you stop your local coffee house, don’t throw away your cup – save it and use it for starting seeds.
**To learn more about how to start seeds indoors, you can read my earlier blog post.

Well, it’s official….my vegetable garden has gone crazy.  When I left for my trip to the Midwest at the end of April, it was nice and somewhat neat.  My winter lettuce, spinach, green onions and garlic were doing well and my newly planted corn, cucumbers, gourds, tomatoes and sunflowers were coming up nicely.

I came home 10 days later to this sight….

My sunflowers were reaching over 7 feet tall and my corn, to the right, was not far behind.
My garlic leaves were starting to droop and fall over, indicating that I can harvest them soon.
My spinach and lettuce both began to ‘bolt’ and start to form flowers, so it was time for them to leave the garden.
My gourd has started to escape the garden, which is fine with me because it can’t crowd my other plants.
I think gourd plants have interesting flowers, don’t you?  They open at night and moths are frequent pollinators.
I am hoping for some gourds this year that I can turn into bird houses.
I just love how sunflowers face the rising sun.
I plan on harvesting a few seed heads for the family and the rest we will feed to the birds.
My Alyssum and Oxalis that I planted as companion plants in my vegetable garden are still blooming.  Soon the Alyssum will dry up with the heat of our desert summer and I will pull it out.
My tomatoes are enjoying being planted next to my Bachelor’s Button.  I just love their vibrant blue color.  They are going to seed and I am collecting it so that I can replant them next fall.
The first set of corn that I planted have corn cobs growing.  I can almost taste my roasted corn on the cob in a few weeks 🙂
I have to spend some time the next couple of days harvesting my garlic and green onions as well as pulling out my spent spinach and lettuce.
Now, I am off to my local big box store for shade cloth for my tomatoes, which will survive the summer heat if they have some shade.  Temperatures are forecast into the 80’s this week, but it is never to early to get ready for the triple digits.
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I hope you all have a wonderful week!

You know what?  I just love this time of year.  The garden is full of colorful, blooming plants and all the brown, crispy frost-damaged growth has been pruned away.

That was what my husband and I did yesterday.  We finished pruning off all of the frost damaged growth and everything now looks so much better.

I spent some time out in my vegetable garden, which has some winter vegetables still growing as well as summer vegetables.  I will show you more about my vegetable garden soon.

Alyssum, Marigold and Bachelor’s Button growing in the vegetable garden.
What really caught my eye were my beautiful, flowering companion plants in the vegetable garden.  What are companion plants you may wonder?  Well, basically they are plants that attract beneficial insects to your garden and/or repel damaging insects, which decrease or even eliminate the need for pesticides.
Alyssum growing beneath a San Marzano tomato plant.
 I just love the fragrance and delicate beauty of alyssum.  It also attracts bees to my garden, which help to pollinate my summer vegetables.

Marigolds

 Marigolds are a powerhouse in terms of repelling damaging insects.  The fragrance of marigolds is just fine with me and I just love their bright flowers.
Finally, I have a new flowering plant in my vegetable garden, which is not listed on any companion plant list, but it is just beautiful and was given to me by my fellow blogger Grace, who lives in Oregon, and has a fabulous blog called Gardening With Grace.  She was kind enough to send me some after I admired it in her garden.

I planted it in the corner of my vegetable garden last October and it started flowering just a few weeks ago.

Pink Oxalis

I just love how the little pink flowers are borne on top of clover-like leaves, don’t you?  I’m not sure how it will do with the summer heat, but the unknown is something that has always attracted me to gardening.  I do hope that it does well.  

In the meantime, whenever I look at this beautiful little plant, I am so thankful for Grace’s generosity.

If you would like to learn more about companion plants, you can check out this earlier post, where I list quite a few beautiful, companion plants.
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I hope your week is going well.  I had a bunch of consults earlier this week, but now I have a chance to catch my breath and have fun writing again 🙂


Please check out my latest blog post over at Birds & Blooms.

First of all, I would like to apologize for not coordinating a Monthly Garden Bouquet for February.  I wish that I had a great excuse for not doing one such as maybe not having any flowers in my garden.  But, that would not be true.

The reality was that I was just awfully busy last month and I did feel a bit guilty about it.  So, even though I am still recovering from pneumonia, I drug myself outside, (in my pajamas I might add), to find flowers to cut.


It really wasn’t hard to venture outside.  A clear blue sky and temperatures in the 70’s…..it was so beautiful.

Here is what I came up with…..

 
The blue flowers are Bachelor’s Button, which I have growing as a companion plant in my vegetable garden to help attract pollinators.  This is the first year that I have grown them and I just love their vibrant blue color.
The yellow flowers are from my Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata) perennials that I have dotting my front garden.  They survive on rainfall alone and are flowering off and on all year.  I do give them a ‘haircut’ three times a year to help them look their best.
Lastly, are some pink flowers from my potted Dianthus, which have done so well throughout the entire winter in my front entry.
I ventured outside in my PJ’s because I was sure that I would only take 2 minutes and no one would see me.  But no….. my wonderful neighbor saw me and I spent a delightful 1/2 hour talking with her in my front garden in my pajamas 😉
**I would like to thank you all so much for your kind comments and well wishes for my recuperation from this awful pneumonia.  I have a lot of medicine to take and am feeling much better.  I am just feeling tired and weak now, which is hard when I see the spring pruning that needs to be done in my garden.  Thankfully, my husband is more then willing to help out.
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Okay, so maybe some of you are wondering about this Monthly Garden Bouquet.  Well, here are the details below…..
If you would like to participate in this month’s MGB, here are the guidelines:
1. MGB begins on the 21st of each month and runs until the end of each month. Bouquets can be submitted during this time (or even later 🙂 
2. Create your own garden bouquet as fancy or simple as you like.
3. I would appreciate it if you would provide a link back to my post inside of your MGB post, but it is not required 🙂 
4. Add your link to Mr. Linky below and that’s it! 

It can be as simple or fancy as you like.  Each month, I cannot wait to see what you all come up with.

**Please stop by and read my latest blog post about “Welcome Residents in the Vegetable Garden” on Birds & Blooms.  Your support means a lot to me and the editors 🙂


All of us (I hope) have experienced the benefits of having a good friend.  A good friend is someone that you can enjoy good times with, but they are also there to lean on in times of trouble and provide support.


Well, don’t you think your vegetables deserve the same benefits that friendship offers?



Now at this point, some of you may be thinking that I have finally turned into a crazy plant lady…..seriously – vegetables need friends?  Well, the answer is yes.  Vegetables do best when special ‘companion’ plants are planted among them.

Okay, so what does a companion plant do?  Well depending on the kind of plant, they can repel damaging insects and/or attract beneficial insects.  If you add companion plants interspersed throughout your vegetables, they will be much healthier and you will have fewer headaches due to fewer insect problems.


Here are some of my favorites…..

Alyssum (Lobularia maritima), not only has a beautiful, sweet fragrance, but they also attract butterflies and ladybugs which are important pollinators.  Insects that eat mealybugs, scale, thrips and spider mites are also attracted to the alyssum and will help to keep those damaging bugs away.

 
Bachelor’s Button (Centaurea cyanus), also attracts pollinators that are so important to the formation of your vegetables.  They also attract insects that will prey upon damaging insects such as scales and thrips.
Now who doesn’t love the bright flowers of Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus)?  Well your vegetables would love to be friends with them.  In addition to attracting insects that will feast upon mealybugs, Cosmos also serve a general deterrent to insects.

Pelargoniums commonly called Geraniums not only beautify your vegetable garden, but their distinctive smell deters many insects.

Anytime you encounter Lantana in full bloom, you may also notice butterflies hovering above, which serve as pollinators in the garden.  Lantana are also a magnet for the irritating whitefly.  By planting some Lantana in close proximity to your vegetables, the whiteflies will be so busy with the Lantana that they are more likely to leave your vegetables alone.  Try to think of it as a choice between eating an ice cream sundae or broccoli 😉

 I just love Lavender and now I have a reason to include it in my garden.  It serves as a great repellent for ants, aphids, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and silverfish.  In areas where I used to work, it was one of only 10 plants that the rabbits and javelina would leave alone.  Butterflies and bees do not seem to share the same aversion to Lavender…..they love it.
 
Petunia hybrids are a very popular flower and it is easy to see why with their large, bright flowers.  But they also make great companions for vegetables (& roses) as well because aphids do not like them and tend to stay far away.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) isn’t just for cooking.  When in flower, bees are attracted to this wonderful herb and will often stick around to pollinate your vegetable flowers (yes, vegetables do flower and need to be pollinated).  It is thought that the aromatic fragrance of the Rosemary messes with the ability of damaging insects to detect delicious plants in the vicinity.
Anyone who has grown Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), knows that bees are drawn to them.  Well, if you didn’t already know this…..bees are vital for a healthy garden.  Sunflowers also offer another benefit to the vegetable garden.  When planted on the west side of the vegetable garden, they will provide shade in the summer for your vegetable garden.
These are just a sampling of companion plants (and the only ones that I had pictures of).  There are many more wonderful companion plants:
 
Basil

Calendula
Catmint

Catnip
Chives

Coreopsis 
Dill

Fleabane
Marigold

Mint
Nasturtium

Sage
and 

Thyme
 
I currently have both Marigolds and Nasturtium growing inside my vegetable garden.  I am also (meaning my husband) in the midst of building a flower garden which will surround my vegetable garden.  I will include many of these companion plants as well as some purely ornamental flowers.

And so, if you have a vegetable garden that looks a little lonely, or if you are tired of the battle with damaging insects…..try bringing some ‘friends’ into your garden.  Your vegetables will thank you for it.