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I’m about to show you my messy container plants, which have been sadly ignored for the past few months.

Shocking isn’t it? I’m embarrassed to show this to you, but I’m the first to admit that I’m not a perfect gardener. Sometimes, life gets in the way of garden maintenance tasks, and since I don’t have my own personal gardener on my payroll, my plants sometimes look like this.

While the plants are perfectly happy and healthy, they are messy, and you can’t even tell how many plants and pots there are.

The center pot is filled with a lush green Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) shrub and some overgrown ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia.

Arabian jasmine loves shade and can handle filtered shade too. It’s fragrant white flowers greet visitors who pass by it on the way to the front door. As you can see, it does well when planted in the ground or a large pot.

In this corner, my lovely blue pot is filled with a hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa), bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum), and foxtail asparagus fern (Protasparagus densiflorus ‘Meyeri’).

I planted this arrangement of plants last year and was inspired by a collection of containers that I saw in California.

I love the combination of plants known for their foliage and wanted this for my front entry. Needless to say, mine doesn’t look like this and won’t without a little attention from me.

This is my succulent container that is filled with a single ‘King Ferdinand’ agave (Agave ferdinandi-regis) and elephants food (Portulacaria afra).

*The witch decoration is a little outdoor decoration for Halloween.

I started in by pruning the most prominent plant, the Arabian jasmine. Using my hand pruners, I cut it back, removing approximately 2/3 of its total size. The ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia was cut back as well, but it is on its way out as it’s usually used for as a warm season annual, but it may come back and bloom for me before winter arrives.

As I pruned back the overgrown jasmine, I discovered a forgotten trailing plant that I had added several months ago. I can’t remember what it was – perhaps bacopa or scaevola.

That looks so much better! The Arabian jasmine will grow back a little before the cold of winter halts its growth. I lightly trimmed the elephants food and tied up the hop bush to a wooden stake to help promote more upright growth. 

In about a week, I’ll add some flowering annuals to the black pot, and I’m open to suggestions. *Do you have a favorite cool-season annual?

Sweet potato vine trail underneath a planting of lantana and ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia.

I’ve spent a busy week on the road traveling back and forth throughout the central and northern parts of Arizona. 

While my road trips were for pleasure, there were some work elements involved, viewing the newest trends of high desert landscaping, and taking photos of pretty plants.

Planters filled with green and black sweet potato vines trail over the railing at Tlaquepaque with Mark Twan (Samuel Clemens) sitting underneath.

During the first part of the week, I spent a few days in Sedona. This colorful, high desert town holds a special place in my heart. It is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and we make a point of coming back up to visit every few years.

A must stop destination for us are the shops are Tlaquepaque, which is modeled after an old Mexican village. Fountains and courtyards are scattered throughout the stores, inviting visitors to sit and enjoy the dappled shade while listening to the gentle sounds of water features.

To be honest, I do enjoy perusing the galleries and shops, but the main draw for me is the beautiful container plantings. Sweet potato vine, lantana, ‘Katie’ ruellia, and salvia are artfully arranged within the containers.

A ‘Painted Lady’ butterfly drinking nectar from a lantana.

Butterflies and hummingbirds are also frequent visitors to Tlaquepaque.


Area hotels also feature lovely examples of plants that thrive in the dry heat like the trumpet vine and yucca, above.

While in Sedona, we made side trips to Flagstaff and Cottonwood before it was time to travel back home.

After one night home, it was back into the car and off on another journey. This time, we brought our kids with us for a destination wedding in Skull Valley, which is a half hour outside of Prescott.

The wedding was held in the middle of the wilderness, reached by traveling over 20 minutes on a curving, unpaved road. Wildlife was plentiful as we spotted a coyote, deer, and a roadrunner, while also smelling a skunk along the way.

It was dusk when the wedding began, and the setting couldn’t have been more beautiful. A cool breeze welcomed guests to the venue that backed up onto the Prescott National Forest. 

The ceremony was beautiful, and the groom got all choked up in the midst of his vows. Guests spent a great time celebrating at the reception, held in an old barn, and we got back to the hotel late.

We took a back way back home, which involved driving some curvy mountain roads, but we traveled through little towns that we had never heard of such as Wilhoit and Peeble Valley. 

I love the fact that even after living here for over 30 years, I still enjoy the beauty of our state and yet encounter new places.

**Do you have a favorite place to visit in Arizona?

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Well, it’s that time of year again – time for our annual road trip.  Each year, my mother and I dust off our suitcases and embark on a trip where we enjoy the culture, food, history and of course, the gardens of a different region of the U.S.  

Each road trip takes 8 – 10 days to complete and we have a lot of fun planning the trip and the places we will see.  I also blog daily during our road trip sharing our adventures.



In the past, we have traveled throughout many regions of the country, starting out in one state and ending up several states away at the end.  We typically spend one day in each area before going on to the other.  So, we pick out one of two things that we want to do in each place we visit.


This year we decided to visit our native state of California.  Now, you may be wondering why we decided on going on a road trip through a state that we are intimately familiar with.  Our thought was to visit some of our favorite places that we had not seen in years while also seeing new places.



Our first day began early – my alarm woke me up at 3:30.  My dear husband got up to take my mother and me to the airport to catch an early flight to Los Angeles.

At this point, I must admit that it was very nice only to spend an hour on an airplane instead of 3, 4 or even 5.  The first destination of our trip was to The Getty Center, which consists of a world-famous art museum and beautiful gardens.  

As sculpture of a boy holding a frog greets visitors to The Getty Center

Once you arrive, you park and wait to get on a 5-minute tram ride that takes you to the top of the hill where the large museum sits.


Once we made it to the top, the large white buildings stood before us, filled with all priceless art.  Of course being a horticulturist, my attention was focused on the planting area filled with large London plane trees.  At this point, my mother knew the likelihood of me stepping indoors to view art was remote, so she said “goodbye” and headed indoors to look at the art exhibits while I headed out toward the gardens.


The London plane trees that caught my attention were planted amidst star jasmine, also known as Confederate jasmine, (Trachelospermum jasminoides).  In this area, it is grown as a groundcover instead of a vine.

Variegated elephant’s food (Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata’) takes center stage in this part of the Stream Garden.
The first part of the garden is known as the Stream Garden and runs along the sides of a narrow water feature, which runs through the top of the garden.



Echeverias of all types showed off their assorted shapes, sizes, and colors that gave the space a distinctive, yet attractive look.


In this area of the garden, a 
‘Sticks on Fire’ Euphorbia showed off its bright orange tips.


The water from the Stream Garden emerges out into the Central Garden, which consists of a shallow basin with a living mosaic design made out of neatly clipped shrubs.



Around the sides of this area of the garden are terraced beds that create the appearance of a ‘bowl’.

Red and yellow kangaroo paw were starting to bloom.


A lovely variety of shrubs and perennials grew within the terraced beds and pathways lead visitors through, allowing them to see the beauty up close.


Archways covered in a combination of potato and snail vine break up the pathways that line the terraced beds and frame vignettes of garden spaces left to be discovered.


Walking through the terraces, there were so many wonderful contrasts in both texture and color.


Purple leaf plum trees

Variegated nasturtium alongside the regular form of nasturtiums.
As you walk toward the top of the Center Garden, there is a more formal planting arrangement.

The top terrace is lined with trees underplanted with ‘Silver Lace’ society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea ‘Silver Lace’) whose purple flowers adds a nice cooling element to the garden.
Iconic towers made of rebar where bougainvillea grow up toward the blue sky.


Here is another view of the bougainvillea towers from up above.


Scattered throughout the wide expanse of the travertine tile-covered grounds stand groups of containers filled with creative combinations of drought tolerant plants. 

My favorite was this one filled with pink gaura and echeveria.


Many of the container plantings had succulents planted underneath the larger plants.


Located on a promontory, is a garden that inaccessible to visitors, but visitors can view it from above.  Behind the garden, panoramic views of the city of Westwood and UCLA can be seen. 

At this point, you may be wondering if I ever ventured indoors to view any art on display.  While I do love gardens, I also enjoy looking at art.  As a child, my parents would take us to art museums and I made sure that I had time to see some famous works of art at The Getty Center.

Now before you say that I shouldn’t have taken pictures of these two paintings, shown below, I want to say that it was okay to take pictures as long as you didn’t use flash photography.

Here were my two favorites – you will probably recognize them:

‘La Promenade’ by Renoir

‘Irises’ by Vincent van Gogh

After a wonderful time at The Getty Center, we continued on our journey through Los Angeles.  On the way, we stopped off to look at the house where I spent the first ten years of my childhood.


The house looks much the same as when we lived there.  The white picket fence is a newer addition, but the birch tree and large ash tree are still there.


There were roses growing in the garden, which made me remember those that my dad had always planted in that very same garden.

After leaving Los Angeles, we drove north to Ventura, which is about an hour away.  Before heading to our hotel, we drove by a place where a momentous event occurred.


This is the church where my husband and I were married almost 30 years ago.  My mother was a pastor there at the time and married us.

As you may have guessed, California is a very special place to me.  

I can’t wait to share our upcoming adventures with you tomorrow, which includes a visit to a VERY secret garden.


**I invite you to revisit some of our previous road trip adventures from the Midwest, Northeast, South and Northwest.

Do you use any lotion that contains aloe vera?


While most of us think of the medicinal qualities of aloe vera – particularly how they provide relief from burns, it’s beauty and drought tolearance makes it well worth adding to our “Drought Tolerant and Beautiful” category.



Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) thrives in drought tolerant gardens and produces lovely, yellow flowers in spring, much to the delight of hummingbirds everywhere.

Want to learn more about this succulent beauty?  Check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.



How about you?  
Have you ever grown aloe vera?

Have you ever had to leave town for a few days and wanted to ensure that your potted plants don’t dry out?


Look no further than your wine cabinet…

Glass bottles, like this empty wine bottle, can help water your potted plants for a couple of days.


All you need is a clean glass bottle and water to create your own self-watering bottle.


1. Water your potted plants well.

2.  Fill an empty glass bottle with water and cover the top with your thumb to keep the water from dripping out as you turn it upside down.


3. Insert the mouth of the wine bottle into the soil, about 2 inches deep.  

That’s all there is to it!


As the soil dries, water will slowly seep into the soil from the bottle, essentially watering your potted plants for a couple of days.
*This can also be done to plants in the ground as well.
So, the next time you find yourself putting empty glass bottles in the recycle bin, keep out one or two to use to water your plants while you are away.

I have a major confession to make….


I am a total ‘plant nerd’.


When I mentioned that to my husband, he said “I already knew that” with a smile on his face.


I came upon this revelation when we visited Disneyland last week. 


I had my camera ready to take pictures of the kids enjoying themselves.  But, I found myself stopping to take photos of the beautiful plants, particularly the container plantings.


In the end, I had three times more photos of plants then of my kids….


But in my defense, it is easier to take photos of stationary plants then kids on moving rides (the pictures came out all blurry).

I do have some great container photos (and other plants) to share with you and some of the kids having fun….

Ivy pruned into a topiary surrounded by pansies.

I just love this color contrast, don’t you?

Creative use of different grasses and flowering plants.


Gracie and Kai having fun in ‘ToonTown’

If I had a pretty staircase like this one, I would put container plants along it too!

Icelandic Poppies and Alyssum


Camellias (they don’t do that well in the desert, but they are  pretty just the same).

A three-tiered Azalea

Gracie and Kai got ‘caught’ up in a fisherman’s net along California Adventure’s Fisherman’s Wharf

I love this planting shelf with herb-planted containers.

You don’t have to plant flowers for a pretty container.

Primulas are one of my favorite cool-season annuals.

Italian Cypress pruned into a spiral.

The kids ran into a storm trooper as well as Darth Vader & Darth Maul.

Strawberry Pot planted with succulents.

I love how the ivy trails down the sides of the container.

When we were walking into Disneyland, Gracie told us that the only character she wanted to meet was Mickey Mouse.







To her delight, she saw him three different times 🙂

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted for a few days (or maybe not 😉  I feel somewhat incomplete when I have gone more then three days without writing a blog post, but sometimes life gets a bit crazy or sometimes I go out of town.

I went away for a few days to a ‘mystery’ location.  I had a great time and was able to take some pictures of some beautiful potted plants, annuals, perennials and shrubs.

Some of you may be able to guess where I have been from my photos….

Pink and White Cyclamen

 

Easter Lilies, Pink Primrose and Trailing Variegated English Ivy
Perennial bed full of winter-flowering perennials
Vegetables used as ornamental plants.
Have you guessed where this is yet?
Let me zoom out a bit in the next few photos…
I love Icelandic Poppies, don’t you?
Mt. Lemmon Marigold
Japanese Evergreen Pear Tree
I love daisies, don’t you?
Okay, I think this photo will be a dead giveaway…
A pair of ‘swans’ amidst Blue Pansies
Do you notice the castle in the background?
I was at Disneyland!
Now don’t think for a minute that I didn’t bring my family along…
Can you tell that the sun was in their eyes?
My husband and I decided to surprise our kids with a 3-day trip to Disneyland.
When my father-in-law died last fall, my mother-in-law received an unexpected life insurance payment from his few years on the Air Force.
She gave some the insurance money to each of us.  So, we decided to use the money to treat ourselves and the kids to a fun vacation.
We didn’t tell the kids anything about leaving on a trip.  I had my daughter, Rachele, take the kids to church and I packed up both our cars while they were gone.
When they got home, we told them to get in the cars and we took off.  They had no idea what was going on.  Gracie (above) was in the car with my husband and I.  She guessed where we were going within 3 minutes.
However, Kai and Ruthie, who were in our daughter’s car, couldn’t figure it out.  They kept calling us on the phone, trying to guess.  About two hours later, we stopped for gas and told them where we were going.
Kai is a little wet after Splash Mountain.
We had a fabulous time and stayed until the park closed each day.
We even spent a whole day at ‘California Adventure’ as well.
I remember going to Disneyland quite often as a child and teenager.  We had taken our two oldest girls quite often when they were young.  In fact, it was our oldest daughter’s idea to go to Disneyland with the younger kids because years ago, we had surprised her and Rachele with a trip there as well.
I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised at how beautiful the gardens were.  I didn’t remember them looking so nice, so I took quite a lot of photos.  
There were some great examples of plants that look great in winter for our climate and a unique way to use vegetables.
I’ll share more plant and family photos once my husband emails them to me from his iPhone 🙂
I came upon this group of containers yesterday.  
Pretty uncontrolled plants, huh?
Well, hidden underneath all the plants are actually 4 containers.
AND
they are all mine…..
I know, I know.  
How could I have let things get so out of control?
Well, life sometimes gets a bit crazy and other then watering my pots, they didn’t get any other attention this summer.
I didn’t go out of my way to plant colorful annuals this past spring, opting instead for perennials.


My Sweet Potato Vine did wonderfully despite being neglected.  It is a newer variety called ‘Pink Frost’ (Ipomea batatas ‘Pink Frost’).
A single Vinca flower pushes its way through the other plants.  I planted Vinca for my father-in-law, in his garden, this summer before he passed away in September.  He gave me his leftover plants, which I threw in one of my containers.
Purple Trailing Lantana is spilling over and has reached the ground because I never pruned it back.



I also planted White Trailing Lantana, which is mixed in with my Sweet Potato Vine.

Now I must admit, that my container plants are usually better maintained.  But under the circumstances, I think that they did great considering that all I did was water them.

Believe it or not, I used to be in charge of hundreds of of container plants every year (usually annuals).  They had to look perfect because they were in high profile areas.

You certainly wouldn’t know it looking at my own containers right now would you?

I sometimes describe myself as more of a “Do as I say, not as I do” kind of horticulturist at times 😉

For those of you who maybe can’t stand my messy containers, don’t worry.  I have plans for ripping out some of the plants, some pruning and some new additions.

I’ll show you what I did next time 🙂


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My daughter and her husband came over tonight for dinner.  She is definitely ready to ‘pop’.  I remember being so anxious for her to be born (she was 5 days late).

I think it is even harder now, waiting for my first grandchild to be born.

ONE more day until her due date!
I wonder if her baby knows that 😉

I don’t know about you, but I hate having to buy lettuce to make salad with.

Usually, I purchase the bagged lettuce because it is convenient and already cut up.  What I really don’t like is the price for buying it this way.  So, I have started buying lettuce and tearing it up myself.

Last fall, winter and spring, I got very spoiled by being able to just step outside into the back garden and cutting some lettuce from my own garden.

I had grown a mixture of all kinds of leaf lettuce and spinach.
It was absolutely delicious too.
It was very hard when the warm temperatures came and lettuce would not grow anymore.
I have planted a lot of leaf lettuce and spinach in my vegetable garden and have lots of little seedlings coming up.
So, can you do if you want fresh lettuce and don’t have a vegetable garden?

What can you do?
How about planting a salad bowl?
I found these salad bowls for sale at a farmer’s market in North Carolina last year.
It is really easy to make your own.
Here’s how:
1. Choose a planter that is at least 8 inches deep (12 inches is best) with holes for drainage.
2. Fill with potting soil and wet the soil thoroughly.
3. Plant with lettuce seeds.  I like leaf lettuce, but you can arugula, escarole and water cress.  If you prefer, you can simply plant lettuce transplants, available at your local nursery.

4. Put your container by a window that gets at least 6 – 8 hours of sun, but avoid the hot, afternoon sun.

5. Keep the soil moist by using a spray bottle filled with water.  You will usually have to spray once a day.

6. Once the seeds germinate, back off on the watering, but don’t let the soil dry out.

7. Thin the seedlings to the recommended distance that your seed packet recommends and fertilize every 2 weeks using fertilizer at half strength.

8. Begin harvesting your leaf lettuce by simply snipping off the outer leaves.  Your lettuce will continue to produce new leaves to replace those lost.

Once your lettuce starts to ‘bolt’ (grow tall), it is time to pull it out and start over again.

So forget about paying a lot for lettuce at the grocery store and plant your own bowl 🙂

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I hope you are all of to a good start this week.  

Today is my daughter’s 25th birthday and she is 3 weeks away from her due date.  I am very excited about being a grandma 🙂

Last July, we had some guests visiting us from Missouri.  There visit was to be only 48 hours and so we planned a day trip, packed with activities in order to show them parts of our beautiful state.


So, we took them up to Sedona, which is a stunningly beautiful area, less then 2 hours from our home.  As we started the drive north of Phoenix, our friends were amazed at the beauty of the desert and marveled at all of the Saguaro cacti that dotted the landscape.


Soon, the cacti disappeared and pinyon pine started to appear and we soon saw the red mountains of Sedona in the distance.




Sedona is one of my favorite places to visit and we make it up there at least once a year.


Our primary destination in Sedona was a place called ‘Tlaquapaque’, which is a recreation of a Mexican village.  This recreated village is actually full of shops – mostly full of creations from local artists.  Although, I must admit that my favorite store is the Christmas store 🙂


There is just something so inviting about an archway that says “Shops” over it, isn’t there?


Tlaquepaque is a very beautiful place with many specimen trees, shrubs and plants.


As we walked around, our guests headed straight for the shops, while I spent most of my time looking at the gardens.  

I was especially interested in the beautiful container plantings that they had.
Here are a few of my favorites….

Coreopsis, Zinnias and Toadflax


Coleus and Impatiens

An entire walkway was lined with containers full of annuals.

Potted Geraniums and Variegated Ivy

Did you know that Bougainvillea make great container plants?  Look how beautiful they look when trained upward against a wall, below.


Bougainvillea don’t like wet soil and like to be watered deeply and then allowed to dry out in between, which makes them suitable for containers.
 

Indian Fig Prickly Pear

I thought this was an interesting potted plant.  Now most Prickly Pear species are NOT suitable for being planted in pots because of their thorns and ‘glochids’, which are the tiny, brown hairs that get stuck in your fingers.

But, Indian Fig Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus-indica) is a thornless species of Prickly Pear, which makes it okay for use in a container.

Petunias and Purple Coneflower
As I walked around taking photos, I noticed that I was close to my favorite Christmas store, so I ducked inside….


This store (I forgot the name) features beautiful, handmade Christmas ornaments.  I have bought some of my favorite decorations here.  

The display above features a dried agave stalk that they have hung ornaments from.
I resisted the urge to buy more ornaments for myself, but I did purchase an ornament for our guests to take home to remember their trip to Arizona.  It was a dried, red chili with a Santa face and beard painted on it.

As I stepped out of the store, I heard Indian song and drums….


 Imagine my surprise to see an Indian hoop dancer, performing.



My family and our guests enjoyed the performance very much.  

Especially my daughter, Gracie (far right), who in the past was scared of Indians because of their painted faces (from the movies, I think).

She loved the performance and afterward…. 



Posed for this picture and shared it with her school.


We had a fabulous day with our friends and on our way home, decided to treat them to another regional treat….

In-n-Out Burger 🙂