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creating edible container garden

UPDATE: This blog post originally was published six-years-ago, and I still like to grow vegetables in pots. It’s hard to believe that my garden helper is now 16 years old and driving a car!

I hope you enjoy it!

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My Abraham Darby shrub rose and my little dog, Tobey.
If you live in a hot arid climate like me, chances are that your roses are feeling the heat and aren’t looking their best right now. While gardeners in cooler climates celebrate summer with beautiful rose blooms, the opposite is true for those of us who live in the desert. 
 
Roses actually grow quite well in hot, southwestern zones, and even though mine has a somewhat sunburned appearance – I’m not worried because this is normal.
 
You see, roses that are grown in the low desert regions, don’t like the intense sun and heat that summer brings. As a result, the flowers become smaller and the petals literally burn in the sun and turn crispy.  By July, you will likely not see any new roses appearing until October once the weather cools.
 
The rose blooms themselves aren’t the only parts of the roses affected by the summer heat – the leaves can come away sunburned as well.
 
When faced with brown crispy petals and leaves, you may be tempted to prune away the damaged leaves, but don’t.  
 
There are two reasons why you shouldn’t prune your roses in the summer.  The first is that pruning will stimulate new growth that will be even more susceptible to sunburn damage.  Second, the older branches and leaves will help to shade the growth underneath from the sun.
 
I know that is very hard not to prune away the browning leaves, but once September comes around, you can get out your pruning shears and prune back your rose bushes by 1/3. This will remove the sun-damaged flowers and leaves, stimulating new growth. 
 
 
Before you start lamenting the less than stellar appearance of your summer roses and feel that it is easier to grow roses in other regions, you would be wrong. Oh, certainly we have to deal with our roses not looking their best in the summer.  But, compare that with gardeners in other areas who have to deal with the dreaded Japanese beetle that shows up every summer and eats their roses. Or, how about those people who live in more humid climates and are having to deal with severe cases of blackspot or powdery mildew (white spots on the leaves).  
 
And lastly – we are fortunate to enjoy two separate blooming seasons for our roses.  In fall, when many other gardeners are putting their roses to bed for the winter, ours are getting ready to bloom a second time that year.
 
 
And so, I will ignore my less than beautiful roses this summer, because I know that they will look fantastic this fall 🙂
 
How about you?  Do you grow roses in the desert?
 
 
 

Do you remember exploring your backyard as a child?  I do.


I loved smelling my dad’s roses, digging into the soil for worms and hoping to find some interesting bugs (not spiders).  My mother would give me a little margarine tub to put in any insects that I found along with some torn grass and leaves for them to eat.  Sound familiar to anyone else’s childhood experience?

Last month, while in Michigan visiting my oldest daughter and her family, my granddaughter, Lily, showed me her little bug container, which was filled with bits of grass and leaves and a bug that I honestly couldn’t see.

It was during our trip that I found myself at the local store where I saw a plastic magnifying glass just for kids.  So, I did what any self-respecting grandma would do and bought it.


Lily could hardly wait to get home and explore the front garden with her new toy.

First, we had to examine the intricacies of a dandelion.

And then, the little white daisies at the base of the maple tree.


An ant hill was next on her list as she watched them busily scurrying about.


When I told her that these were lily flowers, she was delighted since they share the same name as she does.


I admit, that I had so much fun watching Lily explore the world around her and it did bring back some fond childhood memories of my own.

All said, it was probably the best $5 I’ve spent in a long while.

*What did you use to explore your garden when you were young?

One of my favorite things as a horticulturist and consultant is to help people discover the new plant introductions that they may have never heard of.


I like to tell them that they can be the first on their block with the latest plant that all their neighbors will want to add in their landscape.  

Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’

Many of you may be familiar with the large, orange-flowering shrub Tecoma x ‘Orange Jubilee’ with its clusters of trumpet-shaped flowers.  Its long bloom period and up to 12-foot height makes it a favorite for screening out a block wall or unfavorable view.

While the flowers and lush foliage are a plus, Orange Jubilee is too large for many smaller areas, which is why this new shrub is one of my new favorites. 


This Tecoma hybrid has bi-color flowers and is affectionately named ‘Sparky’ after Arizona State University’s popular mascot.  This hybrid was created by a horticulturist and professor at ASU.


‘Sparky’ is about half the size of ‘Orange Jubilee,’ which makes it suitable smaller spaces.  It also has smaller leaves and a slightly more compact growth habit.

Both types of Tecoma have the same requirements – full sun and pruning away frost-damaged growth in March.  ‘Sparky’ is slightly more cold tender than ‘Orange Jubilee’.

While I have an ‘Orange Jubilee’ shrub screening the view of my A/C unit, I believe that I need to find a spot for a ‘Sparky’ shrub – especially since I’m an ASU alumni.  
For those of you U of A alumni, there isn’t any word of a red, white and blue hybrid yet – but, I’ll be sure to let you know if they create one 😉

**Would you consider adding a ‘Sparky’ Tecoma shrub to your garden?

Today, I have two different unique containers to show you and both are on two wheels.


This old bicycle was located in a place where bikes and horses are commonplace and cars are not.

I saw this unique container while visiting Mackinac Island earlier this summer.  The front basket was lined with moss and filled with geraniums and trailing ivy.  The side baskets were also planted too.

The bicycle was sitting in the front garden of a quaint house and I noticed that there was a hummingbird feeder on the handle.


This bicycle planter was located in front of a shop in the historic downtown area of Noblesville, Indiana, which is located just outside of Indianapolis.

When we were young, my sister had a pink bike much like this one while I had a purple one.

As you can see, I see many neat gardening ideas on my road trips.  You can read about my trip to Mackinac Island, here and my trip to Indiana, here.

Tomorrow, I will show you a portable container that has only one wheel and not two.

I love the color purple in the garden because the color, helps to visually ‘cool’ the garden.

‘Rio Bravo’ Sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’)

Have you ever wondered how some plants handle our hot temperatures and intense sunlight?

Look carefully at the flowers, above.  Note the small hairs covering the petals?  They help to reflect the sun’s rays.

I like using large shrubs to screen the back wall of my garden, so I have quite a few ‘Rio Bravo’ sage shrubs.

They put on a spectacular show off and on throughout the summer when they bloom.  (Leucophyllum langmaniae) is just one species of Leucophyllum (Texas Sage).

Of course, if you insist on pruning your sage shrubs into round ‘blobs’ – you will never see the flower show.

For guidelines on how to prune your desert, flowering shrubs correctly, click here.

Today was spent driving from Wisconsin, over the Mississippi River into southeastern Minnesota.


Bridge over the Mississippi River toward Minnesota. *Cell phone + dirty windshield = grainy photo.


You know how people who haven’t lived near the ocean, find it fascinating when they get the chance to visit?

I think it is somewhat the same for me in regards to seeing the Mississippi River.  The immense size of the river is amazing.  

This is the third time that I have seen the Mississippi River and it is still something that I always look forward to.

We arrived into the town of Winona, Minnesota – we drove up to Garvin Heights, where a path leads from the parking lot to a viewing point located over 500 ft. above the river and the city.



Isn’t it beautiful?


Off in the distance, you can see the bridge that we drove over, which connects Wisconsin to Minnesota.


My mother has been enjoying her first smartphone.  During our trip, she had taken multiple pictures of me taking photos of plants and/or scenery.  


It makes me feel happy and special at the same time 🙂


During the first part of our day, we spent some time shopping for antiques.

My mother loves antiques and I like to find old pieces that I can use as planters in my garden.  In the Midwest and Eastern regions of the US, antiques are a lot less expensive then in the west – so we like to take advantage of nice antique stores when we can.

I found a large, old coffee pot (the kind they would use in a chuck wagon for a lot of people) that I plan on using for a flower planter in my smaller vegetable garden.

You may be wondering how I am going to get my coffee pot home.  Well, that leads to a tradition that my mother and I started during our first road trip 3 years ago.  We wait until the last day of our trip and then go to a local UPS store and send our souvenirs home.  It makes our life much simpler and we have less to carry in our suitcases.

Another grainy cell phone photo taken through the windshield.

As we headed toward the southeastern corner of Minnesota, we found ourselves alone on country highways for long lengths of time.


Not that I’m complaining about the absence of vehicles.  I’m sure that after spending a day or two at home that I’ll be wishing for fewer cars on the road.


The weather during our trip has been very nice.  There was some rain, which fell during the night, so it did not affect our activities.


Our day’s journey ended in Lanesboro, Minnesota, which has been the recipient of the Great American Main Street Award.  Lanesboro, is located close to Amish communities and we have seen some Amish folk during our travels today.

The main street is lined with historic buildings that have been transformed into trendy shops and eateries.

Unlike many Amish communities that I’ve visited in the past, Lanesboro has upscale, trendy shops, which I really enjoyed visiting, instead of shops stocked full of Amish souvenirs.


A few of the shops had a combination of both new and old things, like this old antique that was transformed into a planter.


This shop had an interesting planter with a galvanized pipe with flowers sitting in a dish planted with real grass.


A variety of succulents were displayed with old, wooden boxes.


This alleyway was filled with plants and antiques, which I love.


One interesting observation about our travels this day is the popularity of rhubarb.  

It was planted along the main street.


Rhubarb ice cream was also available in many of the shops.

I bet you didn’t know that rhubarb was so popular did you?



I admit that I didn’t try the rhubarb ice cream flavor.  I went for salted caramel crunch – yum!


Remember the cheese curds that I tried on day 5 of our road trip?  They are everywhere.  I usually see them offered fried.

As our trip draws towards its end, here are a few observations in contrast to living in California and Arizona (places that I’ve lived).

– In almost every restaurant, Coke products aren’t offered – Pepsi is the drink of choice.

– In all of our driving, we have only seen one highway patrol car (in CA and AZ you often see one every few minutes).

– Starbucks is a huge favorite of my mother and during our road trips, we usually make at least one stop there each day.  On this trip, we have hardly seen any Starbucks stores.  But, there have been quite a few other coffee shops, including independent ones.

Tomorrow, we will fly home in the evening from Minneapolis.  My husband has been wonderful taking care of the kids and house while I’ve been gone.  

But, I’m not sure about what he has been feeding the kids…


My 12-year-old son posted this picture of his dinner the other night, which consists of french fries, cheddar cheese and bacon.

I protested the lack of vegetables, which my husband responded to by saying, “We each had 4 mini-carrots to round our dinner.”  He then went on further to say, “And we had vegetables on our pizza for lunch.”

I told my kids that I have quite a few dinners planned when I get home that will have lots of ‘greens’ in them.

*Tomorrow, we will spend the day in Minneapolis and I’m looking forward to visiting my friend and fellow garden blogger, Amy of Get Busy Gardening.  I can’t wait to see her and her garden.  I’ll be sure to share my visit with you!

Question:  Do you like the way fallen flowers look in the landscape?  



Some people describe the layer of spent blossoms of trees or shrubs as a ‘colorful carpet’ that adds beauty to the landscape.


Or do you feel the pull of your leaf blower calling out to you whenever you see a layer of spent blossoms littering the ground?

For me, I love the beauty of small, fallen flowers.  It is a natural occurrence and benefits the soil and plants as they breakdown.  

In spring, palo verde trees are covering the ground throughout the southwest with a yellow carpet.  In winter, red blossoms from Valentine shrubs (Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’) create a carpet of red and in the summer months, Texas sage, (Leucophyllum species) leave a layer of purple in their wake.

Of course, if you have a swimming pool, you may want to clean up the flowers and put them on your compost pile.

So, what about you?  Do you allow the flowers to remain or do you clean them up?

Have you ever been on live television?  


If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said “no”.  I had done some filming for “how-to” gardening videos for SheKnows.com – but they weren’t live and took place in my back garden.  Somehow, live TV is quite different.


Last time, I told you about my upcoming appearance on our local ABC station to talk about creative container gardening tips.  


Posing next to my newly-planted container filled with purple basil, thyme, rosemary and parsley.  White petunias add beauty to the pot.



This was the second time that I had been asked to appear on Sonoran Living, which is a local morning program.  

Last time I was on the show, I spoke about ‘Fuss Free’ Plants.  This time, I would be talking about  creative tips for container gardening.  


So, I went shopping for my ‘props’.  I decided to plant an herb container as well as a pot filled with vegetables and flowers.  I bought several medium-sized pots, a variety of potting mixes and of course, plants.


My sister came along with me to help with the props and setting up.  I had planted the pots ahead of time, so setting up wasn’t too difficult.

The main focus of the demonstration would be the three pots, the potting mixes and the recyclable grocery bag.

They tell you to bring a lot of props, which look good on television.  So, I brought gardening gloves, some hand tools and extra plants to help ‘set the stage’.  My microphone was there for me to put on and I was almost ready.

Finishing up planting my vegetable/flower container.

Last time I was on the show, mine was the first segment.  It went very fast and we were back on the road before the show was over.  

This time, I was to go last.  So after everything was set up, my sister and I were invited to wait in the staff break room.  

To say that I wasn’t nervous would be an exaggeration.  But, I was not as nervous as my first time.  It’s actually not as hard as doing a “how-to” video where you have to talk to the camera.  On the show, I am talking to a person who asks me questions so I don’t speak directly to the camera at all.  If you lose your train of thought, they are there to get you back on track.

Of the tips I shared on air – using recycled, plastic containers to fill the bottom of large pots as well as using a recycled grocery bag as a container were the most popular with the hosts.

I had a great time and hope to be invited back again.  

Below, is the link for my container gardening segment and at the end you see where I accidentally got involved in a conversation at the end about “Dancing With the Stars”.

I hope you enjoy it and come away with some helpful tips that you can use when creating your own container garden.

**You can view my first appearance on Sonoran Living where I talk about “Fuss-Free Plants” here.

I have a confession to make…


Sometimes I am a lazy gardener.  Are you shocked?  Will this revelation cause you to stop reading my blog?  


In my defense, I must say that life gets rather busy and at the end of a long day, I forgo the opportunity to do some needed garden maintenance.


However, my reluctance to perform needed maintenance has a rather beautiful benefit…


My herbs begin to flower in the absence of harvesting their leaves.

Now, I like growing herbs and harvest them so that I can use them both dried and fresh.

But, there are times that I don’t get out to harvest the leaves.  When herbs are allowed to grow without harvesting the leaves – they begin to flower.

My sage (above) has beautiful purple flowers, don’t you think?


Now, my green and purple basil plants are beginning to flower as well.

Herbs are best harvested before the begin to flower for the best taste.

So, what do you do when they start to flower?  Well, you have two options…

– You could let them flower for a couple of weeks and enjoy their beauty.

– Or you could prune them back severely and let the leaves grow back so you can harvest them.

What do you think I should do?