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hidden garden in Encanto district in downtown Phoenix

Have you ever discovered a hidden garden in a surprising place?

A few years ago, I found myself driving through the historic neighborhoods of the Encanto district in downtown Phoenix. I had finished up a landscape consultation in the area and decided to drive through the nearby neighborhoods in the historic district.  

My initial goal was to see if I could find the home my grandparents owned in the 1940’s. While I didn’t find the home, I did find a house that stopped me in my tracks.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

What first drew my eye was this parking strip (also known as a ‘hell strip’) between the sidewalk and street, filled with a bounty of flowering annuals and perennials.

I couldn’t believe this was growing blocks away from the skyscrapers of downtown Phoenix.   

And so, I whipped out my phone and started to take pictures. The bright colors of California poppies, red flax, and plains coreopsis caught my eye, while in the background I noticed the old, Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum where the Arizona State Fair is held every fall.

Thundercloud' sage and red yucca. Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

As I made my way up the planting bed, I saw more colorful, annual flowers intermixed with globe mallow, ‘Thundercloud’ sage and red yucca.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

One flower that I did not expect to see in the desert garden, not to mention downtown Phoenix, was larkspur with its deep purple spikes.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Multi-colored bachelor’s button flowers grew among scarlet flax and plains coreopsis.

As I stood admiring the effect that all these flowering plants had on the street landscape, I happened to meet the son (James) of the owner of the house. He was busy working out in the garden and was flattered at my interest in the garden he had created.

Last fall, James took three packs of wildflower seeds (multiple varieties) and threw them on the bare parking strip, added some compost on the top and watered well. Over the months, he has watched them come up and was thrilled at how the hell strip had been transformed.

He then offered to show me what he had done to the backyard – I could hardly wait to see it after seeing what he has done on the outside.

(A few of the photos are a bit blurry. I’m not sure what went wrong with my phone’s camera, but you can still get a sense of the beauty in the backyard.)

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

The backyard consists of a lawn split in two by a large planting bed with hollyhocks.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

I love hollyhocks and have grown them in the past. They self-seed and flower for me every spring.  All I give them is a little water – that’s all they need.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

The small patio in the back of the house is filled with an old-fashioned table and chairs, which fit the age of the home perfectly!

The pathway separates the two lawn areas and leads to the garage in the back. It was created using concrete molded into geometric shapes.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

Bermuda grass is allowed to grow into the cracks for an interesting look.

blanket flower, bachelor's button, and yellow daisy (Euryops pectinatus) from hidden garden

The patio is edged with flowering annuals such as blanket flower, bachelor’s button, and yellow daisy (Euryops pectinatus).

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

In this blurry photo, a large crown-of-thorns plant was thriving in a tiny container. Believe it or not, it is 20 years old and thriving in a very small pot. According to James, he waters it twice a week in summer and weekly throughout the rest of the year.

Two Chinese elm trees Hidden Garden

Two Chinese elm trees provide dappled shade on a beautiful spring day.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

A small potting bench stands in front of the wooden fence painted a greenish-chartreuse color, which blends well with the garden.

A fountain is in the center of this grassy area and adds the refreshing sound of water.

How relaxing would it be to enjoy this outdoor space, even in the middle of summer with all of its shade?

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

I bade a reluctant goodbye to the back garden and ventured back out to the parking strip. James then showed me where he had planted wildflowers next to the detached garage.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix
Bright pink and vibrant orange flowers from hidden garden

Bright pink and vibrant orange – doesn’t that remind you of the 70’s?

Tall poppies from hidden garden

These tall poppies were planted from 3-year-old seed that James was going to throw out. I’m certainly glad that he decided to plant them instead.

While old seed won’t germinate as well as young seed, you’ll often still get some seeds to sprout – just not as many.

Hidden Garden in the Middle of Phoenix

It is unexpected surprises like this that make life interesting. This hidden garden was fairly small but beautifully tended to. Ironically, most of what was growing in it grew from seed with little effort.

Keeping America (and Phoenix) Beautiful

After a record-setting February, I think that it’s safe to say that spring has officially arrived. Plants are waking up a bit early with flower buds bursting forth with glorious blooms.

'Sierra Star' Fairy Duster (Calliandra 'Sierra Star')

Photo: ‘Sierra Star’ Fairy Duster (Calliandra ‘Sierra Star’)

Of course, an early spring means that people are anxious to get out in the garden. I always say that spring for horticulturists is like tax season for accountants as we get very busy helping others with their gardens.

This has certainly been true for me the past couple of weeks.  Staying up until 1 a.m. in the morning and then up early the next morning for the next appointment and afternoons spent designing landscapes and writing articles – I can hardly see straight at the end of the day.

I thought that I would give you a snapshot of the past 10 days.

Flowers, Work and Cowboy Boots

It all started with an early morning meeting with a landscape committee regarding adding come color to the entry areas of a community. An hour later, I was standing in the middle of a busy street, dodging traffic while taking multiple photographs of sixteen different corner landscapes.

Cereus peruvianus with golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Photo: Cereus peruvianus with golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

Later that morning, I met with some clients who had a lovely home and a landscape with ‘good bones’, but that needed some more color according to the clients.

Ironwood tree (Olneya tesota)

Photo: Ironwood tree (Olneya tesota)

The property was situated along a golf course and had lovely specimen trees that offered welcome filtered shade.

Fragrant flowers of Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)

Photo: Fragrant flowers of Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora)

As I walked around the landscape taking photographs for my report, I took some time to stop and smell the fragrant blossoms of their Texas mountain laurel, which smelled like grape candy.

Photo: Pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides)

Photo: Pink bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides)

The next day, I visited a family who needed help redesigning their backyard. However, as I approached the front door, my attention was caught by the beautiful pink bower vine that was blooming in the courtyard.

I spent that Wednesday working on designs and reports.

backyard was wall-to-wall grass

The next day, I visited a lovely ranch style home. The backyard was wall-to-wall grass and the homeowner wanted to create a border around the entire yard filled with flowering shrubs and perennials.

'Heavenly Cloud' sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae 'Heavenly Cloud'), yellow bells (Tecoma stans stans) and bougainvillea in my backyard.

Photo: ‘Heavenly Cloud’ sage (Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Heavenly Cloud’), yellow bells (Tecoma stans stans) and bougainvillea in my backyard.

As a flower type of girl myself, this was a fun design to get to work on. I created a plant palette that included white and pink gaura (Gaura lindheimeri)purple lilac vine (Hardenbergia violaceae)tufted evening primrose (Oenothera caespitosa), firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), pink trumpet vine (Podranea ricasoliana), andangelita daisy (Tetraneuris acaulis) among others to ensure year round blooms.

beautiful home in the foothills

Friday found me at a beautiful home in the foothills where the client had recently moved in. She wanted help adding more color as well as symmetry to the landscape. This was a large project that was split up into four separate designs/reports.

SRP Water Expo

Saturday morning was spent attending the SRP Water Expo, where I bought my discounted Smart Irrigation Controller.  

SRP Water Expo

There were numerous displays, each with a focus on saving water in the landscape.

I saw many people I knew and walked away with my new irrigation controller, which will save water in my landscape. You can learn more about this controller and the Expo here.

getting a pedicure

After such a busy week, I indulged myself with getting a pedicure 🙂

oleander leaf scorch.
oleander leaf scorch.

This week was spent working on creating designs and reports for all of my consults the week before. I did have a few appointments, one of which, involved issues with problems with the turf areas in HOA common areas during which, I spotted more suspected cases of oleander leaf scorch.

oleander leaf scorch.

This area of Phoenix is seeing a lot of cases of this bacterial disease for which there is no known cure. Affected oleanders typically die within 3 – 4 years from when they first show symptoms.

Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) and Parry's penstemon (Penstemon parryi) in my front garden.

Photo: Gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida) and Parry’s penstemon (Penstemon parryi) in my front garden.

At home, my own landscape is having some work done.  Our 15-year-old drip irrigation system is being replaced. The typical life span of a drip irrigation system is typically 10 – 15 years, so when ours started developing leaks and the valves also began to leak, we knew it was time. So, my garden currently has trenches running through it with PVC pipe everywhere. It will be nice to have it finished and working soon.

On another note, my little grandson, Eric, is now 13 months old.  He is a bright ray of sunshine in my life and helps me to keep life in perspective when the busyness of life threatens to overwhelm me.

Cowboy Boots

I am so blessed to have a front row seat as he is learning and discovering the world around him.

I think he would like his own pair of cowboy boots, don’t you?

As summer begins to slowly fade and the heat begins to dissipate, the Southwestern garden comes alive.

"Second Spring" in the Southwest Garden

Plants perk up in the absence of 100+ degree temperatures and people begin to venture outdoors  (without their hats!) to enjoy their beautiful surroundings.

When people talk about their favorite season, many will tell you that spring is the time that they enjoy the most as their gardens come alive, spring forth with new green growth and colorful blooms.  

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

Sky Flower (Duranta erecta)

While spring is a glorious time in the desert landscape with winter blooms overlapping with spring flowering plants along with cactus flowers – it isn’t the only ‘spring’ that the desert experiences.

"second spring" in the desert Southwest

Fall is often referred to as the “second spring” in the desert Southwest as plants take on a refreshed appearance due to the cooler temperatures with many still producing flowers.  Many birds, butterflies and other wildlife reappear during the daytime hours in autumn.

Desert residents often find themselves making excuses to spend more time outdoors whether it’s taking a longer walk or bringing their laptop outdoors where they can enjoy the comfortable temperatures and surrounding beauty of the landscape.

"second spring" in the desert Southwest

Fall is also a time where we take a look around our own garden setting and decide to make some changes whether it is taking out thirsty, old plants replacing them with attractive, drought tolerant plants or creating an outdoor room by expanding a patio or perhaps adding a pergola.

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii)

Flame Acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus v. wrightii) 

No matter where you live – the East Coast, Midwest, Northwest, etc., fall is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape as it provides plants with 3 seasons in which to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

What do you enjoy most about fall?

**Thinking of making some changes to your landscape?  Click here for a list my favorite drought tolerant plants that provide fall blooms.  

signs of our warm winter

signs of our warm winter

While much of the country is suffering from a truly awful winter season, those of us who live in the Southwest are having the exactly opposite problem.

This has been a very warm winter season, with the exception of a few freezing nights back in December.

With temps 10 – 15 degrees above normal, we have been enjoying temps in the 70’s.

I have seen some signs of our warm winter including the fact that I have ditched my slippers and am going barefoot every chance I get. Plants have begun to emerge from their winter dormancy and people are asking me if they can prune their frost-damage plants early.

In regards to the pruning question, there is still a chance of Southwestern residents getting a spell of freezing weather before we approach the average last frost date. So, pruning too early can actually hurt your plants if by some miracle temps dip below 32 degrees.

signs of our warm winter

But, that may not stop everyone from grabbing the pruners. If you happen to be one of these impatient pruners, make sure that you cover your recently pruned plants if temps dip into the low 30’s.

In the meantime, enjoy the glorious weather!

Trying New Things In My Winter Garden: ‘White Icicle’ Radishes & Swiss Chard

Where do you expect to see vegetable gardens planted?

Most of the time, vegetable gardens are found in the backyard.

But, have you ever  thought of locating your vegetable garden somewhere else?

Vegetable Gardens

This home in the Encanto district, in downtown Phoenix, has a great way of utilizing space in the front yard for growing vegetables.  

Vegetable Gardens

The homeowners decided to utilize the space beside their driveway for planting a vegetable garden.

I think that this vegetable garden looks great in this area, don’t you think?  

Vegetable Gardens

By the way, do know why the homeowner has planted flowers at the end of each vegetable row?

The marigolds and lavender not only add beauty to the garden, they serve an important role in keeping bad bugs away from the vegetables.

Pairing flowering plants and herbs with vegetables is a practice known as “companion gardening”.

There are many other plants that can be planted with vegetables to keep damaging insects away.  You can read more about companion gardening here.

Vegetable Gardens

I also like how the homeowners added vegetables in front of the house.  Some people would tend to plant annual flowers in this area instead, but think how much more fun it would be to plant vegetables there instead.

The vegetables look at home among the ornamental plants such as Agave angustifolia, Texas Mountain Laurel and Red Yucca

Vegetable Gardens

A couple of years ago, I was driving home from a landscape consult and saw this home’s front yard filled with raised beds.

zucchini, Swiss chard, tomatillos and carrots

I returned a few months later to visit these vegetable gardens filled with zucchini, Swiss chard, tomatillos and carrots.

cucumber plants

This is another home in east Phoenix that has homemade trellises, made from rebar and wire, with cucumber plants growing up on them.

The cucumbers are in the perfect spot where they receive afternoon shade from the large front yard tree.

Both of these gardens are planted and managed by the Farmyard group, who grow organic produce on urban farms in Phoenix and Scottsdale.  You can find out more about this group and the services the offer here.

As cool as these vegetable gardens are, most of us cannot grow vegetables in our front yard due to HOA restrictions.

However, if you do not live in a neighborhood with an HOA, maybe you should think about including vegetables in your front yard?

You can start out small – maybe that area that you would normally plant flowers?   ** A word of caution: don’t plant vegetables in front if you have problems with deer, rabbits or javelina.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about growing vegetables in the front yard…  

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

Have you ever seen a miniature garden?  They are becoming very popular and are sometimes called ‘fairy gardens’. I must admit that I’ve been quite intrigued by them and so I was very excited with the publishers of “Gardening in Miniature” sent me a book, free of charge, for my honest review.

If you aren’t familiar with miniature gardens, it is helpful to think of them as large gardens shrunk down in size into a tiny world that fits into a single container.

If you like to peruse Pinterest, you have undoubtedly seen some great examples of miniature or fairy gardens.

I came upon a collection of miniature gardens for sale at an antique shop in upstate New York a couple of years ago.

They were planted in old enamelware pots and bowls.

As you can see, there is a pathway delineated by the larger pebbles, small fiber optic grasses, and a yellow viola in this garden.

This garden has a tiny shovel and watering can in it.

For some people, the accessories are the most enjoyable part of creating a miniature garden.  I would probably be stuck in my local Michael’s or Hobby Lobby trying to decide what small accessories to include in my little garden.

I must admit that I have been thinking of creating my own miniature garden.  Imagine a tiny world neatly contained inside of a pot.  For those of you who experience cold winters, you can enjoy having a little garden indoors all winter long.

Have you considered trying to create a miniature garden?

Well, if you have – then I have a great book for you to read…

Gardening in Miniature by Janit Calvo is a visual feast of beautiful and unique little gardens.

Of course, there is much more than miniature garden photos.  The book has all the information you will need to create your own tiny garden.  From container selection, a list of plants, soil type and how to care for your little garden – this book covers it all.

A beautiful garden is well-designed and small gardens are no different.  Gardening in Miniature offers helpful advice on how to design your tiny garden using plants, pebbles, water features and adding small furniture or figurines. Have you ever created your own miniature garden?

 
 
 

*I was given this book, free of charge, for my honest review.

I must confess that the heat of July keeps me indoors most of the time.

In fact, I try to make my trips out to my garden under 15 minutes or less.  I just don’t like to sweat.

But, I do have two things that I have to share with you.

The first one is – my pumpkin seeds have all sprouted and are growing!

All four came up.

I didn’t plant them inside of my vegetable garden, because of how large they get. I learned my lesson a few years ago.  You can read my post about it if you like –  “What Is Wrong With This Picture”

I also put some chicken wire around the planting site to keep my dogs from digging up my newly planted seeds.

For water, I put a single drip emitter in the center, which is connected to the drip system of my nearby vegetable garden.

My pumpkins should be ready in October.  Right now, that seems so far away – but it will be here before we know it!

A few weeks ago, I posted about what was happening in my summer vegetable garden “Snapshot of a Summer Week in the Garden”

In it, I mentioned trying drying my herbs by spreading them out onto cookie sheets instead of hanging them up.

Well guess what?

It worked beautifully!

I placed my herbs onto paper towels and then covered them with additional paper towels to keep the dust off.

I stored them in our garage and when I checked on them a week later – they were nice and dry.

This was much easier then hanging them, so this will probably be my “go-to” method from now on.

*I can only speak to my experience of drying herbs this way in a desert climate.  I’m not sure how well it would work in more humid climates.

But, you never know until you try 🙂

The other day, my husband and I stopped by Starbucks for some coffee.  Starbucks for us is a guilty pleasure.  We don’t go there all the time.  Maybe 3 – 4 times a month.

Well, as we were waiting for our coffee to be ready, I noticed a bin filled with bags that caught my attention….

Some of you may be wondering what coffee grounds have to do with gardening.  Well they actually work in a variety of ways that benefit the soil in your garden.

Used coffee grounds:

– slowly release nitrogen into the soil

– improve the texture of both sandy and clay soils

– are loved by earthworms who ‘eat’ them and leave behind their coveted droppings

– are a source of phosphorus, potassium and micro-nutrients such as magnesium, copper and calcium

– can be used in compost piles instead of manure

So…..are you tempted to use coffee grounds in your garden?  Do not just throw them out in the garden.  You need to mix them with your existing soil.  Apply a 1/4″ layer and then rake them into your existing soil.

You can also use them in your compost pile.  Used coffee grounds are a ‘green’ compost material and shouldn’t make up more then 20% of your compost.

So, are you still wavering on whether or not to use them?  Okay, how about this fact:

**Starbucks gives their used coffee grounds away for free.  If you don’t often find yourself inside of a Starbucks, you can always use your own coffee grounds.

Now, maybe your local Starbucks doesn’t give away their coffee grounds. Well, you should ask.  The more people ask for them, the more likely they are to ‘bag’ their used coffee grounds and give them away.

You can always wait until the baristas are not busy and ask if you can have their used coffee grounds that they have right then.  You can even offer to take them in the plastic trash bag that they are already in.

Now, that I know that I can find used coffee grounds at my local Starbucks, I will just have to stop by more often and of course, I will have to get some coffee.

What a sacrifice….. 😉