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There is a gardening task that I both enjoy and dread when I have to do it twice every year.  

Now, I am not only doing it for myself, but also for my mother-in-law.

So what it is this task?

The seasonal task of changing out flowering annuals or in this case perennials, that are treated as annuals.

I had to this last Sunday when we stopped by for dinner.  Since my father-in-law’s death in September, we come over with the kids every Sunday and help around the house and garden and then have dinner. 

My mother-in-law hasn’t felt like cooking much and likes the idea of having us trying a different kind of pizza each week in order to determine what restaurant makes the best.  So far Papa John’s and Pizza Hut are our favorites….but there are still more to try.  The kids especially enjoy eating pizza every week 🙂

Getting ready to pull out the Vinca and plant Red Geraniums
I blogged earlier about searching 3 different nurseries for plants to replace those that had died in my mother-in-law’s garden.  But, I also had to buy Geraniums (Pelargoniums) as well.
Now, I couldn’t buy just any Geraniums….I had to buy red ones – not orange and definitely not pink.  You see, my mother-in-law wants the garden to look the exact same as it did when my father-in-law was alive and did the work himself.
I must admit, that I was a bit late in doing this – I usually wait until late October to change out my warm-season flowering plants for cool-season ones.  But, there was still plenty of time before the cold weather settled in.

Okay, here is that part that I dread….



It is so hard to pull out beautiful flowering plants.

Now I realize that technically, I could leave them in their pots and these Vinca would survive our winter as long as they were protected from frost and would flower again in spring.

Or, I could transplant them elsewhere and overwinter them in an out of the way place.

But the majority of people just rip them out and throw them out (or put them on their compost pile) since they are relatively inexpensive.

I admit that I pulled them out and threw them out (please don’t hate me for pulling out perfectly good plants 😉
Now it was time to plant the red Geraniums (which are really Pelargoniums, but everyone including the nursery calls them Geraniums, so I will too).
There was a potential problem, however.  You see, my mother-in-law was used to my father-in-law planting huge, red Geraniums in full bloom.  But, I could not find large red Geraniums, much less ones in full bloom…


From a horticulturist’s point of view – it is better to select flowering plants that have few flowers in the nursery because the transplanting process is stressful for plants and those in full flower will soon drop their flowers.  When buying those that haven’t bloomed yet, you give the plant more resources to grow roots and will soon be rewarded with blooms that will last longer.

I was tempted to tell my mother-in-law this, hoping that it would make her feel better about the lack of blooms.  But it turns out that she didn’t mind, so I didn’t tell her.

I sprinkled slow-release fertilizer before I planted the Geraniums and will follow-up in a couple of weeks with a liquid fertilizer, just like my father-in-law did.   
Of course, you can go the organic route if you prefer.  There are plenty of products available at your local nursery and even stores like Home Depot and Lowes are carrying organic fertilizers.
In addition to the red Geraniums, I also had to plant Bacoba around the potted Geraniums.  It can be hard sometimes to find Bacoba and of course I had trouble too.
But, I found a solution.
I found a decorative container filled with Verbena and Bacoba at the nursery, so I bought it and used the Bacoba in the container.


 And then my husband planted the Verbena, which replaced the one that died in their front garden last year…


 So I killed two birds with one stone (although I would never literally kill a bird 😉
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On a personal note….life is crazy, but good.

I will update you soon on the happenings in my personal life.

I hope you are all enjoying this fall season 🙂

This past weekend, I was on a mission.

My mission was to replace the few plants that had died in my in-laws garden as well as replace their warm-season annuals with cool-season ones.

Unfortunately, I could not indulge my creative side and re-design the landscape that I had originally created 9 years ago because my mother-in-law wanted to keep everything the same as it was before.

My father-in-law was a meticulous gardener and was beautiful, perfectly pruned and very neat and tidy (very much unlike my own messy and untidy garden 😉

As his illness progressed, I started to take over care of his prized landscape.  Now that he has passed away, I still care for it.  Every Sunday night, we go over and have dinner with my mother-in-law.  We always arrive a bit early so that my husband can do miscellaneous tasks around the house and I help in the garden.

And so back to my mission – I had to find the exact same plants that had died over the summer.  Now for those of you who do a lot of planting – you know it can be hard to find everything you need at a single nursery.  

Well, I still harbored unrealistic hope that I would miraculously find all that I needed in one place.  I started at our big box store and found the geraniums that I needed (they had to be red). But, unfortunately, they had nothing else that I needed.

So, off to the second nursery, which is a locally owned chain.  I scored a bit “zero” there.  Then I drove on the a third nursery.


I love this particular local nursery.  It is very large, they have a huge selection and the staff is very knowledgeable.
You may be wondering at this point, why I didn’t start at this nursery first if it all that wonderful?
Well, the problem I find myself often being tempted to buy some of the unique and hard to find plants that they offer.

And so, I arrived at the nursery and started searching for the plants my mother-in-law needed – Angelita Daisy, Blackfoot Daisy, Firecracker Penstemon and Golden Barrel.

I did my best as I walked through the nursery to stay focused on my mission – to buy plants only for my mother-in-law and NOT for myself.


I found the Firecracker Penstemon, which is hard to find this time of year.  Now, I realize that it is not all that impressive looking in a small black container.  But, it looks fabulous once you plant it and it blooms in winter and in spring….


I also found the other plants that I needed except for the Blackfoot Daisy.

Now, I had all the plants that I needed.  But did I leave the nursery at this point?

No.  I decided that my resolve was strong and that I wouldn’t buy any plants for myself and so it was okay to stroll through the nursery and take some pictures.


They had many cool-season annuals to choose from, but I already had all I needed at home, so I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted.

Until….


I spotted this Black Petunia.


Aren’t the flowers just gorgeous?
I looked to find a plant tag to see what variety they were, but it was missing.

Well, I really liked these Petunias, but didn’t really have a place to put them, so I pressed onward.


I walked by a mini grove of Bamboo.  Many people are surprised to find the Bamboo can grow in the desert.  As long as they receive enough water, they do well in our zone 9 area.



Among the cool-season annuals, I spotted a bunch of Blue Salvia.  Normally, they are grown as warm-season annuals and they do very well.  I used to plant them in pots around golf courses, but I haven’t used them in years.  I’m not sure why, but I think I will try planting them late next spring.



As I pressed, on I noticed movement among the plants.  This rooster was busy eating the tops of the plants.  

You know, I think that roosters and chickens give a nursery a ‘homey’ feel, don’t you?  Kind of like a cat in a bookstore or knitting shop.


Of course, no nursery located in the desert is complete without its succulent collection.

Golden Barrel, Argentine Giant Cactus, Fishhook Barrel, Cereus, Saguaro, Agave and much more was available.


Here is a helpful hint….

Did you know that often Agave have more then one plant in the container?  That is because many species of Agave reproduce ‘pups’.  

So, when you are out to buy an Agave, look for one that has more then one plant in the container.  Then when you are ready to plant them, simply cut the smaller agave from the mother plant and plant them as well.


The nursery had a large collection of bare root Ocotillo.

I love Ocotillo and was given one by my kids on Mother’s Day a few years ago.

Ocotillo do leaf out off and on throughout the year and produce vermillion colored flowers….



As you can see, I was having a great time at the nursery.

There is more I would like to share with you.  I found some different ways to use everyday plants AND I have yet to show you two different plants that I was sorely tempted to buy.

At this point however, I think this post is long enough and I don’t want to bore you, so please come back for “Part Two”.

Well, I did think “outside of the box” for this month’s MGB and I do realize that I am a bit late.  I try to have it posted by the 20th of each month, but I had my deadline for completing four gardening articles moved up.  I have been writing for most of the day and my brain has turned to mush….is that enough of an excuse?

It won’t come as a surprise to anyone that it is January and there are not a whole lot of flowers out in my garden.  But, I do have some….just not a lot.


I decided to be a bit creative this month with my bouquet.  Actually, I don’t know if you can even call it a bouquet.  But, I am quite happy with the results.

I have always liked how beautiful floating flowers appear, so I decided to try it out for myself.  I used my grandmother’s glass dessert dishes (to be honest, this is the first time I have used them for anything).  I may have to actually use them for dessert sometime 😉
I realize that I have not mentioned what flowering annuals that I have growing.  Well, here they are – Violas, Dianthus and Pink Geraniums.
 I just wish that I had a party at my house so that I could use them as decorations for the table.  Wouldn’t they be pretty at a tea party?
Well, my kids have been asking me if we could have a tea party the past couple of days…… 
 
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I realize creating a bouquet during the winter months can be quite challenging, but that is where creativity comes in.

Maybe you have some dried seedheads, which would make a beautiful bouquet.  

Or maybe you have some beautiful poinsettias or amaryllis.

I also think that a bouquet of evergreen foliage is beautiful.

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.



I absolutely love to travel and one of my favorite destinations is Europe.  Unfortunately, I have not been able to visit in recent years, but my daughter and her husband were able to travel there this summer and visited three different countries – France, Germany and Italy.

 
When they returned, I couldn’t wait to hear about their adventures and view their photos.  I was particularly touched by the fact that my daughter took the time to take some pictures of some of the beautiful flowering plants they saw in Germany.

 

 I just love window boxes….don’t you?
 
The reason it meant a lot to me is that my oldest daughter is not particularly into gardening – but that could be because she lives in an apartment and has no space for gardening 😉  So, the fact that she took the time to take photos for me to share with me meant a lot.

 

I do not know what all of these flowering plants are and would love some help with identifying some of them 🙂
Geraniums, Verbena and Chamomile?
Don’t you love the stone planter?
Germany has a special place in my heart because years ago, my grandparents were transferred there for work when I was young.  As a result, I spent two summers in Germany as a child along with my parents and siblings.  
 
We spent our time in Frankfurt where my grandparents lived.  I remember the large field of strawberries that were grown in the back garden and the struggle keeping the rabbits away.  But mostly, I remember how delicious the strawberries tasted.
 Lobelia
I grow this beautiful annual in the winter months.
A couple of times a week, a local farmer would drive up our street and open up his van which contained a plentiful harvest of all sorts of fruit and vegetables.  Wouldn’t it be great if the farmer delivered produce straight from the farm nowadays?
Okay, I just love this photo of little garden gnomes.
I find it interesting how certain smells can bring a crystal clear memory to my mind.  To this day, the smell of bus exhaust reminds me of a cobblestone street in downtown Frankfurt.
 These were my daughter’s favorite flower that she saw.
Any ideas what type of flower this is?
On my kitchen wall is the beautiful cuckoo clock that my grandparents brought back from Germany.  Growing up, we loved hearing it cuckoo on the hour and dancing to the music that played afterward as the tiny figurines twirled in a circle.
Isn’t this a beautiful flower?
Any ideas what it is? 
Our cuckoo clock has not worked for many years and I keep meaning to get it fixed so that my kids can enjoy it as I did as a child.
Beautiful red roses.
Both my husband and I have some German ancestry and I hope to be able to visit there again and experience the beauty that Germany has to offer.
  
Are there any places that have a special place in your heart for, or that you yearn to visit someday?
Nasturtium
 
From time to time, I receive emails from readers of my blog who ask me a gardening question or two.  Well, I love talking about plants and helping people with their gardens, so it works out well.
Earlier this week, I was so surprised to find an email from a reader who had sent me pictures of flowers growing in their garden.

 Snapdragons
To be honest, I was touched that someone would want to share with me pictures of their garden.
I love to garden, obviously…..but it is so nice to get a view of what is happening in other people’s gardens.   

 Pansy & Dianthus
The beautiful flowers that I am privileged to show you are from the garden of Frank & Lynda who reside in Northeast Mesa, which is a suburb of Phoenix.
 Alyssum, Geranium and Nasturtium
Frank was kind enough to let me show you all their beautiful flowers.  As he put it, his wife has the ‘green thumb’ and he is the ‘waterboy’. 
 Frank & Lynda, thank you for allowing me to share some of your beautiful flowers.
**If any of you would like to show me what is growing in your garden, please feel free to send me an email with a picture.  I would love to post photos of what you are growing, so that other people can enjoy them as well.
 Have a great day!

Each year, around the end of August, I walk into the plant section of our local home improvement store just to look at the colorful, flowering annuals


While I may be sorely tempted,  I don’t buy any; I just like to look.


BUT, I know that I am in trouble when the majority of the nursery shelves is covered in a sea of winter annuals – I feel like a kid in a candy store.  The vibrant colors and scents are almost intoxicating – to me anyway.

 

In the past, when I managed landscapes on golf courses, I would come to the store in our work truck and load countless flats of annuals for planting around the golf courses and the other buildings.  I loved planning ahead of time what I would plant and the color combinations that I would use.

Petunias, bacopa, and alyssum

In the low desert, winter annuals typically show up in the nurseries around late August, and it is so easy to get caught up in the excitement of fall being just around the corner along with the promise of cooler weather.  So before you know it, you buy a bunch of flowers and run home and plant them.  The problem is, is that it is often still too hot for them to survive.

 Red geraniums with bacopa
For years, I would tear out the summer annuals around the golf courses and plant winter flowers in late September, usually with good results.  Of course, I would have to be vigilant and replace a few plants that would fall victim to the warm September temperatures, but overall they did fine.  
 
That is until one year when we had higher than usual temperatures in early October.  The flowers kept dying despite my best efforts.  Each day on my way to work, I would have to stop by the nursery to buy replacement plants.  This got kind of old after 2 – 3 weeks and I would have to go from store to store to find the same kind of flowers that I needed.
 Blue Petunias 

So, I learned my lesson – no matter what, we would not plant winter annuals until late October.  I mean, it was silly to pull out the summer annuals in September when they still looked great.  I think people want to get a jump start on winter flowers because it makes us feel like the weather is cooler when it isn’t.  So unless you want to make extra visits to your local nursery, WAIT until mid-October.

Now, since I no longer manage landscape areas, I am only responsible for my annual pots.  Last year I planted hot pink geraniums with alyssum, and they did very well.  In the past, I have tried the following combinations with good results:
 
– Yellow Snapdragons with Blue (Deep Purple) 
– Petunias and White Alyssum
– Red Geraniums with White Alyssum
– Hot Pink Geraniums with Lobelia
– Yellow Pansies with Lobelia 
– Light Blue Pansies and Alyssum
– White Snapdragons with Pink Petunias and Lobelia 

 

Snapdragon

 PLANTING:  For containers (pots), I use a planting/potting mix, which is specially formulated for containers – not potting soil, which can become soggy.  

 
If you are planting annuals in the ground, then I add compost or potting soil to the existing soil at a ratio of about 1 part compost to 1 part existing soil.  


If you do not have a compost pile at home, you can buy bagged compost at your local nursery.  Add slow-release fertilizer, following directions on the label.  Plant your winter annuals, making sure that they have enough space between them to grow.
 
CARE:  Water twice a day.  I usually water in the morning and maybe late in the afternoon as the plants are becoming established (about two weeks).  You can then water once a day or every 2 – 3 days, depending on the weather.  


In a managed landscape setting, I would also fertilize weekly with a liquid fertilizer to promote maximum blooming.  At home, I usually fertilize every other week.
Viola
 

Now that we are in the second half of October, I am ready for planting winter annuals in my garden.  I have been thinking about planting violas.  I have not planted them since I was a little girl and I did notice some beautiful ones at the nursery back in August.  Those violas are probably dead from the heat of late August.  


Hopefully, they will have some new ones in now that it is really time to plant!