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What a wonderful, busy weekend we had.  I always enjoy the coming of Easter and what it signifies – rebirth.  

When I first started this blog, I promised myself that I would not create a post solely about my family – I didn’t want to bore anyone and although my family is wonderful, we aren’t terribly interesting.  

And so, I will keep my promise and show you a garden, sandwiched between two separate family Easter celebrations.  That way, you can skip over the family photos and just look at the garden if you like.

 You can see my two youngest with their cousin, planning their strategy on how to get the golden egg in the middle of the field.

Saturday morning found me with the kids at the Sun Lakes Annual Easter Egg Hunt.  It is a fun event for the kids and they always look forward to it.  I love to watch the joy on their faces as they anticipate the hunt and plan their strategy.  I don’t particularly like having to get up really early on a Saturday though.
They both did pretty well and got quite a few eggs, but alas….the golden egg was found by someone else.
After the hunt for eggs was over, we settled ourselves to watch the Easter parade, which consists of golf carts decorated for Easter.  
I will not show all of the entries, but I will show you the one that the kids selected as the best one.
After the parade was over, we went back to my in-law’s home.  I am very fortunate that I have very wonderful in-law’s – (and they occasionally read my blog 😉  My favorite thing about their home is their landscape.  It is a wonderful mixture of succulents, shrubs and perennials.
I was fortunate to have been asked by my father-in-law to design their front and back landscape when they had their home built.  Prickly Pear Cacti, Agave, Golden Barrel Cactus, Pygmy Date Palm, Palo Brea Tree, Baja Ruellia, Katie Ruellia, Damianita and Firecracker Penstemon are all part of the front garden.
My father-in-law has a green thumb, especially when it comes to growing annuals, like these geraniums.
Our gardening styles differ in that he is more of a formal gardener.  His plants are carefully pruned and his garden is the ‘cleanest’ garden I have ever seen.  I am a more carefree gardener and prefer more naturally shaped plants and I do not mind loose leaves in the garden.
Last fall, my father-in-law asked me to re-design the corners of the backyard.  The new Firecracker Penstemon and Blackfoot Daisy are growing in nicely.  The original Desert Spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), were kept in the background as they offer texture and a great color contrast.
After a wonderful Easter lunch of my mother-in-law’s lasagna and the ice-box cake that I made, I was ready to go home and take a nap, which I did.
The next morning, we went to church and then prepared to go to my mother and sister’s home on Double S Farms.  My brother and his wife, my cousin and her family were to join us all there for Easter lunch and another Easter egg hunt.  As my son put it, you can never have enough Easter egg hunts.
My two oldest daughters.
I had a great time catching up with my cousin and her daughters.
We had a great lunch and then it was time for the hunt.  Tradition in our family holds that the men of the family hide the eggs.
   
The vegetable garden at Double S Farms made a great place to hid eggs, along with the fruit trees and the chicken coop.
Little & Littlest Farmers got a head start on the Easter egg hunt with assistance from their mother, Chicken Farmer.  Little Farmer, figured that since he was hunting for eggs with candy that his Halloween pumpkin would work just fine.
 
I think this is the cutest Easter bunny I have ever seen 🙂
There were a lot of places to hide eggs, but the kids soon found them all.
Including my youngest daughter, who was so happy because she absolutely LOVES chocolate candy.
Well, I hope I have not bored you with our exploits over Easter weekend, but we had a wonderful time being outdoors enjoying the springtime weather and being with family.  I do hope that you all had a very blessed Easter.
My next post will be a guest post by my sister, Chicken Farmer.  You don’t want to miss it….

Geraniums

Last week, on a trip to our local big box store, I was greeted by the pallets loaded with beautiful, red geraniums.  This is a sight that made me angry.
 

You may be wondering why on earth the sight of beautiful flowers made me angry.  Well, I do love flowers, (obviously… I’m a horticulturist) –  so that is not what made me mad.

What if I told you that most of the annual flowers that were on display at the beginning of April, are the same kind of flowers that were for sale in September and October.

Petunias

Now, if you take a minute to consider this, you come to the conclusion that the annual flowers that the big box stores are being offered for sale in early April – just in time for summer.  That doesn’t make much sense does it?

Well, winter annuals are called “winter annuals” for a reason….because they grow in the winter, NOT in the summer.  They cannot handle our hot summers here in the desert.

You may think that this problem does not apply to you if you don’t live in the desert and your summers do not get as hot as ours.  Well, I hate to inform you that this problem occurs all over the US.  

Violas

I love Violas, but these beautiful hanging violas that were hanging outside of the nursery department will be toast, literally, in just a couple of months.  My violas that have been growing beautifully since late October, are starting to show signs of stress with the couple of 80+ days we have experienced last week. 

And so, this is what makes me angry this time of year, when I enter the nursery section of my big box store.  The winter annual flowers are beautifully laid out in order to entice shoppers as they enter.  You can see the shoppers envisioning how beautiful their gardens will be once they add some of these colorful flowers.  

 

Marigolds, Alyssum, and Petunias

 What they do not realize is that in two months, the alyssum and petunias, pictured above, will be dead and their money wasted. **Interestingly, the petunias and alyssum are placed alongside the orange colored marigolds, which usually will do quite well through most of the summer.  

Arizona is different from many parts of the country.  Our mild winters allow us to grow annual flowers that are grown elsewhere in the country in the summer. 

Stock

 
People put their trust in their plant nursery and believe that they would not sell anything that would not thrive in their garden.  They rely on their expertise to sell the right plant for the right time of year.  Sadly, this is not true of all nurseries, especially those at the big box stores.  People begin to believe that they cannot grow flowers or that they have a “black thumb” instead of a green one when their newly planted flowers begin to die soon after planting.
But do not DESPAIR….there is hope!

You can avoid being a victim and the solution is really quite simple….do a little research.  It can be as simple as doing a Google Search and enter the term….summer annuals for (your city or area).  You should be given a long list of plants that should thrive in your area.  
 
**For residents of the Arizona and California desert, I have done the online searching for you.  You can check out the following link for information on what kind of flowers to grow and when.
Yellow Euryops Daisy, Hot Pink Geranium, Blue Lobelia, Fern Leaf Lavender and Gazania
First, I would like to share with you some beautiful winter flower container arrangements which were designed and planted by my friend, Maggie Thomas.  She is a landscape designer and her specialty is designing container plantings.  As you can see, she is extremely talented.
Hot Pink Geranium, Bacoba ‘Cabana’, Blue Lobelia, Fern Leaf Lavender and Blue Viola

  In the area we live, zone 8b, we are fortunate to be able to grow flowering plants in containers year-round.  In late spring, these plants will be pulled out and replaced with summer flowering plants that can handle our hot summers.

Yellow Euryops Daisy, Hot Pink Geranium, White Bocoba, Blue Lobelia, Fern Leaf Lavender and Fortnight Lily.
Blue Viola
 
Hot Pink Geranium
Fern-Leaf Lavender (Lavandula multifida)

Although these containers are planted with plants that do well in our desert climate in the winter, those of you who live in more temperate climates can try these out in the summer months.

Pink Geranium & Bacopa ‘Cabana’
Now, for the name change….
I have been thinking about changing the name of my blog for some time.  The current title, “Plant Tips and Guidelines for a Desert Garden” sounds a bit like a textbook and although I strive to include helpful information in each post, I also like to ramble on a bit about all sorts of things.  
So, I am changing the name of my blog to…
“RAMBLINGS FROM A DESERT GARDEN”
I hope you like it as it more accurately describes what my blog is all about.
 (My feed and links should not be affected because my url address is www.azplantlady.com which is not being changed.)
*Meanwhile, I am waiting patiently for my roses to arrive in the mail this week so I can start planting.

I’m sure most of you know how much fun it can be to garden with your kids.  I remember my dad building each of us a raised planter where we could grow vegetables and flowers.  Today, my kids and I went to the store to buy flowers for their new garden.  You will NEVER guess what they are planting their flowers in…

 
Our first stop was our local nursery.  Each was allowed to pick out two six-packs of flowers.  The kids decided to each pick a different type of flower and then shared them.  My youngest daughter, Gracie, selected geraniums and blue petunias.
 
Ruthie went the fragrant route and selected stock, (beautiful and fragrant despite its ordinary name) and white alyssum.

Dianthus and snapdragons were Kai’s choice.

We finished making our selections and then got ready to go home and start planting.  The only question the kids had was – where were they going to plant their flowers?
 
How about their old kiddie pool?  You know – the ones that cost about $10 that your kids play in during the summer.  However, once summer is over, most people either throw out their pool or store it somewhere out of the way.  
 
Well, now you can use it as a planter for either flowers or shallow-rooted vegetables or herbs.
 
The process is easy, and your kids will have fun assisting you.
 
First, move the pool where you want the garden to be as it will be too heavy once you fill it with soil.  Then make multiple holes on the bottom for drainage.  Then fill with a mixture of potting mix.  Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer and now begin planting!
 
Gracie planted her first plant, a peach-colored geranium.
 

 

My teenage daughter, Rachele, was overseeing our progress while texting on her phone.
 
We finished!  The kids are so excited to see their flowers grow.  The garden will be a riot of different colors and has no sense of design, which is as it should be for a children’s flower garden.
 
This will be our ‘before’ picture.  We planted alyssum, dianthus, geraniums, petunias, snapdragons, and stock.
 
If you would like to try this at home and want the garden to become a more permanent part of the landscape, you can add a brick border or plant shrubs and perennials around the outside of the pool.