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Anna’s hummingbird with yellow pollen on its head

Hummingbirds and gardens go hand in hand. We plant perennials and shrubs with colorful, flowers hoping to attract these feathered jewels where we can observe their antics closely.  

Ruby Throated Hummingbird – Photo by Bud Hensley

Residents of the southwestern U.S. are fortunate to have several hummingbird species in our area including Anna’s, Costa’s, and Black-chinned. However, these are but a precious few, as there are over 300 species native throughout the Americas.

The Hummingbird Society is an organization that is dedicated to “help people understand and appreciate hummingbirds”. Every year, they create a hummingbird calendar that helps to raise funds for their mission. Each calendar is filled with stunning photos from noted bird photographers.

Cuban Bee Hummingbird – Photo by Aslam Ibrahim Castellon Mauré

Each photograph captures the intricate detail of these tiny birds – the little Cuban bee hummer, pictured above is only 1.6 inches long.

Giant Hummingbird – Photo by Yelena Pegova

The simple act of a hummingbird sipping nectar makes most of us stop what we are doing just to watch these tiny birds. In fact, I enjoy them so much, that I created a container garden to attract more of them into my backyard.

Rare Albino Anna’s Hummingbird Photo by Sally Kimmel

The folks at the Hummingbird Society have offered to allow me to host a giveaway where three people have the opportunity to win a free copy of this excellent calendar.

 

**GIVEAWAY OVER – The WINNERS are: Laura V., Jacki, and Glenda. Congratulations! I’ll be emailing you to get your mailing addresses.

If you didn’t win, you can order your own copy here – they make great gift ideas!

 

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Disclosure: 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.

Do you have a container, or two, filled with flowers or maybe a succulent? Chances are you do. Many of us settle for the bland shades of brown or beige when choosing pots and miss out on an excellent opportunity to add interest and color to our outdoor spaces.

I am a strong proponent ditching boring neutrals in favor of colorful pots with unique shapes and textures in my ongoing attempt to encourage people to think of plant containers as outdoor decor. As a result, I was thrilled with I was contacted by Annette Gutierrez, one of the authors of Potted: Make Your Own Stylish Garden Containers and asked to review her book.

Innertube from an old tire converted into a planter at the Tucson Botanical Garden.

Within the pages of Potted, Annette and her co-author, Mary Gray, inspire as they show the reader how to create unique and unusual containers that create instant interest.

During my garden travels, I seek everyday items that are reimagined and converted into unorthodox planters such as a recycled tire innertube. 

Annette and Mary refer to themselves as decorators rather than gardeners and own a store in Los Angeles, aptly named Potted where they create innovative receptacles for plants using everyday items such as cinderblock, PVC pipe, and even old wood doors to name but a few. 

If you have ever shopped for colorful or unique containers, you’ve undoubtedly experienced sticker shock at the high prices and settled for a boring, but sturdy terra-cotta pot. Over twenty container ideas await the reader, each of which, meet the following criteria:

  • It must be affordable
  • Materials must be easy to find
  • A good DIY project for the average person

I must admit that after finishing the book, I was looking at ordinary items like paint cans and plastic garbage pails in a different light – decorated and filled with plants.

**UPDATE: The giveaway is over, but you can always order your own copy of Potted.

Disclosure: I received a copy of ‘Potted’ free of charge for my honest review.

If you have a messy landscape and like giveaways, then I’ve got the perfect opportunity for you.

I am hosting a giveaway for a Troy-Bilt CORE leaf blower, which is one of my top tools that I use in the garden. What I like most about it is that it runs via a rechargeable battery – no cords or fuel needed.

To show you all that it does, please check out my video, above. For a chance to win, you need to ENTER by 9:00 PST today on Troy-Bilt’s Facebook page where I’m answering questions about growing herbs. Come visit and leave a comment to enter!

Disclosure: As a Troy-Bilt ambassador, this review was sponsored and a blower was provided to me at no cost. However, my opinions are always my own.

Do you garden in winter?


For most of us, the answer is decidely “no”.  That is also true for many of us who live in warmer climates as the shorter days often slow down plant growth.


However, for those of us who are rose lovers, winter is a time of rejoicing as nursery shelves begin to be filled with bare root roses.

Even when I’m not shopping for new roses for the garden, I still find myself being pulled toward the new roses, seeking out my old favorites and checking for the newest varieties.

Showing my sister the rose bush at our first home in Phoenix.  (I am wearing the sweater.)
For those of you who have followed me for some time, you may recall that my love for roses got me into gardening a long time ago when high-waisted pants and permed hair were ‘cool’.  It was my love affair with roses that inspired me to get my degree in horticulture.  
My backyard garden space is always changing.  I used to have three vegetable gardens, but am now downsizing to two.  The main reason for the change is that the third vegetable garden was somewhat further out and with my busy schedule, it wasn’t always easy to harvest and keep a close eye on it.  


So, the former vegetable garden will now serve as my new mini-rose garden.  It has enriched soil and its own irrigation line.  What is even better, is that it is located outside the kitchen window where I can view my roses daily.


Now for the wonderful dilemma of deciding what types of roses to plant.  Back in our first home in Phoenix, I planted 40 different roses, which I lovingly cared for.

But, my life now is busier and somewhat more complicated:
– I have 5 children now vs. 2 back then.
– I work full time helping others with their landscapes, which leaves precious time for my own.
– My landscape now is much larger than in my first home.
– My second oldest daughter is living with us along with her 11 month old son temporarily.

So, I tend to gravitate toward roses that are lower maintenance needing pruning and fertilizing only twice a year.


The first rose for the garden will be Graham Thomas, which is an English or David Austin rose, courtesy of the rose growers at Heirloom Roses, which is where I have gotten my roses from for years.  They have a delicious fragrance and bright yellow blossoms.  They are disease resistant and relatively fuss-free.


There will be at least 2 more roses going into the garden.  One is the newest English rose introduction from David Austin roses, which is being given to me courtesy of them.  

The next rose will probably be a hybrid tea or floribunda.  I’d love to hear what are your favorite roses!

I will share both choices with you once I get them.

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In the meantime, even though it is winter, spring will be here before you know it.  How better to prepare than with a lovely gardening tote filled with goodies?  


The folks at Mantis Garden Tools have put together a fabulous array of items in this garden tote with a whimisical bird theme, which includes:
·         3 mini garden tools.

·         “Gardening Answers” book

·         Canvas Gardening gloves

·         Wood and Sisal Nailbrush

·         hand and body scrub

·         garden vegetable cheese cup

·         Venus seed celebration organic crackers

·         European chocolate truffles, cookies, snacks

1. To enter, simply leave me a comment about what you plan to do in the garden this spring.  
(Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)

2. For a bonus entry, like me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter – (be sure to let me know in your comment).

Let your friends know about this great giveaway and I will pick a random winner on December 28th. 

After a long, hot and wet summer, I am so thankful that fall has finally arrived in the desert Southwest.

 
For many people, autumn brings to mind brightly colored foliage that later falls to the ground and has to be raked, or if you are lucky – cleaned up using your leaf blower.
 
In partnership with the folks at Troy-Bilt and a member of the Saturday 6, I am fortunate in being able to test a variety of their products in my own garden and share with you my honest opinion.
 
Recently, I was was very excited to test one of their newest garden tools – the TB2MB JET Gas Leaf Blower.
 
Now, I must admit that autumn leaves do not make an appearance in my garden for the simple reason that I have no deciduous trees.  However, I do get a lot of use out of my regular leaf blower, which I use throughout the year for the following tasks:
 
– Cleaning up fallen leaves after I have finished pruning my shrubs.
 
– Getting rid of dirt and small rocks that are lodged in the small cracks in my patio and driveway.
 
– Moving leaf debris toward the base of shrubs and trees where it can serve as mulch.

Adding leaves to my compost bin.

– Gathering up excess leaf litter and putting it in my compost pile.

 
– Cleaning up after monsoon storms when my neighbor’s leaves blow into my garden 😉
 
As a horticulturist (and homeowner), I have used my share of different leaf blowers, so I was excited to see how Troy-Bilt’s newest hand-held, leaf blower did in my own garden.
 
 
After taking it out of the box, all of the pieces fit together and after looking at it, I thought that this was probably the ‘coolest’ looking leaf blower I’d ever seen with its aerodynamic lines.
 
But, looks are one thing – I took it out into the garden to see how well it worked.
 
 
I first used the blower to direct the leaf debris toward the base of my new orange tree, where they will serve as mulch and improve the soil as the leaves break down.  
 
Then, I moved to my driveway and patio to clean out the dirty seams and small rocks.
 
 
On a different day, I used it to clean the rock in my garden and direct the leaves toward the base of my flowering shrubs, which will appreciate the mulch.
 
 
Here are my observations after using Troy-Bilt’s Jet Gas Leaf Blower:
 
– It was not too heavy to hold.
 
– Using the pull-start was easy, but the blower can also be started using Troy-Bilt’s Jump Start Engine Starter tool.
 
– The air flow was more focused than other blowers that I have used, making it easier to direct the leaves.  It moved most of the small rocks in the seams in the driveway and cleaned out much of the dirt.
 
– The handle was comfortable and I really liked the cruise control option, which locked in the air speed.
 
– It cleaned the debris from my gravel without moving too much of my gravel with it.
 
– My husband, (who I must admit uses a leaf blower more often than I do), wanted me to mention that he likes that the intake of the Jet Gas Leaf Blower is not on the bottom.  Some leaf blowers do have the intake on the bottom, which can inadvertently suck up small pieces of gravel.
 
 
I must admit that I like using leaf blowers and I was having so much fun with Troy-Bilt’s newest leaf blower, that I actually enjoyed cleaning my garden.
 
If you want to learn more about Troy-Bilt’s most powerful handheld leaf blower, they created a video, which shows how it works.
 
**So, would you like to have one of these in your own garage or garden shed?  The folks at Troy-Bilt are giving one away to one of you!
 
To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment.
 For an extra entry, follow me on Facebook Twitter and/or Google+ and be sure to let me know when you leave a comment.
(Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)
 
I will pick a random entry on Monday, October 27th.
 
Good Luck!
*Disclosure: I was provided the leaf blower free of charge for my honest review.

I am sharing with you a few of my favorite close-up flower photographs this week.


Here is one that brightens up my garden summer and into early fall…


Sunflower
It is hard to find a flower that grows so large and that is easy to grow.


I plant mine from seed each spring and then plant a second crop in mid-summer.

Did you know that you can make a bird feeder and shade tomatoes using sunflowers?

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Now for the winner of the book, Hellstrip Gardening…

And the randomly picked winner is….


Liza who blogs at “Good to Grow
Congratulations!


Thanks to all of you who entered.  I highly recommend getting a copy for yourselves and transforming your garden.

*Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book in return for my honest review.you have a narrow strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb? 

Do you have a narrow strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb? Many people do.

 
Have you ever looked at this area as an extension of your garden?  Oftentimes people ignore this strip of land that is often planted with a struggling lawn, overgrown tree or nothing at all.
 
 
What if people could see this often ignored area as an opportunity to increase curb appeal by adding attractive plants.  
 
Landscaping this area would also help your property to look larger.
 
 
This curbside bed was planted with a combination of edible and ornamental plants, which I think looked just lovely with the contrasting shapes and shades.
 
It was an unexpected sight in an area where there would usually be a patch of grass growing instead.
 
This is just one example of what you could plant in the area between the sidewalk and curb – referred to as a “hellstrip” by Evelyn Hadden, the author of “Hellstrip Gardening”.
 
 
As a child, I remember the beautiful roses we had growing in our hellstrip in front of our California home.  My dad was so proud of his roses and we would often cut off the perfect bloom to give to our teacher. 
 
I have been wanting to get my hands of Evelyn’s new book for a while now and was so excited to get the opportunity to review it.
 
The book is filled with beautiful illustrations and great ideas for creating beauty through plants in this strip of land that many of us have.
 
From edible gardens, perennial beds, pollination & hummingbird gardens – the possibilities are endless.  Suggestions for ground covers, trees as well as simply stunning creations using only 2 different types of plants make me wish that I had a hellstrip in front of my house.
 
In addition to examples of existing hellstrip gardens, the author also talks about certain challenges to growing plants in this area that is so close to the curb including utilities, easements, HOA’s, de-icing salts and more.
 
“Hellstrip Gardening” doesn’t restrict itself to the narrow strips of land between the sidewalk and curb, it also inspires the reader with ideas of landscaping similar areas around our homes and businesses.
 
Even if you do not have a hellstrip, you will get a lot out of reading this book.  I plan on using some of the ideas when I redesign our back garden this winter.
 
 
Timber Press, is hosting a Hellstrip Contest where you can win a $250 nursery gift card and a copy of the book.
 
Click here to enter for your chance to win.  
The contest closes July 6th.
 
**It gets even better!  The publishers from Timber Press will give away a copy of “Hellstrip Gardening” to one of my readers.
 
All you need to do is leave a comment – that’s it!
I’ll reveal the winner on July 10th.
 
Good Luck!


*I was provided a copy of this book free of charge for my honest review.
Thanks to all of you who entered the giveaway, courtesy of the folks of Troy-Bilt, who I have partnered with. 
 
 
There were quite a few entries and a random winner was selected…
 
In her comment, the winner stated, “Would be awesome to win. I have half-acre and my parents have 2.5 acres. I do all yard work on both plus an elderly aunt. Looks like would cut my work down tremendously”.
 
Congratulations!  
 
For those of you who did not win, there is a chance to win another great Troy-Bilt product.  My fellow Saturday6 member, David, is hosting a giveaway for a wood chipper.  
 
In addition to entering the contest on his blog, Growing the Home Garden, I encourage you to take time to visit – he writes great stuff about gardening!
 
Thanks again for entering!  If you did not win, I encourage you to check out the selection of leaf blowers that Troy-Bilt offers.

Do you have plants in your garden? 


I am assuming the answer is “yes” if you are reading a gardening blog.  If you have trees, shrubs and ground covers in your landscape, then you have to deal with cleaning up fallen leaves.

 
It used to be that the tool of choice for cleaning up dead leaves was a trusty leaf rake.  As a child, I remember scattering the piles of leaves that my father had spent hours carefully raking up, much to his dismay.

 

 
Well that was then.  Now, we have helpful equipment such as leaf blowers that make cleaning up leaves much easier.


As a member of Troy-Bilt’s Saturday 6, I have partnered with the folks at Troy-Bilt on their new campaign and have been able to try out quite a few of their products.   


 
Early last year, I had the opportunity to test one of Troy-Bilt’s handheld leaf blowers.  I was impressed at how easily it started and its relatively light weight, which made it easy to use.
 
For my own landscape, Troy-Bilt sent me a 4-cycle TB4BP backpack blower to try out.
 
 
The blower came with easy to follow directions, which made assembly easy.  Troy-Bilt also has a helpful video that guides new users in step-by-step assembly, including instructions for use and how to maintain the blower.
 
 
The backpack harness is adjustable and made from a nylon mesh, which help keeps the wearer cool.
 
 
I must confess that I do not like pull-starts.  As a horticulturist and certified arborist, I have had to operate my share of equipment and it can be challenging for a woman to use equipment that has a pull-start.
 
One of the things that I have been most impressed with, after operating numerous pieces of Troy-Bilt equipment, is how easy it is to use their pull-starts.  In addition, much of their equipment has the ability to be started with JumpStart.
 
 
This rechargeable starter uses a drill bit, that fits into a portal and starts up equipment without having to use a pull-start.  
 
I did not have to use the JumpStart for my new leaf blower, because the pull start was easy to use.
 
 
The front landscape was filled with fallen flowers, leaves and seed pods, so I got to work.
 
My palo verde tree had finished flowering and the fallen flowers had dried and faded, so I used my leaf blower to help clean them up.
 
 
I then moved onto using the blower to collect a few fallen seedpods from my cascalote tree into a pile.
 
On the inner handle of the blower is a cruise control lever, which allows you to set the speed of the air blowing out.
 
 
The next task for my new blower was cleaning up the fallen leaves from my large sissoo tree. 
 
 
I got a little carried away with the power of the leaf blower – it can blow up to 150 mph, which is helpful for large piles.  My piles weren’t too big, so I used the cruise control lever on the handle to lock in the desired speed.
 
 
I blew the leaves into a corner, which made it easy to trap the leaves.
 
 
Did I mention that Troy-Bilt sells vacuums that can suck up leaves?  I may need to get one 😉
 
 
Did you know that leaves can make a great mulch for plants?  In nature, leaves fall and decay, enriching the soil. I took some of the leaves and used them around my newly-planted feathery cassia shrubs.
 
 
I took the rest of my newly-blown leaves and put them in my compost pile, where are considered “browns” or carbon-rich material.  The other part of compost is made up of “greens” or nitrogen-rich material.  
 
The leaves will break down and enrich my compost, which I will later use in my edible gardens.
 
 
I took my blower into my largest edible garden where I used it to clean out fallen debris underneath my blackberry bushes.
 
**For areas struggling with drought, a leaf blower can be a great way to clean a sidewalk, driveway or deck instead of using spraying with water.  I love seeing dirt being blown out of the seams in my patio.
 
 
The TB4BP is a 4-cycle Gas Leaf Blower that runs on unleaded gasoline – there is no need to mix gas and oil.  
 
Thoughts and observations:
 
– The leaf blower was surprisingly light and the backpack was comfortable.  After blowing my entire landscape, my back felt fine.
 
– The blower worked great for blowing leaves, but without using the cruise control, the powerful engine can blow piles apart when you are attempting to pull them together.  So, I will always use the cruise control to set the desired speed.
 
– The long, flexible handle was easy to use and decreased the elbow strain that some people can get moving a hand-held leaf blower side to side.
 
– As I mentioned before, this blower is very easy to start.
 
If you have a large garden, then a backpack blower may be just what you need.  However, for those of you who have a smaller landscape, one of Troy-Bilt’s handheld leaf blowers may be just right for you.
 
The great news is that folks at Troy-Bilt are allowing me to give away a brand new leaf blower!
 
The winner of this giveaway can choose the TB4BP Backpack model or the handheld TB4HB Gas Leaf Blower model.
 
All you need to do is leave a comment.  For an extra entry, follow me on Facebook and/or Twitter and be sure to let me know when you leave a comment.
(Be sure to leave your email address if it’s not on your profile, or I won’t have any way to contact you.)
 
I will pick a random entry on Saturday, May 31st.UPDATE: CLICK HERE TO SEE WHO WON!

 
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I am a proud owner of several pieces of Troy-Bilt equipment.  You can read about my experience with Troy-Bilt’s Neighborhood Rider Lawn Mower and my String Trimmer, Cultivator and Chain Saw.
I am paid for my involvement with the Saturday 6 and the equipment, described above, was provided to me at no cost by TroyBilt, who wanted my honest opinion – good or bad.  I can honestly state that I am very impressed by the quality and design of their leaf blowers and other pieces of equipment that I have tested.
 

The past few days have been full of celebration in our family.  Our daughter has returned home from her Navy training AND we have a new addition to our family.


For those of you who have been following along in my adventures, you may remember that my second-oldest daughter, Rachele, joined the Navy last spring.



This was our last family photo taken just before she left in March.

We missed her a lot, but were proud of her decision.  My husband and I, along with our oldest daughter traveled to Chicago back in May to see her graduate and I shared our journey with you back then.



Since then, Rachele has been in Missouri, training to be an equipment operator learning how to drive excavators, bulldozers, scrapers, semi-trucks, etc.  She did very well and love it – I’m not sure where she got her skills (not from me 😉



Last week, she graduated and became a “Seabee”.

Okay, so what is a “Seabee”, you may be wondering.  I know I did when she first told me that was what she would be doing.

Basically, a Seabee is a member of the Navy Construction Battalion.  They build bases, airstrips and roads – sometimes in hostile territories.  Unlike most members of the Navy, they spend little to no time on ships.

Once they graduate, Seabees trade in their traditional navy and blue camouflage uniform for 
“Seabee Greens”.



Last week, Rachele graduated and got the honor of wearing her “Seabee Greens”.

We were so proud and couldn’t wait for her to come home.  She arrived late on Saturday night.  We didn’t tell the kids when she was coming.

They were surprised when their big sister woke them up.

Rachele was happy that her cat remembered her.


The next day after church, we went to her favorite place for lunch.  

That evening, we had all of the family over for dinner.  Our home was filled with aunts, uncles, grandmas, cousins and siblings including my granddaughter…

Lily dressed up for the occasion.

I mentioned that we had an addition to our family.

I’d like for you to meet ‘Penny’…


Penny is the newest member of our furry family.  


She is an 8-week old English Black Labrador Retriever.  

There are two types of labradors – one is from English stock and the other, American.  The English types are shorter, stockier and blockier.

Both are classified as labrador retriever by the AKC.

Needless to say, our days have been filled with frequent trips to the backyard as Penny works on becoming housebroken.  And, our kitchen is filled with chew toys.