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Does the idea of attracting hummingbirds to your outdoor space appeal to you?  

It’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t welcome these colorful visitors.

The best way to attract hummingbirds is to have a garden filled with their favorite nectar plants, but what if you don’t have a garden space or any room for additional plants?  

What can you do to attract hummingbirds besides hanging out a hummingbird feeder?

Create your own hummingbird container garden!

Imagine a pot filled with one or more plants that are irresistible to hummingbirds.  A container takes up little room and enables you to attract hummingbirds to your garden whether your outdoor space is an acre or a small apartment balcony.

Hummingbirds always seem to be flitting around my garden and they love to perch up high in my cascalote tree.

I recently set out to create three different hummingbird container gardens in my backyard.

The reason that I decided to do this was that I was asked by the Hummingbird Society to be a speaker at the Sedona Hummingbird Festival this summer.  The topic of my presentation will be teaching people how to create their own hummingbird container garden.  So, I thought that it would be a fun project to create my own.

Many people rely solely on hummingbird feeders to attract hummers because they don’t have enough garden space.  My hope is that I can show them that they can have a mini-hummingbird garden despite their limited space.

I must admit, that I love it when I have to buy plants for a project.  So, I headed out to the Desert Botanical Garden’s spring plant sale.  
I had a wish list of nine plants that I wanted to use and I was thrilled to find them all.
The pots that I decided to use were repurposed.  They used to be located next to my vegetable garden where I would plant a mixture of herbs, vegetables and flowers in them.

The problem was that my 7-month-old puppy, Polly, kept eating the edible plants out of them.  So I decided to use them for non-edible plants in hopes that she would leave them alone.

I had bought the pots 3 years ago – they were on sale at Walmart for $5 each.  I had painted them using spray paint that was suitable for use on plastic.  

For my portable hummingbird garden, I moved the pots to an area that receives filtered shade underneath my ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde tree.  I also gave them a new coat of paint to freshen up the colors.

To add height and definition, I raised the orange pot by placing it on some leftover step stones.
Each container was to have 3 different plants.  I had some fun deciding on the combinations for each pot.

For the orange container, I decided to plant a succulent mini lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus), Mexican fire (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) and Waverly sage (Salvia ‘Waverly’).

I confess that I have never grown any of these plants in this container before, which makes this project even more fun.  

While I have grown the regular-sized lady’s slipper I didn’t know there was a mini variety until I saw it at the sale and I knew that I just had to have it – it would be a perfect size for a container.  (One thing that I love about the Desert Botanical Garden’s plant sales is that you can often find unusual or rare types of plants).


Mexican fire will bloom spring through fall, producing red flowers.  I don’t have any experience growing this shrub at all, so this project will be a learning experience. 

The salvia, ‘Waverley’ sage, has white and lavender flowers, which are beautiful.  Like most salvias, it will do best in filtered shade in the desert.
Polly is checking out what we were doing.
My son, Kai, was excited to help out with the project.  He decided that the orange pot would be his so he wanted to add the plants himself.
Next up was my purple pot.  In it went Blue Bells (Eremophila hygrophana), Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and red autumn sage (Salvia greggii).

Blue Bells is a relatively new plant on the scene and this Australian native flowers all year long and has evergreen foliage.  I have used it a lot in recent designs but this is the first one in my own garden.

Autumn sage has always been a favorite of mine – especially in areas with filtered shade where their red flowers will decorate the landscape fall through spring.

Mexican honeysuckle had been my go-to choice for shady areas where its bright green leaves and orange flowers look great all year.  After 17 years as a horticulturist, there is finally one in my landscape.
The blue pot contains a newer plant variety, an unknown and an old favorite. 

Sierra Star (Calliandra ‘Sierra Star’), garnet sage (Salvia chiapensis) and purple trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis) made up the last trio.

Sierra Star is a hybrid with two famous parents – pink fairy duster (Calliandra eriophylla) and Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica).  It blooms throughout the year, producing reddish-pink flowers.  I have used in several new designs and am so excited to have it in my garden.

Garnet sage is another salvia that I am looking forward to learning more about.  It has lovely magenta flowers and attractive foliage.  

Some people may be surprised to learn that purple trailing lantana attracts hummingbirds, but you’ll find it on most hummingbird plant lists and I’ve seen them feed from lantana before.  

As with all container plantings, I used a high-quality planting mix.

As I stepped back to admire my work,
Unfortunately, someone else decided to come and admire my hard work too.
I admit that I haven’t had much trouble with dogs eating my plants until Polly and her sister Penny came along.
My hope is that after she gets used to them, the newness will wear off and she will learn to ignore them.

Until then, we put up a temporary barrier.

Thankfully, the barrier won’t keep the hummingbirds away.  In my experience, it takes a few days for them to notice new plants (and hummingbird feeders).

I’ll keep you updated as to how my hummingbird container does and will take photos along the way that I can use in my upcoming presentation.

Do you have a lemon or other type of citrus tree growing in your backyard?

Chances are, if you live in California, the Southwest or Southeastern United States, you do or your neighbor does.

While many people throughout the rest of the nation are waiting for snow to disappear, we get to enjoy the sight of colorful citrus fruit hanging from our trees, just ready to be picked and enjoyed.

During this time of year, neighbors give bags of excess fruit to neighbors or local food banks.

I have a young lemon tree, that isn’t old enough to produce fruit for me, but that hasn’t stopped me from having lemons to use.


Between my mother’s prolific lemon tree on the family farm to those from my vet (who happens to be our neighbor), I have plenty to use.

I’ve used lemons in a variety of ways from freezing the zest, the juice, making citrus cleaner, natural air fresheners and was looking for another way to use them.

I recently learned about lemon salt and how great it tastes on my favorite dishes – chicken, fish, homemade salad dressings, salsa and much more – basically anything that you want to add a hint of citrus and salt too.

Making lemon salt is very easy to do and can be done using grapefruit, limes or oranges instead.

Citrus salts make a great homemade gift and are also a great way to preserve the taste of your favorite citrus when they are no longer in season.  

Whether you grow your own lemons or buy them from the store, lemon salt is easy to make.


1. You’ll need 3 lemons and 1 cup of kosher salt.

2. Zest 3 lemons.


 3. Add together 1 cup kosher salt, the lemon zest and the juice from 1 lemon.

(Of course, you can make a lot more, like I did – I had a lot of lemons and wanted to make some as gifts.)


4. Mix together the lemon juice, salt and zest.



5. Pour the lemon salt mixture into a shallow baking dish or cookie sheet.

6. Place in a 200 degree F. oven for a half hour.  Then lightly mix it up and bake for another 20 minutes.
(If it hasn’t dried all the way, cover it with a clean dish towel and let sit overnight.)


7. Use your fingers to break up any large clumps or you can put it in your food processor and pulse it 2 – 3 times.


That’s it!  I told you it was easy.  You can use it right away or store it in a sealed jar to keep it for longer.

Lemon or salts made from other citrus fruit last a long time – at least a year if put in a sealed container.

If you love lemon pepper, you can simply add pepper to the mixture for a delicious addition to your steak!


I’ve been enjoying making flavored salts for cooking with.  Last year, I made basil and herb salts, which were delicious too!

I love living in the desert Southwest.


I really do, except in August.  That’s when I start to tire of the long, hot summer and yearn for fall.  By September, the days begin to shorten and the weather begins to cool and I plant my cool-season vegetable garden.


One of the things that I love most about gardening in the desert Southwest is that you can grow fruit and vegetables all year long – even in the midst of winter when most of the country can only dream of growing things outdoors.

 Where else can you look outside and see delicious vegetables coming up and picking them fresh for your table in January?


Oh, and how about the citrus fruit that not only provides us with sweet, tart fruit – but also adds bright color to our desert gardens?

Over the next few days, I thought that I’d share with you what I have harvested from my winter garden in hopes that you will be inspired to grow your own desert Southwest winter garden.

Even if you don’t live in a mild winter area, growing vegetables is not all that different in other regions, except for the calendar.  So, you can always pick up some helpful tips from vegetable gardeners who live in other places.

Tomorrow, I’ll share my first-ever success in growing a vegetable that has given me problems in the past.

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Baby Watch Update:

Our second-oldest daughter, Rachele, is expecting her first child soon!  She is in the Navy and currently stationed in California – about 7 hours away from us.

She is being monitored closely because of the baby’s low birth weight and now the latest ultrasound shows a lower level of amniotic fluid.

Rachele has been seeing having weekly ultrasounds, stress tests and seeing the doctor.  On her last visit, she was told that they may have to induce her maybe a week early.

So, what does that mean for me and my husband? Well, I had to reschedule a speaking engagement on “Updating Your Landscape”.

Our plan is to hit the road as soon as we get the call from her that she is being induced and/or in labor. Hopefully, we will get there before the baby does!

Meanwhile, I’m off to pack my bags!

Most of us are familiar with teak wood and its beauty.  Often, you can find it in a garden setting being in the form of benches, which weather the sun and rain with no problem.


Teak wood is extremely durable and unlike many types of wood, can handle water with no problem. 


A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by Teak Closeouts if I would try out some of their teak bowls, which would be suitable as planters.


I am always on the lookout for unique and unusual items for the garden that can be both functional and beautiful, so of course, I said said yes!  


One of the reasons I was excited to try out the teak bowl planters was that over the summer is that I saw a rustic wooden planter on a visit to the Green Bay Botanical Gardens.


I loved it’s rustic look and how the annual flowers fit into the interior of this piece of tree trunk.

So, when the FedEx deliveryman dropped of a large box, I couldn’t wait to open it.

Inside were several pieces, but it was the two teak bowls that got my attention right away.


The first bowl, was a piece of art.  Its sides were very smooth, which showed off the beauty of the teak wood.

You may notice the hole at the bottom, which is essential for a planter.

The next teak bowl that I unwrapped was a bit more rustic in nature, much like the tree trunk planter I had seen over the summer.


I always like pieces of wood that allows you to see the grain, which you could see on different parts of the bowl.



This bowl also had holes for drainage and I couldn’t wait to plant them both.


To keep the potting mix from falling out the holes, I put a coffee filter over them, which is a cheap and effective way to keep the dirt in and allow the water to drain.

I planted my favorite cool season annuals – violas.


I added a variety of colors in this large teak bowl and a touch of white alyssum for fragrance.

For my rustic teak bowl, I decided to add ‘Johnny Jump-Ups’, which were the first flowers I planted as a child.  I have always loved their sunny faces.

As you might expect, the amount of soil is rather shallow, but it is enough to grow cool-season annuals.  However, there wouldn’t be enough soil to grow warm season flowers through the summer – the soil would get too hot.


You could however, plant small succulents in them and keep them in light shade – maybe located on a patio?


Although I used this teak bowl as a planter, however it is so beautiful, you could certainly use it to grace a patio or large dining room table.

I often have clients, like those above, who want decorative, yet functional items for their patio.  Either of these teak bowls would work beautifully in this type of setting.

When exposed to the sun, teak will fade to a light gray color, which will provide great color contrast for plants.
As you can imagine, no two bowls are the same – each one retains the unique character from the part of the teak wood it was carved from, which lends to the uniqueness of these bowls.


In addition to the bowls, I also received a lovely teak vase – wouldn’t that look beautiful filled with flowers or perhaps a dried arrangement?

Teak Closeouts has a large variety of teak items including outdoor furniture and garden art at closeout prices.  I encourage you to visit their online store where you will find great gift ideas for the gardener in your life or for yourself!

*I was provided these items from Teak Closeouts free of charge to review, but my opinions are my own 🙂


 

*This blog post contains affiliate link for a product that helps get rid of caterpillars. 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.*

Fall is a busy time for me in the garden.  However, you will usually find me in other people’s gardens helping them achieve their goal of a beautiful, low-maintenance garden. I did manage to get my cool-season vegetable gardens planted.  I planted my favorites, which include carrots, cauliflower, garlic, a variety of leaf lettuces and radishes.

 
 
I included broccoli in my list of vegetables this year, despite the fact that I have yet to grow a healthy head of broccoli (the broccoli in the photo above is from my mother’s garden).
 
Every year, I grow beautiful cauliflower while my broccoli decides to produce very few flowering stalks.  At the end of the season when I look at my less than stellar broccoli harvest – I promise myself that I won’t try again.
 
But, after 6 months pass, I am always tempted to try again hoping that this year will be different.
 
With the exception of carrots and radishes, I planted all of my other vegetables from transplants.  Normally, I almost always use seed, (with the exception of broccoli and cauliflower, which do better when grown from transplants) but I knew that I wouldn’t have time to come out and thin excess plants later.
 
 
This smaller vegetable garden is closer to my kitchen and so I put in vegetables that I would harvest more frequently throughout the season in this area.  Leafy greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach and kale all went in here.
 
The larger garden is a bit further away and so it was planted with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, garlic and radishes, which are harvested once.
 
My artichoke plant from next year died back to the ground in the summer, (which is normal by the way) and is now growing again.



In addition to my artichoke, my bell pepper plant is also a holdover from last year’s garden.  Actually, it is 2 years old.  Although pepper plants can die from freezing temperatures, I protect mine when the temps dip below freezing, so they are qutie large and produce a lot of peppers much to the delight of my husband and children who like to eat the bell peppers raw.



I also dice them and freeze them for using in my favorite Mexican rice recipe.

I’ve already had to spray my leafy greens with BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) to deal with the caterpillars that had started to eat holes in the leaves.  It worked great, but I will need to reapply every once in a while. I use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz.
 
 
Nasturtiums are coming up again from seed in the gardens.  I just let them go to seed each year and they always come back.  I use nasturtiums in my vegetable gardens because they repel bad bugs.  Besides, they look pretty, don’t you think?
 
 
Nasturtiums aren’t the only flowers in my vegetable gardens – marigolds are also great at keeping damaging insects at bay.  This year, I planted a marigold at the end of each row of vegetables.
 
I love how their orange flowers brighten up the garden in the middle of winter.
 
Marigolds and nasturtiums are just a few of the flowers who actually help vegetables.  For more information on other plants to include in your vegetable garden you can visit my previous post, “Even Vegetables Need Friends”.
 
 
I am having a problem in one of my vegetable gardens that began this past summer – spurge!  I have come to truly hate this creeping weed and it has decided to move from the nearby landscape areas into my vegetable garden.
 
It got pretty bad last summer and we ripped it all out.  To help combat it, we added 4 inches of compost/manure, which did help to smother some of the weeds.  But, some are still coming up.  So, I go out every week and spray them with my homemade weed killer, taking care not to spray my vegetables by accident.
 
You may see homemade weed killers that list salt as one of the ingredients.  DON’T add salt to weed killers – especially if you live in the desert Southwest.  Our soil and water already has a lot of salts in them and adding more is not good for your plants – in fact, too much salt can kill them.
 
Homemade weed killer made from vinegar and soap works just fine on most weeds, except for the really tough ones.
 
Have you planted a vegetable garden this year?  What are you growing?
 
 

Did you enjoy your Halloween?  While you may be spending your morning cleaning up small candy wrappers and trying to get your kids out of bed after they crashed after their sugar high – I’d like to ask you a question:


“What are you going to do with your pumpkin?”

Before tossing it in the trash can (or compost pile) – how about getting a little more use out of it and create a pumpkin bird feeder?


Last year, I took my heirloom pumpkin and transformed it into a bird feeder.

Needless to say, the birds were thrilled and my kids and I had fun seeing how many different birds visited our pumpkin feeder.

**You can make your own pumpkin feeder and I recently wrote “how to” post for Birds & Blooms Magazine.  You can find my blog post, “Backyard Project: DIY Pumpkin Bird Feeder”.

So how about you? What do you do with your pumpkins after Halloween?
Are you anxious for fall to arrive?

I certainly am!  

Fall is my favorite season because of the holidays, cooler weather and best of all – the it is the best time of year to add new plants to the landscape.

Now you may have thought that spring was the best time of year to start planting and while you certainly can plant then, I’ll tell you why fall is better…

Planting in fall allows enough time for plants to grow a good root system before the heat of the next summer arrives.

Think about it – plants must have a good root system so that they can soak up enough water to handle the stress from intense heat and the dry conditions of summer.  

If a plant is planted just before or during the summer months, they are focusing on just hanging on until temperatures cool off.  In many cases, they don’t make it.


The only exception to fall planting is with frost tender plants such as bougainvillea, lantana and yellow bells.  

Because young plants are particularly susceptible to frost damage, or even death, it is best to wait until the danger of frost has passed to add these plants to your landscape.


Over the next couple of posts, I’ll share with you some other helpful tips to help you with selecting plants, how to tell if they are healthy, the best way to dig a hole and finally – I’ll reveal my favorite plant nursery!

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On a personal note, I am going to be a grandma again 🙂

My second-oldest daughter, Rachele, is having her first baby and my husband and I are flying to California to be there when she gets her ultrasound and finds out if she is having a boy or girl!

I can hardly wait….

Do you have vines in your garden? 


What type of trellis do you use for them?  Is it your basic (somewhat boring) wooden trellis?


What if you could make your own trellis that not only looks better but costs next to nothing?


*I have been sharing some of my favorite garden blog posts that I have written recently for Birds & Blooms magazine where I serve as the garden blogger – including this one about how to make your own ‘natural’ trellis.



I have seen quite a few trellises made from branches, but I thought this one that I saw while visiting the Green Bay Botanical Gardens in Wisconsin, was especially nice because you could see how it was made because the vine had not yet grown up on it.

With all of the stormy weather, I’m sure you have your share of branches that have blown down from your tree that you can use.  I shared how to create your own trellis using branches in a recent post for Birds & Blooms…


You’ll not only save money by making your own, but I think that it looks nicer and is a more sustainable option.

Is your garden looking a bit lackluster and in need of more color than green?  While colorful flowering plants can help, it is hard to find a plant that will flower all year long.  


*Some of you may know that I am the garden blogger for Birds & Blooms magazine.  I have been going through some recent blog posts that I have written for them and thought that I would share some of my favorites with you.


As part of a two-part series, I shared some creative ways to add color to the landscape without relying on plants alone.  This is especially helpful during the winter months when not many plants are in flower.

Most of the photographs in these posts were taken during a recent trip to Southeastern Arizona including Bisbee, Tombstone and Tucson.



I hope that you are inspired to use a few of these colorful ideas in your own landscape!

I am always on the lookout for new things to make from the garden.


Recently I learned how to make specially flavored salts using herbs from my garden.  ‘Herb salts’ have become a popular flavoring tool in the culinary community and they are very easy to make.


The process of making herb salts starts out looking like this…



And ends up transformed into this…

Are you interested in making your own herb salts? 

Summertime means that many of my herbs are actively growing and I sometimes run of ways to use all of the fragrant leaves of them.

Herb or ‘gourmet’ salts are a great way to preserve herbs while adding a new twist to flavoring my favorite foods.

Basil Salt

In my last post, I shared how to make basil salt using two ingredients – fresh basil leaves and kosher salt.

Today, I’d love to show you how to make your own unique herb salt blend.


For my herb salt blend, I went out into the garden and looked for a variety of herbs that I love to cook with.  I found rosemary, sage and thyme. I then grabbed a head of garlic and kosher salt.
I must admit that I was thrilled that I had all these herbs growing in my garden.  I grew the garlic too! 

For equipment, you should have a cutting board, a sharp knife for chopping, a baking sheet and a glass jar with a lid.  
You can make this recipe using a food processor, but it is optional.


1. You will need 2/3 cup rosemary, 2/3 cup sage and 2/3 cup thyme leaves.  These are the amounts I used to get the flavor I liked, but you can play around with the ratio of each herb or choose different herbs to get the flavor you want.  


2. Place 1/2 cup kosher salt on your cutting board and add 5 peeled garlic cloves and chop them together.  The garlic should be finely minced at this point.


3. Chop all of the herbs together.

4. Combine the salt/garlic and the herbs together and continue chopping until finely chopped.

**You can use a food processor for steps 3 & 4 instead of chopping.  Simply put all ingredients in at once and pulse for 30 seconds. 


At this point you can use your herb salt to flavor a roast of beef, chicken or pork before cooking or to flavor roasted vegetables.  But, if you aren’t using the herb salt right away, continue on…


5. Put your herb salt mixture onto a baking sheet in a thin layer and bake in a 200 degree oven for 30 minutes.  This step dries out the herb mixture.  You can also allow it to air dry over a couple of days instead of putting it into the oven.


6. Place your dried mixture into a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds to get rid of any lumps.
If you don’t have a food processor, you can put the dried mixture into a Ziploc bag and roll it with a rolling pin until it is finely ground up.


7. Put your herb salt into a glass jar with a tightly-fitted lid.  Store in a dark, dry place with your spices and dried herbs to preserve its flavor.

I will use my herb salt blend to flavor a pork loin, baked chicken or even a beef roast.  It would also taste great when sprinkled on roasted vegetables or put into soups, don’t you think? 


As you can imagine there are a number of different types of herb salts that you can make.  Here are a few different combinations that you might want to try:


Rosemary Sage Garlic Salt

All of these herb salt blends can be made following the same steps as I have done for my herb salt blend – except where noted.


Rosemary Lemon Pepper Salt – 1/3 cup rosemary leaves, 2 tablespoons lemon zest, 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 cup kosher salt.
*(Increase cooking time to 1 hour)


Rosemary Sage and Garlic Salt – 1/2 cup of rosemary leaves, 1/2 cup sage, 5 peeled garlic cloves and 1/4 cup kosher salt.


Sage Thyme and Garlic Salt – 1/2 cup sage, 1/2 cup thyme, 5 peeled garlic cloves and 1/4 cup kosher salt.


If your garden is filled with herbs, this is a creative way to use them in the kitchen or give them as gifts.  Even if you don’t have a garden filled with herbs, you can find fresh herbs at your local grocery store or farmers market.


So, how about you? What would herb(s) would your ideal herb salt contain?