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Do you live in a small town?


For those of us who live in cities, or in my case a suburb of a large city, visiting a small town may be as close as we get to experience the delights that they have to offer.

My husband and I recently took a trip to the delightful town of Petoskey, Michigan where our oldest daughter, Brittney moved along with her husband and daughter.


The town of Petoskey is located at the “top of the mitt” as locals like to say.  

I had been fortunate to have visited this picturesque downtown that sits on the shores of Little Traverse Bay, 1 1/2 years ago – long before we had any idea that my daughter and her family would end up there.

This time, my husband came with me and we looked forward to spending time with family as well as exploring Petoskey, which is consistently ranked as one of the “10 Best Downtowns To Visit” in America.


Like many small towns, many residents are within walking distance of the downtown area.  So, on a brisk November’s day, we set off on foot toward the downtown area.



Signs of fall could be seen all around, from the bright red berries of Ilex decidua Possumhaw to…


fallen apples filling the stomachs of squirrels and autumn leaves being raked up by homeowners.



As we walked I could see gardens getting ready for a long winter’s sleep, although some plants were still in flower.


Dried hydrangea flowers decorated many gardens, which added stark beauty.  I would love to use these dried flowers for floral arrangements in my home.
Did I mention that number one on my list of plants that I wish I could grow in my desert garden is hydrangea?


Landscapes were filled with leafless shrubs and trees along with evergreen plants.


I think that large leafless trees have a beauty all their own, don’t you?


What’s a small town without a gazebo in the local park?


Or a general store?

Yes, those are live greens, which they use to decorate with.

The arrival of the Christmas season is a big deal in many small towns and Petoskey is no exception.  

Fall-themed window displays were soon to give way to those filled with Christmas greenery and decorations.



The merchants were also transforming the interior of their stores.


Yes, that is a mannequin dressed in all her Christmas finery.  As you may have guessed this was the local florist and home decor store.


These stainless steel Christmas tree containers outside of this store were also pretty cool.  

Being a horticulturist, it is physically impossible for me to simply pass by any garden-themed store, so I went in.


Christmas trees decorated in different themes were displayed throughout the store.  I suspect that they offer tree decorating services.


While I am not personally a fan of artificial flowers, I really liked how they worked on this tree.  Of course, that could be due to the fact that they were decorated with one of my favorite flowers.


Fairy or miniature gardens are pretty popular in this area as I saw several displays throughout the stores we visited.


If I lived in area that experienced cold, long winters, I might be more likely to grow plants indoors.  
However, I am not very attentive to my indoor plants, so they usually die.  Perhaps, it’s a good thing that I live in a place where I can garden outdoors year round, thereby saving defenseless indoor plants 😉


 A large display of artificial flowers and succulents, perfect for brightening up the indoors through the winter.

Shopping with my daughter and granddaughter – can life get any better?


Next stop was the local bookstore, so of course I had to check out the gardening section.


Not surprisingly, there weren’t books on drought tolerant gardening in this region where water is plentiful.


Our next stop was to visit one of my favorite stores from my previous visit to Petoskey, ‘American Spoon‘ is a local company who sells fruit preserves and condiments from produce grown in Michigan.


I think that this was my husband’s favorite shop that we visited because there were ‘samples’.  I tried several different kinds of preserves and decided on getting my favorite, sour cherry preserves and vanilla bourbon pear conserve.

We also tried roasted pumpkin seed salsa – it was delicious, so I had to buy a jar of that too.


As I mentioned earlier, the Christmas season is celebrated throughout the gaslight district of downtown Petoskey.
What was striking to me was that the towns gaslights and stores were decorated with live evergreen wreaths and garlands – not the artificial ones that are commonplace throughout the desert Southwest.

On the first Friday of December the town hosts an Holiday Open House when streets shut down and Santa arrives to light the town Christmas tree.  Merchants vie to win the Holiday Window Contest and townspeople celebrate the first Friday of the season along with carolers and the local high school’s drum band.


I hope that you enjoyed this glimpse of a small town.  Wherever I travel, I love to explore new places and experience and observe the local traditions, gardening practices, plants, people and of course the food!

Our next visit to this small town will be in June, when the days are long and warmer.  We’ll bring the kids with us next time and explore further out to some of the other surrounding towns and take a trip to Mackinac Island, which is just over an hour away 🙂

**Have you ever lived in a small town?  What did you like about it?**

Do you like to visit California?


I do.  I spent the first 20 years of my life in the Golden State before getting married and moving to Arizona.


Since then, California was a frequent destination for visits with my parents, siblings and their families.  


But, now since my family all has moved to Arizona, visits were infrequent.  


That is, until my daughter was stationed at a Navy Base in CA.  We have just finished up a trip visiting with my daughter and our 3-month old grandson.


It’s times like these, that we live only 7 1/2 hours away.

During our visit, we stopped by one of our favorite little beach towns, Carpinteria, which is located about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

Fuchsia dependens

While there, we stopped by our favorite cupcake store, Crush Cakes, and then took a stroll through Carpinteria Landscape Nursery, which is always filled with a great variety of plants.

Fuchsia dependens

As I walked into the entrance, a bright-red flowering plant caught my eye.  Fuchsia dependens is a great choice for the California climate.

Hydrangea

A group of hydrangea made me lament again that fact that they cannot grow in the desert climate.  But, that doesn’t stop me lusting after them.

Foxglove (Digitalis)
Whenever I see foxglove, I imagine myself standing in an English garden. I’ve even seen them offered for sale at our local big box store in AZ, but they would die soon after planting in the desert climate.


A wire container was filled with purple trailing lantana and coreopsis, which I thought was a great example of cool and warm color contrast.

Whenever I find myself near a plant nursery or nice-looking garden, my family knows that I whatever we are planning on doing, will be delayed for a few minutes while I take time to look around.

Because of that, I try my best to hurry as I did this day.  But, when I had finished, I couldn’t find them.  It turns out that they had found their way to the attached hardware store next to the nursery.

Mt. Lemon Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii)

This shrubby perennial grows great in the Southwest, drought tolerant garden.  Mt. Lemon marigold produces sunny, yellow flowers and looks great, but its foliage does have a strong fragrance when it is touched.  I don’t care for the fragrance, so I would be sure to plant it in the background where the fragrance won’t be an issue.


I wish that I could say that Eric was enjoying all of the plants as much as I was, but he slept through the entire visit.

Verbena lanai series

I’m always on the lookout for new plant colors and varieties.  Here was a verbena, which was labeled ‘Verbena lanai series’.  I liked its unique purple/white flowers.


This particular nursery has a variety of garden art items.  This bunny is the only one you would want to see in your garden.


I loved this flower pot with the drought tolerant kangaroo paw plant growing inside.


News of the severe drought in California is everywhere you go.  People are tearing out their lawns and forgoing flowering annuals in favor of succulents.  Many drought tolerant plants were featured throughout the nursery.  I loved the colorful variety of succulents.


What more is there to say?  I would love to have a ‘head planter’ planted with a kalanchoe.

Our trip was short, but fun-filled.  We will return again this summer to spend more time visiting and exploring.

Do you have a plant that you would love to grow in your garden?  You close your eyes and you can just imagine how beautiful it would look and exactly where you would plant it.


Then, you open your eyes and look out into your garden and sadly, that plant is no where to be seen.  Okay, I don’t mean to get all melancholy on you.  But, is there a plant that you just love, but cannot grow because you live in the wrong climate?  A plant, which despite all the tweaking you try to do to the environment in the garden, your much loved plant will just not grow?



Well, I have a plant that I love that does not grow well in our desert climate.  Sure, you can see it being sold from time to time at the local big box store…..but we all know that just because a plant is sold at one of these stores, does NOT mean that they will survive long once planted.


My much loved plant that I cannot grow is Hydrangea…




These hydrangea were growing in the garden of noted author C.S. Lewis.  We visited his home and garden in Oxford, England in 2003.  

When my parents lived in Southern California, they had a huge hydrangea shrub.  I remember visiting them and seeing it absolutely covered in pink blossoms.  **Hydrangea blooms turn pink in alkaline soils and more bluish in acidic soils.
Now, I am generally not a complainer by nature.  I am amazed at how many different plants that I can grow in our semi-tropical, desert climate; a myriad of fruit trees, pine trees, palms, tulips, daffodils, iris, vegetables, as well as dozens of tropical plants.  And so, I will continue to be happy with the wide variety of what I can grow while I enjoy hydrangeas through pictures.

Now, I am wondering…..are there any plants that you wished you could grow, but cannot due to your climate?  Even if you just love your garden as it is, is there one plant you would include if it would grow where you live?