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Whenever I look back on my garden travels, I find that my favorites tend to be the smaller ones with more of a personal feel.  Ones that I can take my time walking through without feeling like I have to hurry in order to see the entire garden.


Recently, I visited a small garden run by Washington State University that is located in Mount Vernon, WA.  The WSU Discovery Garden was designed by master gardeners and divided up into multiple smaller-themed gardens filled with creative elements.


Last week, I shared with you about some of the themed gardens, including the Four Seasons, Herb, Naturescape, Shade as well as the composting area along with its ‘Yuck Bin’. 

While these gardens were fun to explore, I’ve saved the best for last!




I am a strong proponent of teaching children the joys of gardening, so I was especially excited to explore the Children’s Garden.



The gateway to the garden started down a ‘yellow brick road’ through an archway with weeping mulberry growing on it, creating the impression of entering through a green tunnel into a land of make-believe.




The curving pathway that ran down the center of the garden, included the game of ‘hopscotch’.  I confess that I had an overwhelming impulse to hop down the pathway, but restrained myself.  But, it did bring back memories of playing hopscotch on the playground when I was in elementary school!




For those who may be unfamiliar with the rules of ‘hopscotch’, there were helpful instructions.




Other areas in the garden included a small playground set and a bench that encircled a small tree.




Two vertical gardening towers stood sentinel in the center of the garden and was planted with strawberries and carrots.




In the corner of the Children’s Garden, sat Alice with the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter.


 An unusual ‘hotel’ was sitting off to the side.  This insect hotel has lots of nooks and crannies for solitary bees and other pollinating insects to stay.  In addition, insects that stay in the ‘hotel’ also help to keep damaging insects away from the garden.



Insect hotels are typically made up of scrap bits of wood and hollow bamboo reeds.


This hotel was quite fancy and had a roof planted with hen and chicks succulents.

A giant checkerboard beckoned kids (& adults) to try their hand at a friendly game.


Of course, instructions were also included.


Visitors strolling along the ‘yellow brick road’ must pass underneath an arch with a flying monkey keeping watch.


The next garden on our tour was the Enabling Garden.

The word “enabling” means to “give someone the means to do something”, which is exactly what this garden does.  It gives people with disabilities the means to garden.

This garden bed was created for those who are visually impaired.


It’s filled with a variety of plants along with rock to provide a variety of textures that are experienced primarily through touch.


The velvety feel of lamb’s ear is a favorite of many gardeners and I find myself always reaching out to touch their leaves.

White rock is used to create small planting islands and helps visually impaired visitors to experience the separate planting islands in the raised bed.


A collection of ‘hens & chicks’ add spiky texture that can be touched safely.  

A variety of mosses also grew in the garden.


This raised bed was built with a sitting ledge around it, which makes it easier for those who have trouble standing or bending over to garden.  With this type of bed, you can simply sit on the edge and tend to the garden.

I have several clients who have had raised beds built since they can no longer bend down to garden for a variety of reasons.


At first glance, can you tell how this planting bed can be enabling?

Note the empty area underneath the bed – can you see how it would make someone who was wheelchair bound or uses a walker be able to get up close to garden?


Besides having garden beds to enable people with disabilities to garden, there was a helpful display with a variety of gardening tools that can make gardening easier.


Each tool had a description of how it can help make routine gardening tasks easier, which is helpful for those with disabilities and even those who don’t.

2010

The display of enabling gardening tools spoke directly to my heart as a mother of a child with disabilities.

My son, Kai, has a disability that affects his joints, which makes everyday tasks difficult.  He loves to help me in the garden, but even using a pair of hand pruners is hard for him to use correctly.

March 2006

In Kai’s short life, he has had several operations, which have left him wheelchair bound for weeks at a time and having a place where he could enjoy everyday activities, such as gardening, would be a blessing.

You can read about Kai’s story here.


Walking through the garden, I noticed a sign pointing off to the outer area of the garden toward the Native Plant Garden.


Being in the Northwest, you can imagine that the path through patches of lush greenery.

As a landscape consultant, I hear of people’s frustration at trying to grow certain plants.

No matter where you live – the desert, jungle or in the Arctic Circle – the easiest way to garden is to grow plants that are native to your area.


The next best thing is to grow plants that are adapted to your area, which are native to climates similar to yours.


If you follow that simple piece of advice, you will enjoy a beautiful garden with a minimum of work since the plants will thrive with little to no attention because they are adapted to your climate.

When traveling, I always like to take time to learn more about the native plants that grow there.


Walking back toward the main areas of the garden, we passed by the Meadow Garden.


The garden consisted of grasses and wildflowers.


Throughout the year, you’ll find different flowers in bloom.


The last garden we visited was the Vegetable Garden.

However, it wasn’t just anyone’s vegetable garden…


It belonged to an infamous gardener. 


Mr. McGregor’s garden was a good-sized plot filled with a variety of vegetables, including some that I decided to try in my garden in the fall.

This lovely row of leafy greens are green and purple spinach.  I didn’t know that there was such thing as purple spinach.  But, I do like to add unexpected color in my garden and so I will be sure to add this to my garden.


Garlic was growing nicely and would be ready to harvest in a month.  You can tell when it is ready to be harvested with the outer leeaves begin to yellow and turn brown.


This crop caught my eye.

Can you tell what these are?

Potatoes!

To be completely honest, I’ve grown them a few times, but it is a lot of work for only a few potatoes in my desert garden so I don’t plant them anymore.


A healthy crop of sugar snap peas were in full flower.


I particularly love the color and shape of their flowers, don’t you?

This is one crop that I do plant each year.


An old wheelbarrow planted with radishes caught me eye as did the watering can with its strawberries.

My brother-in-law found an old, rusty wheelbarrow for my garden and I can’t wait to plant it!

It was obvious that Mr. McGregor took very good care of his garden and it was well fenced in.


But, that didn’t keep a particular rabbit from getting in ūüôā

Thank you for joining me on a tour of this special garden.  If you ever find yourself driving north of Seattle, toward Vancouver, take an hour and visit – you won’t be disappointed!

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On another note, we just returned from a weekend trip to Southern California where we visited my daughter, Rachele, who is stationed there in the Navy.

While we always have fun visiting her, it is even more so now because we also get to spend time with our new grandson!

He is absolutely darling and smiles more than any baby I’ve ever seen.  He is one happy baby!


When we visit, we are able to stay on the Navy base with our daughter in her townhouse, which makes visiting her easier and less expensive than having to stay in a hotel.

As often occurs whenever we visit, we usually find ourselves driving the short distance to Santa Barbara.  This California city is not only a beautiful place to visit, but it also holds a special place in my heart since it is where I met my husband in college.

We are back home now but look forward to seeing Rachele and her son, Eric, next month when they come out to visit us ūüôā

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Have you ever made a discovery that was literally under your nose?  

I did.

Earlier this month, I embarked on a tour of low-water gardens that displayed sustainable design throughout the greater Phoenix area.  

The earlier parts of our tour showed examples of water harvesting using cisterns along with man-made arroyos.  Then we viewed a creative example of sustainable design for a beautiful parking lot that needed no supplemental water and little to no maintenance.


I mentioned last week that I had saved the best for last and I can’t wait to share with you this jewel in the midst of a desert city.

The last stop on our tour of low-water and sustainable gardens was the Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden.
 
The garden is just over 5 acres and sits hidden from the street next to Chaparral Park in central Scottsdale.

Over 200 different types of plants are used throughout the garden, all of which are drought-tolerant and well-adapted to our hot, dry climate.
 
My friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, came with me to this beautiful garden (you can see her at the top of the terraced planters).
 
One of my favorite parts of the garden included this innovative design, called the ‘Terraced Cascade’ which creates the appearance of water traveling down between terraced planters filled with Palo Blanco trees (Acacia willardiana) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata). ¬†
 
 
 Water does flow down discretely hidden steps between the terraces during times of heavy rainfall toward the water harvest basin where it waters existing plants before flowing underground toward the nearby lake.
 
 
Raised planters were filled with flowering Ocotillo  as well as Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides).
 
Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) in the foreground and Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlanderi) growing against the Ocotillo.
I must admit that I was surprised to find this garden in an area that I used to spend a lot of time in.
 
Years ago, before the garden existed, my husband and I would take evening walks around the nearby lake with our daughter.  Believe it or not, before there was a garden, there used to be a miniature golf course in this location. 
 
 
I love stone walls and would have some in my own garden, if I could afford them.  The stone walls were capped with flagstone and had rows of round stones, which added an unexpected touch of texture.  
 
 
From our vantage point, we could see to the other side of the garden where a tall, dead tree stood. ¬†Trees like this are called a ‘snag’, which is a dead or dying tree. ¬†This tree provides a home for hawks, which help keep the rabbit population down.¬†
 
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
Gabion walls were used along pathways to created terraces to help slow down storm water in order to reduce flooding while watering the plants.
 
The demonstration garden is located next to a water treatment plant and part of the garden sits on top of a reservoir that contains 5.5 million gallons of treated water.
 
Deer Grass in the foreground.
 
One of the things that I enjoy about demonstration gardens is that they ‘demonstrate’ different¬†gardening methods as¬†well as showcasing plants.
 
In this case, I was impressed with the collection of plant species used, which¬†aren’t typically seen in residential or commercial landscapes, which is a shame.
 
 
As we walked down the main path, we came upon a man-made, mesquite ‘bosque’. ¬†The word ‘bosque’ is¬†used to refer to stands of trees nearby rivers or washes throughout the southwestern United States. ¬†Usually, you’ll find these¬†bosques made up of mesquite trees.
 
This¬†bosque was planted with Honey Mesquite trees (Prosopis¬†glandulosa),¬†which is simply stunning in spring when it’s bright-green leaves reappear. ¬†A warning though – it has thorns.
 
Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox) trees and gabion walls line the main walkway.
 
Plants are maintained just the way I like them Рno shearing or over-pruning.  
Gold Mound Lantana, Orange Bush Lantana and Pink & White Globe Mallow.
 
The main pathway parallels the local dog park.
 
 
There is little that can compare to the beauty of the  new spring leaves of mesquite trees.  I love how the coral-colored variety of Bougainvillea and the yellow flowers of Aloe Vera look like brightly-colored jewels along with the leaves of the mesquite.
 
 
Nearing the end of the trail, I couldn’t help but marvel at this beautiful garden and its creative design.
 
Throughout the garden were educational signs talking about a myriad of gardening subjects that were clearly illustrated by the garden itself including planning and design, plant care and desert habitat.
 
 
A large cistern was located on one end of the trail, which was filled with the average amount of water that a household uses in 1 week.  
 
Around the outer border of the cistern is an American Indian saying that says:
 
“THE FROG DOES NOT DRINK UP THE POND IN WHICH HE LIVES”
 
Those are words that all of us who live in the dry, southwest should all ponder…
 
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The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is located at Hayden and McDonald Roads in Scottsdale.  It is open from sunrise to 10:30 at night.
 
I hope you have enjoyed these posts of our tour of sustainable, southwestern landscapes in the greater Phoenix area.
 
Pam and I drove about 170 miles in one day and we weren’t able to see all of the great examples of sustainable landscaping. ¬†However, if you are interested in seeing examples of sustainable gardening, then I would recommend starting at the Desert Botanical Garden, which is filled with arid-adapted plants that thrive in our climate¬†with minimal water and fuss.
 
If you haven’t visited Pam’s blog, Digging, I encourage you to do so. ¬†Many of the plants that she grows in Austin do well in our climate too. ¬†Did I also mention that she is an author? ¬†She has a fabulous book called Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, which I highly¬†recommend.

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 ūüėČ

Our first stop was our local nursery.  Each child was allowed to pick out 2 six-packs of flowers.  The kids decided to each pick a different type of flower and then share them with each other.  My youngest daughter selected geraniums and blue petunias.

My older daughter selected stock, (beautiful and fragrant despite its ordinary name) and white alyssum.


My son decided on dianthus and snapdragons.


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?  Well…..
 

How about their old kiddie pool?  You know, the ones that cost less then $10 and your kids have fun playing in during the summer.  When summer is over, most people either throw it out or store it somewhere out of the way.  Well, you can use it as a planter for either flowers or shallow-rooted vegetables or herbs.

First, move the pool where you want the garden to be as it will be too heavy once you fill it with potting mix.  Then make multiple holes on the bottom for drainage.  Then fill with a mixture of planting mix and compost.  Sprinkle some slow-release fertilizer and now begin planting! 


My youngest daughter planted the first plant, a peach-colored geranium.


My teenage daughter is overseeing our planting 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 geraniums, stock, snapdragons, petunias, dianthus and alyssum.

If you would like to try this at home and you want the garden to become a somewhat more permanent part of the landscape, you can add a brick border or plant shrubs and perennials around the outside of the pool.

**Some of you may have noticed that my three youngest children do not look like me, (my two oldest daughters do).   We adopted our youngest children from China.  I call them my “Three Chinese Miracles”.