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On a cold February morning, alongside my mother and sisters, I found myself at The Magnolia Silos, created and made famous by the much-loved hosts of HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ program. 

We were on a girls road trip through Texas, and as fans of the show, The Silos in Waco were a must-see destination. 

The day we arrived was brisk, and we headed straight to the bakery, which is well-known for its delicious cupcakes and pastries. So, while my travel companions saved me a place in line, I headed straight for the decorative window boxes along the front and side of the bakery.

To be honest, I didn’t expect to see much in the way of greenery or gardens in winter, and so I was pleasantly surprised to see the lovely plantings underneath the windows.

Edible plants were mixed with ornamental plants, creating a blending of soft, complimentary shades, which suited the cloudy day.

The rosemary pruned into little topiaries created the perfect backdrop for the white, ornamental kale.

There is almost always a line around the bakery, but we were fortunate only to have to wait for 10 minutes before entering. In the meantime, we were handed a bakery menu where we could select what we wanted ahead of time.

I picked the ‘Shiplap’ cupcake – because, where else was I ever going to have the opportunity to get one anywhere else? It was delicious!

This sign within the bakery echoed the sentiments of all who entered and came out with a box of much-coveted cupcakes.

Once outside of the bakery, we headed for the main store where four magnolia trees were espaliered to the left of the entrance.

Don’t let the relatively empty facade fool you – it was filled with shoppers inside. 

A grouping of lavender greeted us as we climbed the steps into the store.

 

Hanging tight to my wallet while trying to figure out how much I had budgeted for shopping, I entered the store.

It was immediately evident that Joanna has a deep love for gardening and plants although all those inside the store were artificial greenery and flowers.

Back outdoors, my sister and I posed for a picture before we headed over to the garden area.

The garden is surrounded with beds filled with roses that had recently been cut back and tulips just beginning to emerge.

The Magnolia Seed & Supply shop is filled with garden decor along with seeds available for purchase. 

Raised beds are filled with leafy greens. I like the wooden branches used to support the frost cloth.

To the side of the store was a little greenhouse with a planter full of gorgeous kale. 

I must admit that I’ve never thought of kale as ‘gorgeous’ before, but it was in this case.

On our way out, we took a photo of the silos surrounded by families and kids playing on a large expanse of artificial turf using old-fashioned lawn games provided for their use.

A quick stop for a photo.

I hope you enjoyed exploring the green spaces of The Magnolia Silos with me. I certainly did!

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One of the many blessings of living in the desert Southwest is the ability to grow vegetables out in the garden all year long. Today, I thought that I would give you a peek into my winter vegetable garden.

Over the past couple years, my vegetable garden had become slightly messy with a mixture of herbs, vegetables, and flowers growing in disorganized masses. Now, anyone who knows me will tell you that I am not a perfectionist – far from it. But, I realized that I am more likely to maintain and harvest my vegetables when they are neatly laid out in rows. 

So in August, I ripped out everything from the garden except for a new Spanish lavender plant.

Once September arrived, my husband helped me to replace a few of the wood sides that had gradually rotted. I was happy to note that they had lasted over five years.

We then amended the soil with 2 parts of mushroom compost and 1 part aged steer manure. This was my first time using mushroom compost. I wish I could say that it was because I had read about how good it was, but the truth is that the store was out of my favorite brand of compost, and mushroom was what was available. So, we used it.

Blood and bone meal were then sprinkled to provide organic sources of nitrogen and phosphorus.

A new irrigation system was installed in the form of micro-soaker hoses. We bought a kit from our local big box store, which was easy to install. 

Now for the fun part, sowing seeds!

The folks at Botanical Interests provided me with seeds, free of charge, to try out in my garden. I’ve used their seed for years, and they have a large selection of flowers, herbs, and vegetable seed that is of the highest quality.

My favorite cool-season crops are leaf lettuce and kale. I’ve had great luck growing kale, with the same plants lasting for over two winter seasons.

The earliest crop that I’ve harvested were bush beans that I planted in September from seed. Botanical Interests suggested I grow ‘Jade’ and ‘Royal Burgundy’ varieties. Both were delicious, and I discovered that the purple color fades when roasted.

The mild winter has my basil thriving. A client gave me this unique variety of basil called, Mrs. Burns Lemon Basil. It is an heirloom variety, and it is growing beautifully.

Three-inch little heads of cauliflower are just beginning to form. For some reason, I don’t have much luck growing broccoli, but I do grow a mean cauliflower.

While I did reduce the number of flowers in the vegetable garden, I grew a brand-new variety of marigold from seed called ‘Moonsong Marigold Deep Orange.’

My strawberry plants are beginning to flower and produce tiny fruits.

My avoidance of bagged salad greens is still in place as the garden is still producing plenty of leafy greens.

Finally, a peek into the future, with carrots growing vigorously. 

Do you grow vegetables? I highly recommend it. Even with the busyness of life and the stresses that it brings, it just melts away as I take a few minutes to walk through the garden observing new growth, some welcome surprises, and most importantly, the delicious flavors that it adds to our favorite dishes.

Disclosure: I was provided seed from the folks at Botanical Interests free of charge for my use and honest opinion.

*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.*
This is what my mother’s vegetable garden looks like in the middle of winter.  
 
She works hard at growing a variety of vegetables in her two raised beds.  On Wednesday nights, we all gather for dinner at her house and get to enjoy many of the delicious vegetables straight from her garden.   
 
Sadly, her plans for this season’s vegetable garden faced a serious setback.
 
 
My mother fell and broke her leg while cooking dinner with my youngest daughter.  Both bones in her lower leg suffered multiple fractures, and a metal rod had to be inserted down into her tibia.
 
Understandably, she cannot put any weight on her foot for at least two months.  So, while she works hard at physical therapy to gain as much independence as she can – we decided to help out with her garden.
 
 
My kids, along with my nephews, were eager to help with Grandma’s garden.  We stopped by the nursery to pick up broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and leaf lettuce transplants while I brought some carrot and radish seeds from home.
 
Lucky for us, she had already amended her soil with one of my favorite soil amendments – used coffee grounds (from Starbucks).  I added some of my favorite organic vegetable fertilizer for the garden, and we were ready to start planting.
 
 
I instructed the kids on where and how to plant the vegetable transplants in staggered rows.
 
My sister was also watching us and even stepped in to help out, despite the fact that she never gardens.  
 
 
The kids were eager to help out their grandmother, and we all enjoyed out time out in the garden.  
 
I took a few photos to bring back to her at the rehabilitation facility where she is recuperating, to show her what her grandkids had done for her.


My mother is doing well and is working hard at her daily physical therapy sessions so that she can get home as soon as possible.  We visit her daily, and her room has pictures drawn by her grandchildren and cards from friends and family.

On our most recent visit, my grandson discovered the delights of pushing around his grandpa using great-grandma’s wheelchair.  His smile and laughter brightened everyone’s day.
 
Meanwhile, back at the vegetable garden.

 

 
I came back to check on the newly planted vegetables.  Most were doing quite well, but I did see a few plants with telltale holes in their leaves.
 
 
I discovered the culprit nearby.  Cutworms are caterpillars that eat holes in leafy vegetables as well as ‘cut’ off young vegetable transplants at their base. 
 
  
The cutworms did kill some of the newly transplanted broccoli, but most of the leafy greens were fine other than a few holes in the leaves.
 
I brought my favorite organic pesticide, BT (Bacillus thuringiensis), which kills the caterpillars.  I like to use Safer Brand 5163 Caterpillar Killer II Concentrate, 16 oz in my own garden, which helps keep the caterpillars at bay.
 
 
I sprayed all the vegetables, taking care to spray both top and underneath the leaves.  
 
BT can be reapplied every 7 – 10 days until the caterpillars are gone.  
 
**Note; it can be hard to find BT in your local big box store or even some nurseries.  However, you can find it offered online from garden supply companies and Amazon (affiliate link).
 

Have you planted any vegetables this season?  What are your favorites?

Do your kids beg you to feed them kale or other dark green, leafy vegetables?  


Probably not.


I confess that I don’t particularly like to eat kale when it is in large pieces.  But, after planting it for the first time in my vegetable garden this year, I was determined to learn to enjoy eating this vegetable along with my kids.  The question was how?


I decided to take my freshly picked kale and cut it into narrow strips, about 1/3 of an inch wide.


I did the same with radishes from the garden since some of my kids don’t like them either


My idea was to make their individual size smaller and then mix them with other leafy greens, hoping that they could blend in with the rest of the salad.


Salads in our house consist of leaf lettuce from the garden, a little iceberg lettuce (the kid’s favorite), diced cucumbers and finely chopped kale and radishes.


Once mixed together, the kale, along with the radishes, blends in rather nicely as do their flavors.

So, did it work?  Do my kids now like kale?

Well, earlier this week, I overheard them discussing what we were going to have for dinner and my two youngest kids said, “I love kale and radishes”.

You know what?  So do I.
**Have you ever found a way to get your kids to eat certain foods?  If so, please share your experiences with me 🙂

Have you ever thought of fruits, herbs or even vegetables as ornamental plants?  

Often the characteristics that make edible plants appeal to our appetite, can also add beauty to the garden making edible plants a great choice for the garden as they can do double duty as ornamentals.

I am always struck by how edible plants are increasingly used to create beautiful garden spaces.

I’ve recently shared several of my favorite examples from my own garden as well as in during garden travels for Houzz.

I hope you are inspired to look at edible plants in a new light.

Did you enjoy eating leafy greens such as lettuce or spinach as a child?


I would eat a little salad, with some needed prodding from my mother, but I didn’t really enjoy it.  Now, I love lettuce of all kinds and like to use a variety when I make my own salads.



Well, I may be older, but that doesn’t mean that my mother is finished with me yet.  The other day she brought over some kale from her garden.

I must admit that I have been somewhat resistant to eating kale.  I don’t have any good reason for it other than a deep-seated prejudice toward dark-green leafy greens.

Kale and Romaine Lettuce

My mother didn’t stop with just bringing freshly harvested kale over to my house.  No, she actually made a delicious kale salad with lemon zest and olive oil dressing.

I was a little hesitant before I took my first bite.  I realized that I really wanted to ‘grow-up’ and like kale and get rid of my ridiculous prejudice.

It turns out that I really did like it!  So much so that I plan on growing my own.

It just goes to prove that mothers do know what’s best for us – even when we are all grown up 😉


I hope you have enjoyed my winter harvest blog posts.  We’ve gone from broccoli to new vegetables and covered how to get kids to like cauliflower


Do you have a vegetable that you used to hate and now like to eat?

Earlier this week, my husband and I were doing some last minute Christmas shopping, which included as stop at one of my sister-in-law’s favorite stores.


Next door, stood a grocery store – but not just any grocery store.  No, this grocery store describes itself as a “boutique, gourmet market” and it has the prices to match.


My husband wanted to go inside to see what types of food they had – I think he was hoping for samples.  He is also much more adventurous than I am when it comes to food and gets excited when he hears the word ‘gourmet’.


So we ventured inside to the fancy grocery store, which looked like anything but a grocery store.  There were pine scents being wafted about and I saw about thirty Christmas trees decorating all the aisles.


What really got my attention while walking through the store was the produce section.


This section of the store was rather dark, except for the produce, which had bright lights showing the perfect-looking vegetables.

I’ve never thought of the produce section of a grocery store as beautiful, but this certainly was.


The vegetables were perfectly displayed and I must confess that I almost wanted to eat kale because of how nicely it was arranged.

Seriously, there was not a single wilting leaf or blemish to be seen.  It was almost as if the vegetables were airbrushed and Photoshopped.


The other side was arranged with brightly colored citrus fruit.  

I would be afraid to pick any fruit, or vegetables for that matter, in fear that I would cause a cascade of produce falling to the floor.

Needless to say, we didn’t see any samples and the prices were so high that we walked out after looking through the store.

I did enjoy seeing how fancy a grocery store could be.

How about you?  Have you ever shopped at a “boutique, gourmet supermarket”?

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The baby countdown has officially started!

My second-oldest daughter is having her first baby in January and we are so excited.

She is going in for weekly monitoring right now since the baby is underweight from where it should be.  But, the doctor isn’t worried and as long as they are monitoring her closely, I’m not too concerned – just a little bit concerned 😉

Sadly, our daughter can’t come home for Christmas (she is in the Navy and stationed in California), since she is too close to her due date.  But, we sent off her packages to her and my aunt and her family, who lives near the base, will have her over for Christmas.


In the meantime, I am getting ready for my annual Christmas cookie baking with my kids, granddaughter and nieces and nephews.

Every year, we make and decorate cookies that we serve at our family Christmas celebration.  The kids love showing their parents the cookies the decorated.


Last year, we make sugar cone Christmas trees.  The kids loved spreading buttercream frosting on sugar cones and then decorating them.

This year, we will be making chocolate, peanut butter Christmas trees – Yum!  I’ll be sure to post photos and a ‘how-to’ next week!
Do you like to visit plant nurseries?

I do – especially when I am traveling.  It is always nice to see what plants are popular in other areas.

Last weekend, my husband and I made at trip to California to visit our daughter who is serving in the Navy.

I always enjoy visiting California – not just for its nice weather, beautiful beaches, laid back people and the scenery – although those are all things that are reason enough to visit.  The real reason that I enjoy spending time in California is that I grew up here.

I am a 4th generation, native Californian.  Those who came before me were farmers, lumbermen, a city sheriff, a truck driver who worked his way to oil company executive and a social worker (who was my dad). 

Now that my daughter is stationed in California, I now have more reasons to make the trip over.


During the course of our trip, we stopped by one of our favorite small towns, Carpinteria, which is located a few miles south of Santa Barbara.  This is a wonderful beach town that is backed up by tall mountains.

As we got out of our car with the intent of heading to our favorite cupcake place, I noticed not one, but two plant nurseries just a few yards away.  So, my husband and daughter patiently waited for me while I headed into to see what discoveries I could find.


I had not brought my nice camera on our trip, so I had to rely on my iPhone camera, which did a pretty good job, except that I tend to take a lot of pictures and my battery soon died.  Luckily, my husband had his phone and I used it to take the rest of my pictures.

Believe it or not, I don’t buy a lot of plants when I visit nurseries – my landscape has more than enough plants in it.  But I am always on the lookout for plants that I don’t know about or are new to the market.  

Often, nurseries can serve as inspiration for your own garden with creative plant pairings as shown in the photo, above.

This particular nursery was filled with mostly flowering perennials, annuals and vegetable transplants.


I love a colorful garden and was excited to check out the flowering perennials.  I did find a new perennial introduction called ‘Echibeckia’, which is a cross between purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).


I saw this shrub that had been pruned into a tree.  Its brilliant purple flowers were almost blinding.  I’m not sure what it is – but it’s gorgeous!


*Update – a very kind reader (Rusthawk) was kind enough to identify this plant as Tibouchina – thank you!


I love Mediterranean climates and the plants that grow well in them.  Many of these plants also grow well in the desert garden like lavender and lantana.


Like I mentioned before, I do love flowering perennials and I have both black eyed Susan and purple coneflower growing in my garden.  However, I don’t have them in my regular landscape areas where it is not fertile enough and doesn’t get enough water.  I plant a them among my vegetable gardens where they help to attract pollinators.


In addition to pretty perennials, I am a sucker for beautiful containers like these.  Too bad that I don’t have a big enough budget to even consider buying these.  I’m still figuring out what to do with my free Tuscan planters.


Butterflies and hummingbirds were flying about, enjoying the nectar from the colorful flowers.

Butterfly Weed

If you add butterfly weed to your garden, you’ll be bound to attract any butterflies nearby.




There were so many butterflies fluttering about that people were able to get up close to them.


A monarch butterfly was feeding on the purple blossom of a butterfly bush, seemingly ignorant of the people who stopped to admire it.  A very nice woman, standing next to me, took a video and was kind enough to share it with me – Thank you, KD!


After I tore myself away from staring at butterflies, I decided to see what else this nursery offered in addition to to flowering perennials.  My attention was immediately drawn by the variety of potted succulents.  If you like succulents – there is no better place to grow them than in California where they enjoy the Mediterranean climate with its warm, relatively frost-free temperatures.


As I was looking at the succulents, I saw a bright flash of purple and bright green off to the side.



New leaf lettuce transplants had just arrived along with potted artichokes.


While my garden is not quite ready for fall planting, I am already envisioning rows upon rows of leaf lettuce, which is my favorite vegetable to grow.




Who says that vegetable gardens can’t be beautiful?  


I plant both red and green leaf lettuce varieties in my garden each year.  I like the gorgeous color contrast that also looks great in your salad bowl.




I also like these assorted kale transplants.  I didn’t add any to my garden last year, but may consider doing so this year.


Have any of you grown kale?  How did it do for you?


As I slowly walked back through the nursery, I stuck my phone in my pocket and was ready to join my husband and daughter who were patiently waiting for me.


BUT, as I walked out the entrance I found myself facing another nursery.




I’ll give you this glimpse of the entrance of the most unique nursery that I have ever had the opportunity to visit.


Behind its fairly unremarkable entrance, lay secret gardens filled with unusual plants that I will show you next time.

The past two weekends have been busy ones in my household, or should I say, gardens.


The beginning of October signals great planting weather for all types of plants and vegetables.  As a result, I have been busy planting cool season vegetables in my edible gardens as well as sprucing up my container plantings.

Introducing my granddaughter to the wonders of plants at our local nursery.

The past two weekends involved visits to the nursery to peruse the vegetables as well as a few other types of plants.

It is very hard for this horticulturist to NOT get carried away with buying plants.  I try very hard to stick to my list of plants but I often fail and come home with another plant or two. 


In addition to my regular cool-season vegetables, I decided to introduce four other vegetables this year… 


Kale (I may try making Kale ‘chips’ and also using the younger leaves in salads).


Swiss chard (I plan to use the young leaves in salads).

Artichoke (I’m not sure if I will harvest the artichokes or let them continue to grow, since artichokes make great ornamental plants too).

The last vegetable I will be trying this year is celery.  Now, celery is said to be fussy and hard to grow in the Phoenix area.  But, part of the fun of gardening is experimenting.  So, I bought 2 celery transplants, just to see what will happen.

Of course, I have many other types of vegetables in the garden.  Most have been planted, but I still have some still to plant.

Later this week, I will show you what else I have planted in the garden.

Do you grow vegetables?  If not, it is easy to do and you don’t even need a plot of land.  You can grow vegetables in pots if you like.  

**Last week, I took you along on my shopping trip to the produce section of my local supermarket in my quest to create a natural, fall centerpiece.  I promise to show you what I came home with and what I created with vegetables and fruit in my next post.