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Do you have friends with whom you share a common interest?


I do.


My friend and fellow blogger, Amy Andrychowicz of Get Busy Gardening loves gardening as much as I do.  Amy and I have spent time together in Arizona and later in Florida.



Last week, while on a road trip through the Midwest, I made sure to make a stop in Minneapolis to visit with Amy and see her garden in person.




You may be wondering what a gardener from a hot, dry climate would have in common with one from a cold, temperate climate?  


My winter temps can get down to 20 – 25 degrees in my desert garden while Amy’s goes all the way down to -30 to -25 degrees.  That is up to a 50 degree difference!

But, believe it or not, there are a large number of plants that can grow in both climates.


Entering Amy’s back garden, my attention was immediately drawn to her large beds filled with colorful perennials.


I love iris!

I am always taking pictures of iris throughout my travels.  While they can grow very well in Arizona, I have never grown them myself.  


The major difference between growing irises in the Southwest and the Midwest is the time that they bloom.  Iris will bloom earlier in the spring while their bloom won’t start until late spring in cooler regions.


After seeing Amy’s in full bloom, I may need to rethink planting these beautiful plants in my own garden.


Succulents aren’t just for the warmer regions.  I have encountered prickly pear cacti in some unexpected places including upstate New York.

Here, Amy has a prickly pear enjoying the sun flanked by two variegated sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ that produces reddish flowers in late summer to early autumn.

This plant also can grow in desert gardens, but does best in the upper desert regions or in the low desert in fertile soil and filtered shade.


You might not expect to see water harvesting practiced outside of arid regions. But you can see examples of water harvesting throughout the United States.

This is Amy’s rain garden.  The middle of the garden is sloped into a swale that channels and retains rainwater allowing it to soak into the soil.  Plants are planted along the sides of the swale who benefit from the extra water.


A water feature was surrounded by low-growing plants including one that caught my eye.


This ground cover had attractive, gray foliage covered with lovely, white flowers.  I wasn’t familiar with this plant and asked Amy what it was.


I love the name of this plant, ‘Snow in Summer’ (Cerastium tomentosum).  While it thrives in hot, dry conditions, it does not grow in warmer zones 8 – 11.



Enjoying the shade from the ground cover was a frog.


I always enjoy seeing plants that aren’t commonly grown where I live.  I have always liked the tiny flowers of coral bells (Heuchera species).  It blooms throughout the summer in cooler climates. 


Do you like blue flowers?  I do.  I first saw Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ growing on a visit to the Lurie Gardens in Chicago.

This lovely perennial won’t grow in my desert garden, so I’m always excited to see it during my travels.



Amy had two beautiful clematis vines just beginning to bloom.  

I must admit to being slightly envious of her being able to grow these lovely, flowering vines.  Years ago after moving to Arizona, I tried growing clematis.  While it did grow, it never flowered.  Clematis aren’t meant to be grown in hot, dry climates.

Aren’t these single, deep pink peonies gorgeous?

While I am usually content with the large amount of plants that I can grow in my desert garden, peonies are top on my list of plants that I wish would grow in warmer climates such as mine.

Amy’s garden was filled with beautiful, flowering peonies of varying colors.


I took A LOT of pictures of her peonies. 




There was even a lovely bouquet of peonies decorating the dining room table.


Amy’s back garden is divided up into individual beds and one entire side of the garden is filled with her impressive vegetable garden.



You may be surprised to find that growing vegetables is largely the same no matter where you live.  The main difference is the gardening calendar.  For example, I plant Swiss chard in October and enjoy eating it through March.  In Amy’s garden, Swiss chard isn’t planted until late spring.  


Swiss chard


The raised vegetable beds were painted in bright colors, which contrasted beautifully with the vegetables growing inside.  Even when the beds stand empty, they still add color to the landscape.

Green Beans

Kale



Young pepper plants took advantage of a hot, sunny location in which they will thrive.


One thing that is different in vegetable gardening is the practice of ‘winter sowing’.  When Amy first told me about this method of sowing and germinating seeds, I was fascinated.

Basically, seeds are planted in containers with holes poked on the bottom for drainage.  The containers are then covered with plastic tops also covered with holes.  

In mid-winter, the containers are set outside.  Snow and later, rain water the plants inside the containers and the seeds germinate once temperatures start to warm up.

Amy has a great blog post about winter sowing that I highly recommend.

As we got ready to leave, we walked through the side garden, which had a wooden bridge.



Different varieties of thyme were planted amount the pavers for a lovely effect.  


Thyme can make a great ground cover in areas that receive little foot traffic.


In the front garden, I noticed the characteristic flowers of columbine growing underneath the shade tree.

I don’t often see red columbine.  Amy’s reseeds readily, so she always has columbine coming up.



This is a sweet, pink columbine that has smaller, but more plentiful flowers.

I had visited Amy’s garden through her blog, Get Busy Gardening for a long time and it was so wonderful to be able to see it in person.  It is beautiful!


I encourage you to visit Amy’s blog, which is filled with a lot of helpful advice – even for those of us who live in the Southwest.

It’s hard to believe that our road trip has come to a close.


Our last day was filled with some memorable adventures.


We woke up to an overcast morning at our bed & breakfast.  

You know what the best part of staying at a B&B is?  The breakfasts!

We started out with strawberries and bananas on a bed of sweetened cream followed by french toast, sausage and eggs.  

Do you remember my telling you how popular rhubarb is in this area, in my last post?

Well, during breakfast, we also had a slice of rhubarb pie.  Can I tell you a secret?  I don’t like rhubarb.


Speaking of rhubarb – it was growing out in the garden.


Speaking of gardens, theirs was beautiful.  This lovely fountain surrounded by petunias was the focal view from the dining room.


A circular bed, edged in stones held flowering violas and chives.


White daisies filled the other perennial beds.

I think that daisies can brighten up almost anyone’s day, don’t you?


Along the side of the 100 year old Victorian home, was a side garden with a curved stone pathway that led to a covered arbor.


Purple ‘Wave’ petunias surrounded by bacopa took center stage from this window.  

I always get a kick out of the fact that we grow many of the same annuals in the desert – just at a different time of year.


The bed & breakfast was located in Amish country.  As we ate breakfast, I noticed an Amish girl working in the garden.

She was busy using hand pruners to prune away old, woody growth from some shrubs.

*Amish people do not like pictures of their faces to be taken, which is why I am only showing her from behind.


After breakfast, we got into our car and headed toward Minneapolis, which was to be our last destination.

Our flight wasn’t scheduled to take off until 7:40 pm, so we had the entire day to fill.


We decided to spend some time at the Mill City Museum.

Did you know that Minneapolis used to be the flour capitol of the world?  It’s true.


As someone who loves carbs with a passion and would rather eat bread then sweets, I knew that I had to check out this museum.


The museum is housed in the old Gold Medal Flour factory, which used to be the world’s largest flour mill.


It is 8-stories high and much of it was destroyed by a fire in the 90’s.

You can see the girders and where the floors used to be in the ruins.


The interior had some great exhibits about the history of the early flour industry and how the city of Minneapolis used the power of the Mississippi River to power the mill.

One very cool part of the museum was the Flour Tower tour.


I apologize for the bad photo, but wanted you to see the large freight elevator that visitors went on.

As you sit, a guide takes you along a journey up and down 8 floors of the mill.  Each floor opens up to a display that recreates the history of the mill.


At the top of the mill, we were allowed to get up and walk to the top of the building.


You could see the old sign, which stood tall above us.


From the rooftop, you could see the Mississippi River flowing by.


I wonder if I will ever tire of seeing the Mississippi River.  I hope not.


Across the river, you could see the old Pillsbury Flour Mill.


After leaving the mill, we head a little time left before we had to turn in our rental car and head to the airport.  So, we decided to go and see Minnehaha Falls.

The falls are located in the middle of the city and flows from the Minnehaha River before joining the Mississippi.

As you stand along the viewing area, you are sprayed by the water, which is really quite refreshing.

The falls are 53 feet tall.


During this entire road trip, my mother has been enjoying taking pictures with her new iPhone.  

Many of her photos are of me taking pictures of my camera, like this one at the falls.

It was time to wrap up our visit to Minneapolis and start toward the airport.


Our time at the airport was much longer then we had planned for.  Our 7:40 pm flight was delayed for 4 hours until 11:30 pm.

Thankfully, I had my laptop and some knitting to keep me busy while we waited.


Sunset in Minneapolis.

I was really wishing that I had been on a plane by now.  I missed my husband and kids.

The airline brought out a cart filled with snacks and drinks for all of us who had to wait.

I ate my fill of shortbread cookies and Ritz cheese crackers.

Our flight finally arrived and we soon left for home.

We had a wonderful time on our road trip and I appreciate your comments so much.

BUT, my road trip posts aren’t over yet.

I’ve saved the visit to my friend and fellow garden blogger, Amy’s garden for my last post.

I can’t wait to show you what’s growing in her garden – so come back soon!

Today was spent driving from Wisconsin, over the Mississippi River into southeastern Minnesota.


Bridge over the Mississippi River toward Minnesota. *Cell phone + dirty windshield = grainy photo.


You know how people who haven’t lived near the ocean, find it fascinating when they get the chance to visit?

I think it is somewhat the same for me in regards to seeing the Mississippi River.  The immense size of the river is amazing.  

This is the third time that I have seen the Mississippi River and it is still something that I always look forward to.

We arrived into the town of Winona, Minnesota – we drove up to Garvin Heights, where a path leads from the parking lot to a viewing point located over 500 ft. above the river and the city.



Isn’t it beautiful?


Off in the distance, you can see the bridge that we drove over, which connects Wisconsin to Minnesota.


My mother has been enjoying her first smartphone.  During our trip, she had taken multiple pictures of me taking photos of plants and/or scenery.  


It makes me feel happy and special at the same time 🙂


During the first part of our day, we spent some time shopping for antiques.

My mother loves antiques and I like to find old pieces that I can use as planters in my garden.  In the Midwest and Eastern regions of the US, antiques are a lot less expensive then in the west – so we like to take advantage of nice antique stores when we can.

I found a large, old coffee pot (the kind they would use in a chuck wagon for a lot of people) that I plan on using for a flower planter in my smaller vegetable garden.

You may be wondering how I am going to get my coffee pot home.  Well, that leads to a tradition that my mother and I started during our first road trip 3 years ago.  We wait until the last day of our trip and then go to a local UPS store and send our souvenirs home.  It makes our life much simpler and we have less to carry in our suitcases.

Another grainy cell phone photo taken through the windshield.

As we headed toward the southeastern corner of Minnesota, we found ourselves alone on country highways for long lengths of time.


Not that I’m complaining about the absence of vehicles.  I’m sure that after spending a day or two at home that I’ll be wishing for fewer cars on the road.


The weather during our trip has been very nice.  There was some rain, which fell during the night, so it did not affect our activities.


Our day’s journey ended in Lanesboro, Minnesota, which has been the recipient of the Great American Main Street Award.  Lanesboro, is located close to Amish communities and we have seen some Amish folk during our travels today.

The main street is lined with historic buildings that have been transformed into trendy shops and eateries.

Unlike many Amish communities that I’ve visited in the past, Lanesboro has upscale, trendy shops, which I really enjoyed visiting, instead of shops stocked full of Amish souvenirs.


A few of the shops had a combination of both new and old things, like this old antique that was transformed into a planter.


This shop had an interesting planter with a galvanized pipe with flowers sitting in a dish planted with real grass.


A variety of succulents were displayed with old, wooden boxes.


This alleyway was filled with plants and antiques, which I love.


One interesting observation about our travels this day is the popularity of rhubarb.  

It was planted along the main street.


Rhubarb ice cream was also available in many of the shops.

I bet you didn’t know that rhubarb was so popular did you?



I admit that I didn’t try the rhubarb ice cream flavor.  I went for salted caramel crunch – yum!


Remember the cheese curds that I tried on day 5 of our road trip?  They are everywhere.  I usually see them offered fried.

As our trip draws towards its end, here are a few observations in contrast to living in California and Arizona (places that I’ve lived).

– In almost every restaurant, Coke products aren’t offered – Pepsi is the drink of choice.

– In all of our driving, we have only seen one highway patrol car (in CA and AZ you often see one every few minutes).

– Starbucks is a huge favorite of my mother and during our road trips, we usually make at least one stop there each day.  On this trip, we have hardly seen any Starbucks stores.  But, there have been quite a few other coffee shops, including independent ones.

Tomorrow, we will fly home in the evening from Minneapolis.  My husband has been wonderful taking care of the kids and house while I’ve been gone.  

But, I’m not sure about what he has been feeding the kids…


My 12-year-old son posted this picture of his dinner the other night, which consists of french fries, cheddar cheese and bacon.

I protested the lack of vegetables, which my husband responded to by saying, “We each had 4 mini-carrots to round our dinner.”  He then went on further to say, “And we had vegetables on our pizza for lunch.”

I told my kids that I have quite a few dinners planned when I get home that will have lots of ‘greens’ in them.

*Tomorrow, we will spend the day in Minneapolis and I’m looking forward to visiting my friend and fellow garden blogger, Amy of Get Busy Gardening.  I can’t wait to see her and her garden.  I’ll be sure to share my visit with you!

I love to travel.


A lot.


For the past few years, I leave my husband and kids behind and embark on a road trip along with my mother where we explore a different region of the United States.


We fly into one city, rent a car and several days (and states later) fly out of a different city.

I must admit that I love planning our trips and I have a binder filled with our itinerary and places of interest.

We named our first road trip “The Midwest”, which began along the west coast of Michigan.  We ended up in Springfield, Missouri with stops in Indiana Amish country and visits to historical Abraham Lincoln sites in Illinois along the way.

What I love about these trips are meeting the people and learning the regional differences in food and culture.  For example, who knew that a ‘regular’ ice-cream cone is 3 scoops?  
My favorite memory from this trip was walking into our bed & breakfast in Amish country to find the owner entertaining three elderly Amish women who were watching the royal wedding on television.

You can read my blog posts from our first trip here.


Our second trip took us to the Northeast.  We began in Columbus, Ohio (where I visited an old friend) and ended in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Along the way we drove through West Virginia, eastern Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Vermont.

Memories that stand out for this road trip are visits to my grandfather’s grave outside of Pittsburgh and seeing the graves of my third-great grandparents.  Seeing Niagara Falls in person was breath-taking and I enjoyed walking through some small towns in upstate New York.  Vermont is a great place to visit and lots of good food – cheese, ice-cream and maple syrup.

You can read my blog posts from our second road trip here.


Last year, our annual road trip found us in the South.  Our journey began in Savannah, Georgia and ended in Louisville, Kentucky.  Stops along the way included Charleston – South Carolina, Asheville – North Carolina and Tennessee.

The special memories that stand out were seeing the colorful window boxes along the historical streets of Charleston and the fabulous kitchen gardens of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Visiting plantations in Georgia and touring the thoroughbred horse farms in Kentucky was so interesting.

We visited a bourbon distillery Kentucky and had a tasting (I learned that I don’t like bourbon) and later visited the first KFC, which has a museum where it all started.

You can read my blog posts from our third road trip here.

I am so excited for our next journey!  

Are you curious to know where we are going?


We have named this road trip “Upper Midwest”.

Our journey begins in Grand Rapids, Michigan and will end up in Minneapolis, Minnesota several days later.

For those of you who have followed me for awhile, you know that I like to blog from the road and this trip will be no different.  

**Any suggestions of what to see and do along the way would be appreciated!


For more links to previous travel blog posts to places like the Caribbean, California, the East Coast, Florida as well as popular Arizona travel spots – click here.