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Do you celebrate Christmas with a natural tree?  If so, what do you do with it once the holidays are over?

If you are like many people, your beautifully decorated tree eventually ends up at the curb waiting for trash pickup.

But, what if you could find another purpose for your old Christmas tree – one that benefits nature?

I recently did some research on the different ways that Christmas trees can be used, with some surprising results.

You can read more in my latest article for Houzz.com:



Do you like to decorate your home with natural objects?  


I do.


Recently, I’ve been busy creating items using things found in nature.  



For example, these may seem like regular pieces of wood from a tree – but what if I told you that they were actually old roots from a cresote bush?


You may not know what a creosote bush is, but if you live in the desert – you’ve seen them.  They are the shrubs scattered throughout the desert.  

The roots that I used for my project came from one of the creosote shrubs in the picture, above.


This creosote shrub was in an area that I was asked to design next to a golf course.  While I kept most of the creosote, I had one removed to make room for new plants.

You can see the pile of creosote roots left over after the shrub was pulled out.  

I came up on these roots after placing the new plants and thought that they would be great for a future project.  They were woody, twisted and had great character.  I loaded them up in my truck and stored them in my side yard until I could find the right project in which to use them.


I decided to pair my old wooden roots with air plants.

My mother, who is extremely creative, introduced me to air plants and I immediately fell in love with their unique shapes.

Air plants are unique in another way in that they do not need soil.  All they need to grow is air, water and a sunny window, which makes them perfect for using in home decorating projects since you don’t have to worry about soil.
You can read more about air plants and how to care for them, here.

So what do you get when you pair air plants with pieces of natural wood?


A very attractive centerpiece that looks great on the coffee table.

I was so excited about how nice it looked that I decided to try using smaller pieces of wood and different air plants.


Because each piece of wood was unique and had been twisted over time by nature, each pairing looked different.


I must admit that I had so much fun playing with different combinations.

So, what am I going to do with so many creosote wood / air plant combinations?

Earlier this year, my mother proposed going together with my sister and create items for the home that are made from natural elements for a large holiday boutique.

My sister and I both agreed and have been working on making different items focused on using natural and/or recycled elements, along with my mother.

Here are just a few of the items we will be selling:

Gourd Bird Houses

My mother and I have both grown gourds in our gardens and transformed them into bird houses and feeders.

Seed pod Christmas ornaments

Can you tell what type of tree/shrub this seed pod comes from?


 If you guessed Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), you’d be right.

My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Terrariums with air plants

Do you like terrariums?  I think of them as small worlds enclosed by glass.  There will be quite a few terrariums with air plants, including hanging ones.

Lavender sachets made from antique seed bags.

During a trip to Winona, Minnesota – we bought quite a few old seed bags from antique stores.  My mother, who is an excellent seamstress, made them into sachets, glass cases and aprons.

Reading glass cases made from antique seed bags.

‘Sparkly’ white Christmas seed pod ornaments
My sister has made a variety of Christmas ornaments using seed pods.  I love the idea of transforming natural items and using them to decorate your home for the holidays!

Basil Salt

I love using basil salt on my favorite Italian dishes.  The basil came straight from my garden 🙂

Mini air plants on antique wooden spools

Seed Bombs
Have you heard of seed bombs?  I wrote about this fun garden trend last year.  I first saw these at the Sustainability Festival last year.
 *Can you tell that they are wrapped in ‘recycled’ packaging?

Air plants mounted on driftwood sitting on top of wooden plants ready for hanging.

My mother and I collected much of the driftwood during our trip to Lake Michigan this summer.


In addition to what I’ve shown you above, we will have aprons, totes made from seed bags, terrariums made from light bulbs and fairy garden houses made from wood and moss.

Our goal was to create items using natural and/or recycled items. 

If you live in the greater Phoenix area, we would love to see you!  

We will be selling our natural items at the Believe Boutique, which is a large holiday boutique with over 125 vendors.  It is being held at Cornerstone Church in Chandler, Arizona on Friday, November 7th from 4:00 – 9:00 and again on Saturday, the 8th from 10:00 to 3:00.

**We’ll be located in the main lobby in the ‘Sustain’ booth.  I’d love to meet you, if you have time to stop by!

Do you like cactus?


I find that even people who aren’t huge fans of cacti, tend to like make an exception for golden barrels (Echinocactus grusonii).  


I think one of the reasons for its popularity is because of its globular shape and yellow spines.


Another reason may be that golden barrel cacti are extremely versatile in the landscape.  Whether you prefer a contemporary landscape with golden barrels planted in neat, orderly rows or in a more natural grouping – they can be used both ways.

I like to place golden barrel cacti next to boulders, where their round shapes and sunny color provide great contrast.


These popular cacti are native to the desert Southwest and can be grown outdoors in zones 9 and above.  However, larger specimens have been known to handle temperatures in the teens.

In colder regions, they can be planted in containers and brought inside in winter.


If you look closely at a golden barrel’s spines, you’ll notice how they criss-cross each other, forming an interesting geometric pattern.  

You can probably guess one of the spines purposes – to provide protection from predators who may want to eat them.

However, there is another, somewhat surprising way that the spines help the cactus, which you read here:

The care for golden barrels is quite simple.  They do best in well-drained, native desert soil in full sun to filtered shade.

Although they start out small, mature specimens can reach 3 feet tall and wide.  However, they can take years to reach that size, so they are often planted in much smaller areas and later replaced.

Now for the big question – how much water do they need?  Established golden barrels can get by with existing rainfall, but will grow faster and look their best with they recieve a deep watering once a month May through August.  The rest of the year, they should be fine with existing rainfall.

Earlier today, I mentioned on my azplantlady facebook page that I had seen golden barrel cacti growing in a very unusual place.


Well as promised, here is the answer:

I came across this cluster of golden barrel cacti growing in Michigan!

To be precise, they were located in a greenhouse at the Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, which I visited back in June.  I was looking forward to visiting these beautiful gardens and seeing examples of plants that grow in more temperate climates, so I was quite surprised to come across a plant from home.

So, even if you live in a climate that experiences frigid winter temperatures – you can grow golden barrels….inside.

How about you?  Do you have golden barrel cacti growing in your landscape?  Do you like seeing them in a more formal setting or a natural one such as when planted next to a boulder?


Do you like the idea of using household cleaners that are natural?

I do.

Did you know that citrus has natural cleaning properties?

It does.

I just finished making up a batch of citrus cleaner and wrote about it in my latest Birds & Blooms blog post that you can read here…



So, if you have a tree filled with citrus, or even if you have to buy some at the grocery store – this cleaner is well worth it!


Last month as I was leaving from a landscape consultation, I took some time to drive by a few of the landscapes in the neighborhood.  


I immediately noticed that quite a few people had Olive trees growing in their front yards.


There was a large difference in how some of the homeowners pruned their Olive trees…


Believe it or not, both of the trees pictured above are the same type of Olive tree.

Some people like to formally prune their Olive trees while others like theirs to grow naturally.

Which one would you prefer?


OR


I know which look I prefer and it is much healthier for the tree and much less maintenance.

How about you?  
Which style of pruning do you like – formal or natural?

Did you know that you can kill weeds with ingredients that you probably already have in your cupboard?

Wouldn’t it be great to be
able to make your own ‘natural’ weed-killer that is organic and much
cheaper then buying weed-killers?


Well, here is all you need…

Believe it or not, vinegar, dish soap and a spray bottle are all you need to make an effective weed killer.  You have these things already, don’t you?
I had known that vinegar  and soap could kill weeds, but had never tried it before.  So, I set out to prove that it worked in my own garden. 
First, I took photos of a few of my weeds…
 
I must admit that it felt kind of funny taking pictures of ‘weeds’.  My neighbor thought so too 😉
I sprayed each weed with my vinegar and soap mixture and waited 24 hours.
Here are the results:



Pretty impressive, isn’t it?  I couldn’t even find the third weed – it had dried up so quickly.

So for those of you who like to know how vinegar and soap kills weeds, here is the scientific explanation:

The acetic acid in vinegar ‘sucks the water’ out of the weed while the dish soap helps to break down the outer coating of the plant, which helps the vinegar to penetrate.
*You can try using vinegar alone, but I didn’t get good results without using the soap.

So are you excited to try this for yourself?
Okay, here is how to make your own….
1-gallon of vinegar (5% acetic acid)
&
1 oz. dish detergent
1. Put in a plastic spray bottle and apply to plants on a sunny day.


That’s it!

Because this a non-selective weed-killer, it will kill anything it lands on – be careful not to get any on your plants, grass or trees since this mixture can hurt or kill them. 
**For tough weeds, regular white vinegar may not be strong enough.  In that case, you may want to use ‘horticultural vinegar’, which has a higher level of acetic acid (20%).  You can find this type of vinegar online, which is a popular, organic weed killer.

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Wouldn’t it be great to be able to make your own ‘natural’ weed-killer?  It’s organic, cheap and easy to make from ingredients you already have at home.