Years ago, when I was earning my horticulture degree, I took a turf management class – sounds exciting doesn’t it?  Not really – it was a required class filled with students who went on to careers in athletic field management and golf course superintendents.  All I wanted to do was to learn just enough to help people plant and maintain a healthy lawn.

  BUT, there was one thing that I learned in that class that has stuck with me over the years.  It was a study done of men and what their most favorite smell was.
Can you guess what this smell was?  
Which brings us to the subject of lawn mowers.  What if you could get rid of your old push lawn mower and upgrade to a riding lawn mower.
Would you do it?


I must admit that I had no intention of upgrading to a riding lawn mower for our grass UNTIL I spent time testing the lawn mowers from the folks at Troy-Bilt as part of my paid partnership with them.


I grew up having to mow the grass around our California ranch-style house as a teenager and I hated pushing that mower up and down the slopes.
Earlier in my career, I worked as a landscape designer where I designed landscapes for homebuyers.  It was during this time that I started to notice a trend when it came to homeowners deciding whether or not to put in grass.
I noticed that if it was the buyers first home, then they usually wanted a nice area of lawn.
However, if it was not their first home – they usually opted not to have grass because they didn’t want to have to mow their grass with a push mower – especially during the summer.
We have a nice size lawn in our backyard that my husband and son use every day when they play ball.  We (meaning my husband) have used a push mower to mow our lawn for over 15 years.  
While it wasn’t the easiest way to mow our lawn, we had never considered getting a riding lawn mower.  The main reason being that we don’t have a huge lawn and a riding lawn mower seemed too big for us.  We weren’t even sure it would fit through our side gate.
Well, that was before I was invited by Troy-bilt to try different types of equipment last March as part of being one of the Saturday6.
I was prepared to try out the cultivators, string trimmers, and chippers.  I didn’t need a lawn mower – ours worked okay and my husband didn’t seem to care too much that mowing the lawn left him a sweaty mess in the summer time.
But, that was all before I tried out Troy-bilt’s Neighborhood Rider.  I was first struck by its relatively compact size – it is 30″at its widest point.  The folks from Troy-bilt told me that it takes up the same amount of room as a ‘wide-cut’ walk behind mower.
It only took 2 minutes of trying it out before I was trying to figure out how I was going to talk my husband into getting rid of our old mower and getting a Neighborhood Rider.
It didn’t take too much convincing and I was so excited the day that our very own Neighborhood Rider was delivered.  I couldn’t wait for my husband to see how well it ran and cut grass.
My husband was doubtful that we would be able to fit the mower through our side gate through to the backyard….
We have a standard-sized side gate and we had no problem getting our new mower to the backyard.
One of the things that I like most about the Neighborhood Rider is that it can fit into smaller areas and allows homeowners with smaller lawns the option of having a riding lawn mower.
It is amazing how much easier it is to mow the lawn now.  My husband mows our lawn twice a week and he actually has a smile on his face as he mows.  He never smiled when he was pushing our walk behind mower 😉
My son can’t wait until he is old enough to mow the grass.  I can’t imagine him being excited if he had to use our old push behind mower. 

Our Neighborhood Rider does a great job of cutting up our grass clippings into small pieces (mulching), which we let fall back to the grass because they breakdown and add nitrogen to our grass.  
The Neighborhood Rider can be used for both small and large lawns (up to 1 acre).  It’s cutting deck is 30″ wide and it has a 6-speed transmission – so you can go fast or slow (I prefer a medium pace myself).
It takes turns quite well with its 18″ turning radius, which makes mowing much easier.  All told, it mows our lawn in about 10 minutes, which is much shorter a time then our walk behind mower would take.
Storage is easy since it takes up the same amount of room as our old mower did.

More reasons to love this compact riding lawn mower is that it makes mowing the lawn easier for those who may have difficulty getting around or don’t like messing with having to pull-start their push-behind mowers.

The folks at Troy-bilt have given those of us who thought we were destined to a life with pushing a mower around, the freedom and ease of a riding lawn mower that fits into tight spaces easily and doesn’t take up any more room then their old wide-cut, push-behind mower.

My friends, Amy of Get Busy Gardening,  and Steve of The Rainforest Garden are both having a giveaway going on right now, where you can win your own Troy-bilt Neighborhood Rider.  Stop by for a visit to their blogs, which are filled with great gardening tips and enter for a chance to win!

Disclaimer: As a member of Troybilt’s Saturday6, I was given a Neighborhood Rider to test and evaluate.  Troybilt values our honest opinions whether good or bad.  

Last week, I hinted at the garden video that I created for the folks at Troybilt as part of my paid partnership with the ‘Saturday 6’.

In the past, I have been in gardening videos, but I had a film crew who did all the filming and editing for the videos for their website.

This time, there was no film crew.  I was asked to create a homemade ‘how-to’ video for Troybilt on a gardening subject that I selected.

I decided to create a video on one of my favorite subjects…

“How to grow vegetables with ornamental plants in containers.”

The video is supposed to be amateurish and not polished.  I can assure you that I fulfilled their requirements.  There is no way that anyone can mistake my video as professionally done.

But, I had fun and I hope you like it.


I don’t know about you, but I really value regional gardening information.

Whether you live and garden in the Southwest (like me), or the Northeast, Midwest, Great Lakes, the Rockies, the deep South, etc. – gardening tips tailored to your area are vital to your success in the garden.

Flagstaff, Arizona

Where else can you go to learn when to plant your vegetable garden or prune back your shrubs?  

When to you start planting your containers with flowering annuals?  

What type of plants do well in your area and what ones don’t?

For example: I can’t tell you how often I am asked how to grow gardenias in the desert.  

I tell them that although you can grow them here – it is very hard.  They struggle with our alkaline soils and dry heat.

Arabic Jasmine
I tell them that if they love fragrant flowers and dark green foliage like the gardenia’s – then how about trying Arabic jasmine, which does well here, instead?

For me, the plant that I would most love to grow in my garden is hydrangeas…

Not from my garden.  I did enjoy seeing these hydrangeas growing in C.S. Lewis’ garden in Oxford, England.
But, I know better then to even try planting them in my garden, (even though I sometimes see them for sale at our local big box store’s nursery now and then).

They will not grow here in the desert Southwest.

In March, my vegetable garden is ready to be planted with warm-season vegetables such as corn, cucumbers and bush beans, while my winter vegetables are still ripening.

Cauliflower, green onions, nasturtiums and hollyhocks.
But, in cooler climates – gardeners are still busy starting their seeds indoors.

So, what can a gardener do to get the right advice for their garden?

Jerome, Arizona
Check out a gardening guide for their region.  

I enjoy reading the regional gardening guides from Sunset magazine as well as Phoenix Home & Garden magazine.

Butterfly & Hummingbird Garden, I designed next to a golf course.
I have been privileged to write regional, monthly gardening guides for a national big box store, in newsletters, for magazines and for blogs for years – representing the Southwest.

The tips that I give in my regional gardening guides have been accumulated from my career as a horticulturist and include lessons learned from both successes and failures. 

*Believe it or not, I’ve also written regional gardening guides for the Rockies, the Great Lakes region, Florida and California – which I enjoy because I get to ‘stretch’ my gardening knowledge by going outside of my local gardening region.

Some of you know that I write the gardening content for the Birds & Blooms magazine’s blog.

Well, I am excited to share with you my latest writing project. 

I am now the regional gardening writer for the Southwest for

Houzz is a great site that focused on helping people improve their homes and gardens with inspiration and advice.  They also have great gardening content including plant profiles, how-to projects as well as regional gardening guides.

I hope you’ll visit from time to time and hopefully come away with new information on how to make your garden even better.

However, regardless of whether you live in the Southwest (like me) or all the way up in Alaska….
find a regional gardening guide for your area.  Local magazines, newspapers are a good start as well as online gardening help like


From my family to yours.

**Thank you for taking time out of your day to read what I write.  I am so grateful and I have much more planned for the coming year.


There might be a few mentions of my cute granddaughter as well.  (Yes, I HAVE turned into one of ‘those’ grandma’s 😉
Yesterday afternoon, I spent some time having my picture taken.
I must admit, that I don’t like having my picture taken much.  I end up feeling self-conscious and start thinking about how ‘weird’ my expression must look (which is why I didn’t mind posing for the photo, above 😉
Unfortunately, I did need some photos for articles and my other blog that I write for.  I had put it off for a long time But I needed to get my kids annual photos taken AND I had obtained the services of a very talented, up and coming photographer for their photos.  So, it made sense for me to get my pictures done at the same time.
You may be wondering what photographer I was able to engage.  Well, I am blessed that my youngest sister, Grace, is a fabulous photographer.  

She takes photos for other families and for some businesses as well.  She also posts great pictures on her blog
At this point, I should mention that we haven’t gotten our kids pictures taken at school for a long time.  I got tired of their ‘fake’ smiles, messy hair and the fact that they looked nothing like their normal selves.  So, I have taken ‘school’ pictures of them every year.
This year was going to be the best because my sister was going to take their pictures instead of me…
 I love this photo of my three youngest.  This will be the photo we give to the grandmas for Christmas.
They each had their picture taken separately and it was so fun to see my sister in action – she is so good posing the kids and making them feel relaxed.

Then, it was my turn...
My sister knows me so well – especially all my ‘quirks’ and hang-ups and the fact that I don’t feel all that comfortable as the sole subject in a picture.  So, she kept talking to me while I was posing – making me feel much more comfortable.

My sister’s dog, Soda Pop, came over to visit while we were taking pictures(Soda is the daughter of my dog, Missy.) 

I had brought some props over from my garden.  An old watering can that I planted annuals in, an antique blue bottle with cosmos from my garden and some gardening tools.

At this point, I was getting more comfortable and we were almost finished; when my sister said, “We need to get a picture of you holding a chicken.”
So, she rushed off to find her friendliest chicken, “Francie”, who is a ‘naked-neck’ chicken.

 I think Francie did better then I did posing for this picture 😉
I am so thankful for my sister’s great photography skills and her ability to work with a ‘difficult’ subject (me).  I might just schedule another photo shoot next year :-)

This past weekend, I had a special helper accompany me on one of my landscape consults….

My son, Kai.

He has never expressed any interest in going with me before – but I think he was bored and his best friend (who lives across the street) wasn’t going to be home.

So, Kai offered to come with me and be my ‘photographer’. 

As I was talking to my clients, Kai would take photos of certain plants, landscape areas or problems, which I would later include in my report.
He caught me gesturing to this evergreen pear tree, above.
Kai also took some good close-ups as well…
 Salt damage from lack of deep watering.
Manganese deficiency in citrus tree.
Kai did also take a few photos with me in them, but he neglected to press the ‘skinny button’ on my camera so I elected not to include them in this post.  (Okay, I know that a ‘skinny button’ does not exist on a camera, but I wish someone would invent one, don’t you?)
As our consult progressed to the backyard, Kai was no longer taking pictures.
Instead, he was finding himself in some of the photos I took….
 Meeting my client’s new chickens.
Swinging from rings in an old citrus tree.
Kai and I both had an enjoyable time.  The clients were very nice people who had a beautiful landscape.  
I hope that Kai was able to see more clearly what I do for my work, (besides writing blogs and articles). 
But all he said on the way home was, “Can we get some ice-cream?”

I have been waiting, rather impatiently I might add, for a certain item in the mail – a magazine with my published article!

And, I am happy to say that it arrived a couple of days ago….

Here it is!
Although, I have written articles for magazines before – but this is the first one that I wrote for a national magazine.
Last year, I was asked by the editor of Birds & Blooms magazine to write two articles for their magazine this year.  (I do write twice a week for their blog).
This is the first article, which is about ‘companion gardening’.  
I practice ‘companion gardening’ in my own garden and have written smaller articles about it, including posts on this blog.  
But, I did do some additional research for this article and was pleasantly surprised to find out more combinations and practices that use combining certain plants together that benefit each other.
I wrote this article from a hotel room back in March, while we were temporarily evacuated from our house when it flooded.
The next article is due out next month and is about ‘drought-tolerant’ gardening.
**Birds & Blooms is a Reader’s Digest publication.  I have found it at my local Kroger’s grocery store as well at Barnes & Noble.
Of course, you can always subscribe to it.  It has lots of great gardening ideas and DIY projects. 

**If you would like to order an individual issue, you can get one here 🙂

A couple of months ago, I filmed a series of ten “how-to” gardening videos for

Five of the videos are ready and are online for you to view, if you like.

 “How to Start Seeds Indoors”

 “Growing Herbs in a Pot” 

“Tips for Starting Your Own Vegetable Garden”

“Adding Soil Amendments to Your Soil”

“Dig the Perfect Hole for Your Plant”

*I will add additional videos as soon as they become available.

**My brother called me and said that although he has never read my blog (he doesn’t read any blogs) – he told me he was nervous when he started to watch my first “how-to” video.  I’m not sure how I should take that – but after he saw it, he said he really liked it 🙂

A few months ago, I was asked if I would do a series of gardening videos for

I was happy to do it and enjoyed the entire process.

I talked about the filming experience that I wrote about earlier.  You can check it out here if you like: “Filming How-To Videos”
Last week, I received word that some of the videos are now live, with the others soon to follow.
Here is the video I filmed on “How to Plant a Herb Container”.  I hope you enjoy it 🙂