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Have you ever visited a garden that was not what you expected?

I recently had the opportunity to visit a small 2-acre garden run by master gardeners Mount Vernon, WA in conjunction with Washington State University. 

Pink Dogwood

Photo: Pink Dogwood

Now for those of you who kindly read through my myraid of garden travels on my Northwest road trip – this garden was somewhat different and completely unexpected.

I’ve had the opportunity through my travels to visit a number of gardens run by master gardeners and I have found them to be places for learning more about plants and gardening practices.

Discovery Garden

While I expected much of the same with this garden, I found so much more.  Within its boundaries, there were so many separate gardens including a 4 seasons, cottage, Japanese, native, shade and sun garden just to name a few.  However, in addition to the more traditional gardens, were also an imaginative children’s garden and an enabling garden for those with disabilities.  

I’ve been waiting to share the wonders of this garden with you.  I hope you enjoy the tour!

The Discovery Garden

Discovery Garden

The Discovery Garden

Discovery Garden

The Discovery Garden is located in the small town of Mount Vernon, otherwise known as the bulb-growing capital of the U.S.  It is 60 miles north of Seattle.  

Espaliered apple trees grew on the fence along the front entry.

The Discovery Garden

Small apples were ripening, which made me remember that Washington is the state where the most apples are grown.

The Discovery Garden
Entrance Garden

As we entered the gardens, we noticed helpful signs that described the theme of each sub-garden along with a list of the plants growing in it.  

The Discovery Garden
The Discovery Garden

The paths curved, creating islands where each individual garden stood.  This photo, above, shows how curving paths create a sense of mystery, leading one on to discover what is around the bend.

Four Season Garden
Four Season Garden

The Four Seasons garden showed examples of plants in bloom alongside others that will bloom later in the season.

Four Season Garden
Four Season Garden

Of course, anywhere I find peonies growing, I find it hard to tear myself away from this lovely flowering plant that can never grow in my warm desert garden.

Japanese gardens

Japanese gardens are quite popular in the Northwest and this garden had one of its own.

The Discovery Garden

My mother and I journeyed through the garden on a cloudy Saturday morning.  As we walked through the gardens, we met with one of the 27 master gardeners who take care of this garden.    

She was nice enough to take us on a tour of the gardens and told us that the entire garden was designed by master gardeners.  I must admit that the landscape designer in me was extremely impressed at how well it was designed.  

Gardeners know that most landscapes hold secrets that aren’t always evident to the casual observer and this one was no different.

tiny hummingbird's nest.

She guided us toward a tree that held a tiny hummingbird’s nest.

Anna's hummingbirds nest

They have Anna’s hummingbirds living in the gardens year round.

hummingbird

However, I was very happy to be able to see a Rufous hummingbird for the very first time, drinking nectar from nearby flowers.

The Discovery Garden

Continuing on our adventure through the garden, I spotted swaths of purple in the distance.

The Discovery Garden

Have I ever told you that I like irises almost as much as peonies?

The Discovery Garden

Thankfully, these can be grown in my Arizona garden.

The Herb Garden

The Herb Garden was next.

The Discovery Garden

The sage was in full bloom and it was hard to imagine that people grow them for their foliage and not their lovely flowers.  

variegated sage

There was even a variegated sage.

rustic plant signs

I really liked these rustic plant signs.

The Discovery Garden
Herb Garden

Within the Herb Garden, was a display with a list of herbs and how they are used as dyes.  

Who knew that basil is used as a black dye?  

Flowering Garlic Chives

Photo: Flowering Garlic Chives

Our time in this garden was limited since we had a plane to catch in Seattle in the early afternoon.  To be honest, we hadn’t expected to find so much to explore in this university garden and so we had rush to see as much as we could.

The Discovery Garden
Columbine

Photo: Columbine

The Discovery Garden

Of course, like most educational gardens, this one had a great compost working display.

Divided bins were filled with 'greens', 'browns' and 'twigs'.
Divided bins were filled with 'greens', 'browns' and 'twigs'.

Divided bins were filled with ‘greens’, ‘browns’ and ‘twigs’.  

However, my favorite part was the ‘Yuck Bin’…

Yuck Bin
Yuck Bin

One of the many reasons that I like to visit gardens whenever I travel is that I get to see plants that don’t grow where I live.

Heather Garden

This is the Heather Garden, filled with a variety of heathers.  

I admit that I haven’t seen much heather growing except for trips to Great Britain.  

Heather Garden
Heather Garden

Some of the heathers were beginning to flower.

The Discovery Garden

While there is much more to see, I want to share with you one last garden area in this post that really caught my eye.

naturescaping

Have you ever heard of ‘naturescaping’?  I haven’t, but it immediately sounded like my style of sustainable, low-maintenance garden.  

naturescaping

This area of the garden was filled with native plants and associated cultivars that receive minimal maintenance.  The plants were chosen with the goal of attracting wildlife with many plants providing shelter and food.

The Discovery Garden

I hope you have enjoyed the first part of the tour of this small garden.  

But, I’m not finished yet.  I’ve saved the best for last.  Come back next time to see the Children’s, Enabling, Native and Vegetable Gardens.  

You may even spot the elusive Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor’s garden…

A Hidden Garden in the Smallest Place

Our first day in Canada began with walking from our hotel to the Parliament Buildings – just a couple of blocks from our hotel.

Parliament Buildings

Victoria, is the capital of the province of British Columbia, Canada and the Parliament Buildings are quite beautiful.

This very English city is said by many “to be more English than England.”

As for me, I don’t know if I would call Victoria more English than London, but I do know that I miss the British accents ๐Ÿ™‚

Parliament Buildings

However you feel about the ‘Englishness’ of Victoria vs. London, the Parliament Buildings certainly look very English.

It’s important to note that the Europeans weren’t the first people here in British Columbia…  

Parliament Buildings

Native Americans came here first and their importance in the past and present in this Canadian province is evident everywhere – especially when you see their iconic totem poles.

Parliament Buildings

The sight of a totem pole in front of the very English architecture of the Parliament Building is a great illustration of Victoria with two different cultures coming together and calling this beautiful area ‘home’.

Parliament Buildings
Parliament Buildings

We decided to take the self-guided tour and were handed a guidebook and got started.

Road Trip Day 6: Parliament, High Tea and Unexpected Gardens
Road Trip Day 6: Parliament, High Tea and Unexpected Gardens

The rotunda was beautiful and filled with scenes describing the history of British Columbia.

 Elizabeth II is Queen of England

We all know that Elizabeth II is Queen of England, BUT she is also Queen of Canada.  So it was no surprise that a significant portion of the  tour involved things related to English royalty.

 Elizabeth II is Queen of England

This stained glass window was created for Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897.

 Elizabeth II is Queen of England

And this stained glass window was made for Queen Elizabeth II for her golden jubilee in 2002.

The Queen has visited Canada many times, including the Parliament Buildings.

 legislative assembly

Here is where the legislative assembly meets when they are in session.

When it was designed, the seats were positioned two swords lengths to prevent any ‘accidents’ in the middle of a heated debate.  

Parliament Buildings contained a variety of colorful annuals.
Parliament Buildings contained a variety of colorful annuals.

Large beds outside of the Parliament Buildings contained a variety of colorful annuals.

Our next stop was at the Fairmont Empress Hotel.

The Empress

Commonly referred to as ‘The Empress’, there is nothing common about this famous hotel.

The Empress

The Empress is the oldest hotel in Victoria and opened in 1908. She has over 477 rooms and is perhaps best know for her ‘Afternoon High Tea’ where participants indulge in finger sandwiches, scones and tea.

The Empress

Many people were enjoying the afternoon tea. The Empress even has their own China pattern available in the gift shop.

The Empress

While the hotel is not inexpensive, you don’t have to stay there to enjoy the experience.

 fancy Royal Mail box

Walk through the lobby and see the fancy Royal Mail box or one of the staff dressed up in period costume…

white wisteria vine and dark pink rhododendron.
white wisteria vine and dark pink rhododendron.

The grounds of the hotel were beautiful with white wisteria vine and dark pink rhododendron.

California lilac shrubs (Ceanothus)

The flowers are huge.

California lilac shrubs (Ceanothus)

A hedge of California lilac shrubs (Ceanothus) added beauty to the grounds.

Road Trip Day 6: Parliament, High Tea and Unexpected Gardens
Road Trip Day 6: Parliament, High Tea and Unexpected Gardens

I love their flowers, although they aren’t fragrant.

The Empress Hotel

The The Empress Hotel sits just off of the water.

Road Trip Day 6: Parliament, High Tea and Unexpected Gardens
Road Trip Day 6: Parliament, High Tea and Unexpected Gardens

The presence of boats, ferries, sea planes and mini-water taxis won’t let you forget that you are on an island.

British Columbia

Native American vendors sold their products nearby where I bought a pair of earrings.

British Columbia

Next, it was on to Government Street and more shopping.

British Columbia
British Columbia

There were a lot of the typical souvenir shops that each sold the same items. Many of them were rather overpriced, so I limited myself to buying a small gift for my granddaughter, Lily.

We did enjoy some of the specialty shops, but did mostly window shopping.  

Lavender

Lavender is widely planted in this area and looked great in this window box.

Soon, it was time for a lunch that really wasn’t a lunch at all…  

British Columbia

Like I’ve said in earlier posts, I will really need to get back to healthy eating when I get home!

British Columbia

Victoria is well known for their iconic lamp posts and their hanging flower baskets.

Sadly, they hadn’t hung the flower containers yet during our visit. But, have you ever wondered how they water all those baskets?

Notice the drip irrigation lines…

British Columbia

The restaurant where we ate breakfast had drip irrigation going to its flowering containers.

After doing a lot of walking and exploring, we took a small break back at our hotel before heading out to afternoon tea.  

White Heather Tea Room.

There are a number of places in Victoria that serve ‘high’ tea and we made reservations at White Heather Tea Room.

British Columbia

In addition to your choice of a number of hot tea, you get a selection of finger sandwiches, smoked salmon, mini-tarts, scones, cookies and other pastries.  Top them off with clotted cream, lemon curd and/or raspberry jam and you are in heaven!

After tea, our day was winding down and we headed toward our last stop – The Government House’s gardens.

From the description in our guidebook, I expected a few acres of nicely landscaped gardens around the house. But, I wasn’t prepared for the sheer size of the gardens or how beautiful they were. I even found some plants growing there that are also growing at my home in Arizona.

British Columbia

An enclosed area boasted of fragrant rose bushes, including old-fashioned roses. The sound of the water fountain made this a very peaceful spot.

blackbird

This blackbird found the fountain a great place for a welcome drink of water.

British Columbia

Benches were strewn throughout the gardens, inviting you to stop, rest and enjoy the view.

Everywhere you looked, there was a new place to discover, including somewhat hidden areas that invited you to go in further and explore.  

British Columbia
British Columbia

Parts of the gardens were covered in grass and filled with colorful rhododendrons, but there was a large section that was filled with winding garden paths flanked by colorful perennials and succulents – the majority of which, were drought tolerant.

British Columbia

*Note the agave in the lower left corner?  Many plants that grow in both cooler climates, such as peonies and hellebores, co-existed alongside agave, Santa Barbara daisy and salvias.

purple-flowering plant

Can you guess what this purple-flowering plant is?

Believe it or not, it is the herb sage. Mine flowers at home, but not this much.

Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)

'Hot Lips' (Salvia greggii)
'Hot Lips' (Salvia greggii)

‘Hot Lips’ (Salvia greggii)

This salvia is growing in my garden right now.

Several huge trees dotted the property.

Government House where the lieutenant governor resides.

The 36-acre landscape surrounds the Government House where the lieutenant governor resides.

I must confess, that I took only two photos of the house and over 300 of the garden ๐Ÿ™‚

British Columbia

While there many plants in bloom in late spring, you could also see plants that flower in winter and also those getting ready to bloom in summer.

beautiful peonies
beautiful peonies

Much to my delight, my favorite flower (that I cannot grow in my desert garden) was in bloom.  I never get over how beautiful peonies are!

Iris

Iris

Red Rhododendron

Red Rhododendron

British Columbia

These plants were growing in shallow pockets on top of this large boulder.

Large groves of Garry oak trees

Large groves of Garry oak trees stood throughout the gardens.  You could almost imagine that you were standing in a California garden.

As I stood admiring the oaks, I noticed out in the distance, a mountain range across the bay.  

Olympic National Forest in Washington state

It turns out that the view is of the mountains in the Olympic National Forest in Washington state. We were there, enjoying the beauty of those majestic mountains only the day before.

It’s really amazing how much sightseeing you can do in a short amount of time!  

British Columbia

As I finished up my tour, I circled back around the house toward the parking lot, when I saw this squirrel sitting up in the grass.

British Columbia

Whenever I find myself near a beautiful garden, I tend to disappear in order to explore more. ย My husband and my mother understand this and are so patient. ย In this instance, my mother and I had expected a smaller gardenย that would take us a few minutes to see. ย But, it was soon evident that there was more to see.

My mother understands me so well and my love for gardens.  So, after she explored parts of the garden, she patiently waited in the car for my return.

The next day of our journey involves a return trip to the world famous, Butchart Gardens. I can hardly wait!  

For those of you who have been fortunate to have visited the ‘Emerald City’, you know how beautiful and vibrant Seattle is.

Both my mother and I have been here numerous times and decided to spend most of our time in other parts of the Northwest, but we couldn’t just pass Seattle by. We had to spend at least a little while enjoying the sights and sounds.

So where do you go in Seattle when you only have a few hours to spare?

Pike Place Market

Over 100 years old, Pike Place Market has been described as “Heaven on Earth” and “a browser’s heaven”.

I like how AAA describes this iconic place in their guidebook: “The sights, the smells, the sidewalk musicians, the seafood-tossing fishmongers and the ambling crowds all make it a sensory experience of the highest order.”

Of course, the fish mongers are perhaps, the most popular attraction as they toss large pieces of fish in order to fill orders.  

seafood
seafood
seafood
seafood

Fish mongers interact with visitors and help them find the perfect seafood for their table.

I must admit that it was fun to watch them yell and toss large fish to each other.

seafood
seafood

While I don’t eat large amounts of seafood, I do like to see the different kinds available.

Pike Place Market has so many different types of fresh fish and other seafood available.

fresh seafood, Pike Place Market

In addition to the fresh seafood, Pike Place Market is also known for their fresh produce and flowers, which was more up my alley.

Road Trip Day 4: The Ultimate Farmers Market and a Lavender Farm
Road Trip Day 4: The Ultimate Farmers Market and a Lavender Farm

The produce was so bright and colorful and looked absolutely delicious.

own blackberry bushes
own blackberry bushes

I love berries and grapes!  Once I get home, I plan on making some jam from my own blackberry bushes.

Farmers markets

Farmers markets are great places to see vegetables that may not make it to your local supermarket.

flower stalls.

Of course, I always tend to find myself spending a lot of time next to the flower stalls.

flower stalls.
flower stalls.

I decided that if I were ever to get married again  that I would have my bouquet made up of peonies.

Just a note – I have been happily married almost 29 years and have no plans on walking down the aisle again.

Pike Place Market

Pike Place Market is also filled with shops and a large variety of ethnic food places.

Turkish Delight
Athenian Lunch SeaFood
Bavarian Meats

You can easily buy a baguette at a French bakery, pick up some fresh cheese and some fruit for a delicious lunch.

There is one place where there is always a line of people eager to get a certain beverage…

Starbucks

Pike Place Market is where the first Starbucks opened in 1971.

Starbucks

People happily wait in line for their favorite Starbucks beverage so that they can say that they visited the first one.

In addition to the seafood, fresh produce, flowers and great places to eat are a variety of shops carrying souvenirs, clothing and just about everything else.

large piggy bank

‘Rachel’ is the mascot of Pike Place Market and is a large piggy bank.  The money she collects is used to benefit social services.  People say if you rub her snout after giving a donation that you will have good luck.

The marketplace is big and ideal for walking and people watching.  There is no ‘secret’ method for seeing everything.  Simply walk into one of the many entrances and just stroll throughout.

I came away with several flavored pastas, including chocolate, habanero chili pasta and garlic chives, which I will share with my family once I get home.  

After leaving the market and Seattle, we headed up north toward Canada.  Along the way, we decided to visit the town of Sequim, which is famous for the lavender that is grown there.

I was surprised to learn that they produce the most lavender in the United States.

We decided to visit one of the lavender farm, called Purple Haze Lavender.

 Lavender Farm

The sight of the cute farm house greeted us as we drove into the parking lot for the small store onsite.

 Lavender Farm

Small lavender plants were available to buy right outside of the store.

 Lavender Farm

While the lavender won’t be in bloom until summer, it was still beautiful.

 Lavender Farm

This spot in Washington, is relatively dry, receiving only 17 inches of rain per year, which makes it a great area to grow lavender, which don’t like soggy soils.

blooming clematis

Among the grounds were blooming clematis climbing over an arbor.

Road Trip Day 4: The Ultimate Farmers Market and a Lavender Farm
Lavender Farm

Chickens, a peacock and an orchard filled with fruit trees were located alongside the lavender fields.

lavender ice-cream.

The store had just about any type of lavender product, including lavender ice-cream.

lavender ice-cream.

Who wouldn’t love a view like this?

lavender ice-cream.

We left the farm with a new appreciation for lavender.  

You can visit Sequim for their annual Lavender Festival in July.

Our journey resumed toward Port Angeles, Washington.  Tomorrow, we will tour the Olympic National Forest before leaving for Victoria, Canada.

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.

Amy Andrychowicz Garden

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.

Amy Andrychowicz

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

Amy's garden

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.

Midwestern Garden

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

Midwestern Garden

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.  

Midwestern Garden

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.

Midwestern Garden

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

Succulents

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.

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy, Get Busy Gardening

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.

low-growing plants

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

low-growing plants

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.

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

Enjoying the shade from the ground cover was a frog.

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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. 

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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.

beautiful clematis vines

Amy had two beautiful clematis vines just beginning to bloom.  

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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.

pink peonies

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.

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

I took A LOT of pictures of her peonies. 

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy
Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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

Swiss chard 

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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

Green Beans 

Kale

Kale 

Young pepper plants

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

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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.

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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.

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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.

Colorful Midwestern Garden of Amy

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.

Day 6 of our road trip began with gray, dreary skies and a chilly breeze.  

We decided to spend our time in Madison, Wisconsin by seeing the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which were rated as the #1 attraction by Trip Advisor.

As we left our hotel, we were faced by roads under construction.  

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Summer is the time for all road construction throughout the midwest because cold, wintery conditions are not conducive to construction.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Once we arrived at the gardens, we were greeted by the sight of containers filled with a combination of edible and ornamental plants.

Red Sail

I love how the blue of the lobelia contrasts with the bright green of the parsley and ‘Red Sail’ lettuce.

Cabbage

Cabbage is one of my favorite edible plants to add to containers.

All of these edible plants can be grown in pots in my southwestern garden, but are planted in fall, not spring like in Wisconsin.

During this trip, we have visited three botanical gardens and have not spent one dime on admission fees.

Why?

Most major botanical gardens have a reciprocal admissions if you belong as long as you are a member of your local botanical garden and they are part of the reciprocal program.

At first glance, the gardens were beautiful and I couldn’t wait to start exploring.

Road Trip Day 6

The gardens have bee hives located in out of the way areas, which are filled with Italian bees that are said to be rather docile.

The bees play an important part in pollinating the flowering plants throughout the gardens.  The honey that is sometimes sold in the garden gift store.

Meadow Garden

The individual gardens are spaced around ‘The Great Lawn’ which is a large circular grass area where concerts are held.

The first garden I explored was the ‘Meadow Garden’.  This garden is sustainable and very low-maintenance.

It is filled with drought-tolerant grasses along with wildflowers and flowering bulbs.  What I really liked about the garden is that it does not need supplemental water or fertilizer.

Maintenance is limited to mowing twice a year.

What I didn’t like about the garden, was the mosquitos.  But, I came prepared and they mostly left me alone.

Road Trip Day 6

Walking on, I wanted to explore the herb garden because they play a huge part in my own garden.  

Road Trip Day 6

The entry to the herb garden is quite formal.  Boxwood hedges border the center garden area.

beautiful container

Edible plants combine with ornamentals forย beautiful container plantings.

Road Trip Day 6

 I love flowering chives and how they used them as a border.

Varieties of mint and thyme were nicely displayed and the herb garden also had herbs used for dyes.

*The brown plants in the background are recovering from the severe winter with new green growth slowly coming back.

Road Trip Day 6

This bed of flowering annuals was completed edged in flowering chives.

Thai pavilion

A Thai pavilion dominated the center of the Thai garden, which brought back memories for my mother who spent a few months in Thailand as a young woman.

While tropical plants cannot survive a midwest winter – the plants used in this area had a tropical appearance with large leaves while also being cold-hardy.

Thai Garden

The bridge that connects the Thai Garden to the rest of the garden, crosses over Starkweather Creek, which bisects the garden.

People can canoe or kayak up 5 miles from this side of the bridge.

Lake Monona

Boats can dock on the other side of the bridge and the creek leads out to Lake Monona.

Sunken Garden

This area is called the Sunken Garden, which is gently sloped so that rainwater flows toward the lake.

Road Trip Day 6

The formal water feature was flanked by two container plantings, which were quite contemporary in style.

Japanese iris

The pond had beautiful yellow and purple flowering Japanese iris.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Vines were used in different ways throughout the garden.

A tree provided needed support for a clematis vine with its maroon flowers.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

 Years ago, I tried growing clematis in our first home.  It did grow, but never flowered.  I learned later that it gets too hot in the desert for clematis.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Another clematis was flowering next to a beautiful host underneath a tree.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

I love pink flowers, don’t you?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Wisteria was growing up on arbors and I never tire of viewing their lovely flowers and inhaling their heavenly fragrance.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

The vision of a rose climbing upward always makes me want to go home and grow one up the side of my house.

Paper Birch

Have you ever heard of ‘Paper Birch’ trees?

Their bark peels off in perfect sheets that is sometimes used to wrap around decorative candles.

I have always had a special place in my heart for birch trees.  Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb, we had three growing in our front yard.  I have always loved their white bark and bright-green leaves.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Underneath these birch trees was an interesting ornamental grass called dormitor quaking sedge (Carex brizoides).  I like how it lays down making it look like green waves underneath the trees.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Walking near the Perennial Garden, I spotted a blue-flowering plant that looked rather familiar.

It turned out to be a blue-flowering variety of autumn sage (Salvia greggii), ‘Blue Note’.

Can you imagine how patriotic a planting of red, white and blue autumn sage plants would look?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Here is another lovely edible, ornamental container that caught my eye, using kale.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Don’t you just want to sit down and relax in this area?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Pale-pink bee balm (Monarda species)was the only flower in this area of the garden, but it was more then enough alongside the ornamental grasses.

Sometimes less is more.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Walking on a paved area, I saw a planting of perennials right in the middle.  

Interestingly, there was no border or any clearly delineated space.  Just an opening without pavers where plants seemingly come up in the middle of a sea of pavers.

I kind of like this idea.  How about you?

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

If you have been reading my road trip posts, then you have probably noticed my obsession with peonies, which don’t grow in the desert.

Wherever we go, I see shrubs covered with gorgeous blooms.  

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Well, Olbrich Gardens were no exception.

I must have taken over 100 photos of all the different blooming peony varieties that they had.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

From a distance, peonies resemble bushes filled with roses.

However, once you get closer, you notice the the leaves have a different shape and so do the unopened blossoms, which are shaped into balls.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

Their petals tend to be more ruffled then roses.

Olbrich Botanical Gardens

And, their blossoms are huge!

We spent a lovely morning in the gardens, but it was time to hit the road for our next destination.

On my way out, I noticed an outdoor eating area with centerpieces made from plants that I was quite familiar with…

succulent containers

(Agave americana var. medio picta) was the center point of numerous succulent containers.

It wasn’t unusual to see succulent plants in many of the gardens we visited.  While they do fine in the summer months, they need to be brought indoors and protected during the cold months of the year.

Road Trip Day 6

 After taking 334 pictures of the gardens (seriously), it was time to hit the road.

Whenever possible, we try to stay off of main highways and focus on using smaller highways that run through small towns and countryside.

Road Trip Day 6

The Wisconsin countryside is green.  I mean really green!

Dairy farms dotted the landscape along with beautiful scenery.  We thoroughly enjoyed our journey.

Tomorrow, we spend time along the towns by the Mississippi River before heading toward Minnesota Amish country.

**I wanted to thank those of you who have left such wonderful comments.  I appreciate them so much!

We are officially halfway through our road trip through the upper midwest. (Feel free to read about days one, two and three). 

When we go on our road trips, not all of our destinations are necessarily known to draw tourists.  Sometimes we have to spend the night in an area just because it is on the way to our next destination.  

It is during these times that we get acquainted with small towns.  I have never lived in a small town – I have lived in suburbs my entire life.

That was where we found ourselves last night – in a small town halfway through the lower part of the  Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Bob's Big Boy restaurants

The only restaurant in town was Bob’s Big Boy and we were greeted by a giant moose dressed as Bob.  The food was good and it reminded me of eating at Bob’s Big Boy restaurants as a child in California.

For some reason, there was a moose dressed in another outfit in front of our hotel as well.

Road Trip Day 4

This is the view from our hotel this morning.  It was cloudy and cold at 41 degrees.

We dressed warmly and left on our way toward Wisconsin and further adventures.

Upper Peninsula

This is the view that we saw from the car 90-percent of the time as we drove through the Upper Peninsula, which is sparsely populated.

As we were driving, I saw a young bear cub romping toward the trees and the beach – pretty cool!

Upper Peninsula

We crossed into Wisconsin and stopped by a small restaurant that is a favorite among locals.  As we stepped out of our car, we noticed that the temperature was 40 degrees warmer (81 degrees) then where we had left from that morning. 

Road Trip Day 4

The food was good, but basic.  Bratwursts, hot dogs and burgers made up the menu.  You could tell that the restaurant was very popular with newspaper articles posted on the walls, t-shirts for sale and a lot of customers.

Road Trip Day 4

When in Wisconsin, you shop for cheese.  My husband loves cheese, so I made sure to buy some for him.

chocolate cheese fudge

There were many types of cheese and while my husband likes trying out unique flavors, I figured that he wasn’t up to having chocolate cheese fudge.

I did end up buying garlic cheddar, smoked cheddar and chipotle cheddar cheeses.

An piece of a tree trunk makes a nice planter for annual flowers at the entrance to the Green Bay Botanical Garden

An piece of a tree trunk makes a nice planter for annual flowers at the entrance to the Green Bay Botanical Garden. 

As we entered Green Bay, Wisconsin, we decided to visit the local botanical garden.

Road Trip Day 4

As my loved ones know, when I am in a garden, I tend to walk off and disappear as I take pictures of plants.  Thankfully, my husband and my mother are understanding about this tendency.

Curve your garden paths to add interest and a bit of mystery as to what is around the bend

Curve your garden paths to add interest and a bit of mystery as to what is around the bend. 

As a horticulturist and garden writer, I have a large photo library of plants.  Some of the writing I do is not limited to the southwest, but for all regions of the United States.  So, I like to take opportunities when I travel to take photos of plants that I will use later.

Lavender Peonies

Lavender Peonies 

I have a list of plants that I would love to have in my garden – but that do not grow in my desert climate.

Red Peonies

Red Peonies 

One of those plants on my list are peonies.

I love their full, ruffled flowers borne above bright-green foliage.

Did I mention that they are also wonderfully fragrant?

Lavender Peonies

Lavender Peonies 

The Green Bay Botanical Gardens were filled with flowering peonies in a myriad of different colors.

Maroon Peonies

Maroon Peonies 

I have photographed peonies on previous trips, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see so many different-colored peonies in one place.

Road Trip Day 4

Peonies bloom once a year in late spring into early summer depending on the variety and climate.

They die back to the ground in winter.

Road Trip Day 4

While peonies will grow in most climates, but they need cold temperatures in winter, so they do not grow well in zones 9 and above.

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts ‘Alba’ 

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are another flowering plant that I would grow, if I could.  They love cool, shady gardens.

Their flowers resemble a ‘bleeding heart’, hence their common name.   Available in both pink and white forms, this flowering perennial is just lovely.

White Bleeding Hearts

White Bleeding Hearts 

Road Trip Day 4

Do you have a bird bath in your garden?  I like the simplicity of this stone one.

Road Trip Day 4

When visiting botanical gardens, I am always getting new ideas for the garden.

While I have seen trellises created from branches before, I think this is the best one I have seen.  The branches are large enough to be able to provide support for climbing plants.  Rebar posts are used to anchor the trellis.

I think that I may have to make some for my own garden.

False Indigo (Baptisia australis)

False Indigo (Baptisia australis) 

Blue-flowering plants help to visually cool the garden, which can be welcome during the warm summer months.

Blue Forget-Me-Nots

Blue Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis sylvatica) 

Blue flowering plants look great when paired with white, pink or pale yellow plants.

Willow Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

Willow Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana) 

Road Trip Day 4

From a design standpoint, I like how a strip of blue phlox was planted to divide two separate plantings – don’t you?

Wild Red Columbine

Wild Red Columbine (Columbine canadensis) 

Wild red columbine was planted throughout the garden, in order to attract ruby-throated hummingbirds, which is the only hummingbird species found in Wisconsin.

Road Trip Day 4

As I got ready to leave the garden, I spotted this guy working very hard cutting back the weeds/grass with a brush cutter.  The slope was steep and it was a hot day – it made me glad that my garden doesn’t have steep slopes.

*After leaving the gardens, we drove through the city of Green Bay.  Now, if you haven’t heard of the fervent fan base of the Green Bay Packers football team, than you must have your head buried in the sand.

Packer Stadium

Packer Stadium 

Spend just a few minutes in the city and it is obvious that they love their football team.  How do I know this?

Road Trip Day 4

Across the street from the stadium are homes that back up to the street.  Without exception, every house has some sort of Packer decoration.

Road Trip Day 4

From a decorated gate, a raised deck encircled with etched glass with the Packer emblem and a giant football statue – the neighborhood has it all.

Road Trip Day 4

You can even buy cheese in your favorite Packer shape.

*I hope you are enjoying reading about our road trip adventures.  Thank you to those of you who have commented!

Tomorrow, we are off to more road trip adventures!

Downtown Chicago is a very beautiful place with its architecture and the river flowing through it.  However, most of my attention was focused on the green spaces.

How much can we see in 2 1/2 hours of walking?

How much can we see in 2 1/2 hours of walking?

My husband and I found ourselves with a few hours to kill before flying home after seeing our daughter’s graduation from the Naval base.  So, armed with our camera and walking shoes, we set off.

Millenium Park

We began our journey at Millenium Park, which is nestled in the heart of downtown Chicago along Michigan Avenue.

“Cloud Gate” or as most Chicagoans refer to it “The Bean” is a must see.

It looks like liquid mercury and reflects the skyline and city towers.   

Millenium Park

You can walk underneath it AND take a picture with your husband without having to ask someone else because of the reflection.

After viewing the ‘shiny bean’, we started walking along Michigan Avenue toward the Art Institute of Chicago.  

downtown Chicago
downtown Chicago
I just love buildings with large lions standing in front of the entrance

I just love buildings with large lions standing in front of the entrance.

There was a huge line of people waiting to go inside once it opened.  But, I must admit that I wasn’t going to waste my time going inside when I could see the pretty gardens surrounding it.

South Garden

As we approached the South Garden of the Art Institute, I was surprised to learn that it was built upon a parking garage…

Green Spaces of Chicago

Staggered rows of hawthorn trees in raised beds provided a beautiful, shady oasis inviting passersby to stop and rest, read a book or even eat lunch.  

Green Spaces of Chicago

Green Spaces of Chicago

Rows of ornamental alliums lined the pathway through the North Garden.  

Green Spaces of Chicago

These flowers were large and so beautiful.

Green Spaces of Chicago

The North Garden was filled with beautiful perennials that had different shaped foliage and heights, which is a great way to add texture and interest to the garden.

Green Spaces of Chicago

Here is another example of two plants that have contrasting foliage.  By placing them together, you highlight the differences between them showcasing their individual beauty.

Green Spaces of Chicago

This perennial plant caught my eye with its tiny blue flowers and pretty foliage.

Green Spaces of Chicago

It is called Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’ and is a really wonderful plant that grows well in the shade.  Slugs, deer and rabbits DON’T like it, which makes it a popular choice for woodland gardens.  Which means that I won’t be growing it in my garden – it’s too hot with too little shade where I live).

Now, we were continuing our walk onto the Lurie Gardens.

Chicago-style hot dogs

On the way, we say a few hot dog carts selling Chicago-style hot dogs.  I didn’t get one because I LOVE using ketchup on my hot dogs and didn’t want to offend anyone ๐Ÿ˜‰

Green Spaces of Chicago

The Lurie Gardens were beautiful.  Just look at the deep purple of the Meadow Sage.

Green Spaces of Chicago

The tulips were on their way out, but we could still see some white ones hanging on.  Look at the layers of plantings above, with the different textures – I love it!

Green Spaces of Chicago

Green Spaces of Chicago

Whenever I visit new places, I like to see the different types of plants that grow there.

Prairie Smoke

This interesting plant is known as ‘Prairie Smoke’. It is easy to see where it got its name.

Green Spaces of Chicago

I love blue flowers in the garden because blue is a color that is often absent in the garden.  

Green Spaces of Chicago

This is Willowleaf ‘Blue Star’.

Green Spaces of Chicago

Peonies ready to bloom.  One of two plants that I really wish would grow in my desert garden…but peonies need cold winters.

Green Spaces of Chicago

I liked the blue spiky flowers of Quamash.

Green Spaces of Chicago

There were docents, leading tours of the garden, which is free to all who visit.

In fact, to this point, we had not spent any money except for parking.  The parks and gardens were all free.

Now, it was time to explore the streets of Chicago where I was happy to see many beautiful examples of creative container plant combinations.

Please come back to see more of our adventure in downtown Chicago where you will see my second favorite plant that I wish I could grow in my garden…

For those of you who have been nice enough to follow my adventures on our Midwest road trip, this will be my last post.

Our last two places that we visited were Hannibal, Missouri where Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) grew up and lastly, Carthage, Missouri, which is located on Route 66 and was the home of my great-great grandparents.

Our first night in Hannibal was cold and rainy.  Thankfully, we woke up to a beautiful, sunny day.

Viewing the Mississippi River from our hotel room.

Viewing the Mississippi River from our hotel room.

The Mississippi River was beautiful to see.

The Mississippi River was beautiful to see.

Can you see the riverboat?

Can you see the riverboat?

The levee that protected the town from flooding were quite tall

The levee that protected the town from flooding were quite tall.

The town was very charming.

The town was very charming.

Midwest road trip

They had a master garden, which consisted of a vegetable garden.

Midwest road trip

They also had a butterfly garden.

Midwest road trip

Isn’t this a cute border made up of small terra-cotta pots?

Midwest road trip

I enjoyed walking through this garden and it was obvious that a lot of time and care had been spent on it.

Midwest road trip

Statue of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn

Midwest road trip

Getting ready to whitewash the fence, just like Tom Sawyer.

Midwest road trip

Our unexpected stop was in Kansas.  We were only about 10 miles from the border, so we decided to venture into Kansas and see what there was to see.  It turns out there is a famous Union Civil War fort in Ft. Scott.  It is a national park and we enjoyed exploring.

Midwest road trip

Behind the fort, there was a small garden.  Most of what was growing was a variety of herbs.  But, it was the blooming irises that caught my eye…

Midwest road trip

Aren’t they beautiful?

Midwest road trip

You know what?  I really like iris and I think I will grow some in my own garden next spring.

Midwest road trip

Okay, you may be wondering what I am doing in a cemetery.  Well, this is where my great-great grandparents are buried.  They settled in a town on Route 66 called Carthage.  We were able to find their grave and it was a really wonderful way to end our Midwest road trip.

Midwest road trip

At the cemetery, I noticed a gravestone that had a Peony bush planted next to it.  Believe it or not, I have never seen a real Peony bush before.  They do not grow in the desert.  The flowers were so beautiful and fragrant.

Well, by the time you read this, I will soon be on my way to the Springfield, Missouri airport.  I had a fabulous time traveling with my mother and discovering  all sorts of neat things about the Midwest.  One thing that I discovered, is how much that I don’t know – but I do love learning about new things.

Thank you for ‘traveling’ along with me.  I cannot wait to see my husband and kids when I arrive home tomorrow ๐Ÿ™‚