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The holidays are here and if you are like me, you a long list of people to find the perfect gift for. Because I love plants and gardening, I like to look for gifts with a garden theme to give, as well as to give my husband some hints as to what to get for me.

I’ve created lists of some of my favorite garden gifts and have split them up into different categories, which I will share with you over the next week, so be sure to check back daily.  For your ease and convenience, all items can be purchased online, so grab a cup of coffee and let’s get started.

*This blog post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I may receive a commission (at no additional cost to you). Thanks for your support in this way.*

What is gardening without plants? Thankfully, it is easy to order a variety of plants for the gardener in your life. Here are some of my favorites:

1. Waxed Amaryllis

I’m starting out with my favorite this year. Imagine a plant that needs no water, fertilizer or any special care other than to place it by a window? While the dramatic blooms of amaryllis are a popular holiday gift, these waxed amaryllises take it one step further. Covered in wax, they have all the water and fertilizer needed for them to bloom, which makes them an excellent choice for people with a self-professed ‘black thumb’. Click here to order.

Want to learn more about this pretty, low-maintenance flower? I talk about it in my newest Facebook Live video:

Since I’ve posted the video, I’ve heard from several of you that you have seen these for sale at their local grocery and big box stores, so they shouldn’t be hard to find if you don’t want to order them online.

 

2. David Austin English Rose

Christmas is the best time to buy a new rose for the garden, ready for being planted in January. David Austin has created a class of roses the couples the beautiful shape and fragrance of the old-fashioned roses with the repeat blooming of more modern roses.  Why else should you want to add one of these beauties to your garden? They are disease resistant and much lower-maintenance than your more traditional roses. My favorite is ‘Olivia Rose’, which grows in my side garden where I view their pretty pink blossoms from my kitchen window. David Austin roses can be ordered here.

 

 

3. Potted Succulents

Dive into the latest gardening craze, which is all about succulents. You don’t need a lot of space to grow your own – just a pot, potting mix, and a pretty little succulent. Imagine how nice this would look on your windowsill. There are a number of potted succulents available such as this one with a gold-toned planter. Click here to order.

4. Air Plants

Create your own little garden world with this kit, that has all you need, including an air plant, moss, rocks and a lovely hanging glass container. Air plants have such unique shapes and are easy to care for. Click here to order.

5. Assorted Agave

Did you know that there are over 200 species of agave? The different shapes, colors, and sizes mean that there is one (or more) that are right for your garden. You can get a good start on an agave collection by ordering this assortment either for yourself or divide it up into four separate gifts. Click here to order. 

Do you have a favorite plant that you received as a gift? I’d love to hear about it.

Come back tomorrow when I’ll share my picks for garden tools and gear.

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My Abraham Darby shrub rose and my little dog, Tobey.
If you live in a hot arid climate like me, chances are that your roses are feeling the heat and aren’t looking their best right now. While gardeners in cooler climates celebrate summer with beautiful rose blooms, the opposite is true for those of us who live in the desert. 
 
Roses actually grow quite well in hot, southwestern zones, and even though mine has a somewhat sunburned appearance – I’m not worried because this is normal.
 
You see, roses that are grown in the low desert regions, don’t like the intense sun and heat that summer brings. As a result, the flowers become smaller and the petals literally burn in the sun and turn crispy.  By July, you will likely not see any new roses appearing until October once the weather cools.
 
The rose blooms themselves aren’t the only parts of the roses affected by the summer heat – the leaves can come away sunburned as well.
 
When faced with brown crispy petals and leaves, you may be tempted to prune away the damaged leaves, but don’t.  
 
There are two reasons why you shouldn’t prune your roses in the summer.  The first is that pruning will stimulate new growth that will be even more susceptible to sunburn damage.  Second, the older branches and leaves will help to shade the growth underneath from the sun.
 
I know that is very hard not to prune away the browning leaves, but once September comes around, you can get out your pruning shears and prune back your rose bushes by 1/3. This will remove the sun-damaged flowers and leaves, stimulating new growth. 
 
 
Before you start lamenting the less than stellar appearance of your summer roses and feel that it is easier to grow roses in other regions, you would be wrong. Oh, certainly we have to deal with our roses not looking their best in the summer.  But, compare that with gardeners in other areas who have to deal with the dreaded Japanese beetle that shows up every summer and eats their roses. Or, how about those people who live in more humid climates and are having to deal with severe cases of blackspot or powdery mildew (white spots on the leaves).  
 
And lastly – we are fortunate to enjoy two separate blooming seasons for our roses.  In fall, when many other gardeners are putting their roses to bed for the winter, ours are getting ready to bloom a second time that year.
 
 
And so, I will ignore my less than beautiful roses this summer, because I know that they will look fantastic this fall 🙂
 
How about you?  Do you grow roses in the desert?
 
 
 

Do you love roses?  I do.


I used to have 40 roses in my Phoenix garden – I must admit that I went a little overboard.  

Showing my sister a few of my roses back in the 90’s
Now my rose garden consists of three well-loved roses…

Abraham Darby

Although my passion has steered toward using drought tolerant trees and plants to add beauty to the landscape, I still have a special place in my heart for roses.

So, whenever I am on the road and a rose garden is nearby, I always take some time to “walk through the roses”.


Back in 2001, we took a trip to Ireland.  This was when we had two kids and not five (we adopted three children from China a few years later).

Of course when traveling in Europe, castles are always on the ‘must-see’ list.  While visiting the city of Kilkenny, we decided to make a stop at Kilkenny Castle.

The problem was, was that all of Ireland and Great Britain was under quarantine conditions at many of the tourist attractions due to ‘foot and mouth’ disease, which was highly contagious and speading to livestock.

So, much of our trip was spent looking from the outside in.


Fast forward 2 years later and we found ourselves in Kilkenny again and we were thrilled that there were no restrictions.  

My husband was anxious to go on the tour of the inside of the castle, but the problem was, was that I couldn’t tear myself away from the rose gardens surrounding the castle.


It was June and the roses smelled heavenly and were so beautiful.

Whenever I find myself on a large estate or castle (which isn’t all that often), I like to dream of what I would do with the gardens.

In this case, I would probably tear up more grass and add more roses!

I look cranky in this photo, but I blame it on the jet lag from arriving in Ireland the day before.
After spending an hour touring the grounds, we did make it indoors for the tour, which was very interesting – I like history too!


The next day was spent touring the surrounding countryside, but in the afternoon, we found ourselves drawn to the rose garden again and sat on the benches reading.

I can’t think of a better way to spend an afternoon, do you?

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For more information on roses and how to grow them in the desert, I have listed several blog posts that will help that you can access, here.

For those of you who have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I sometimes write about the goings on in my life.  And so I begin the post with fair warning- if you are looking for gardening content – there will be some, but not a lot.


Do you ever look back at your calendar for the past month and wonder where the time went?


I did just that and was pleasantly surprised to see how much went on.  I thought that I’d share with you a small snapshot of the past month in the life of ‘az plant lady’ (me)!



The most exciting event was visiting my daughter in California and being there for her ultrasound when she found out that she was having a little boy.

I am so excited and can’t wait for January to get here so that I can hold him in my arms!

Surf shop in California
While visiting my daughter, who is in the Navy and stationed in California, we stopped by the small beach town of Carpenteria, which is just south of Santa Barbara.  

We visited a couple of nurseries in Carpenteria where I discovered a new flowering perennial introduction and enjoyed a very unique experience at another nursery.

It was fun to stop and watch the surfers.  *Did you know that surfing is a really big deal in California?  My high school had a surf club and I had many friends and family who were surfers.  As for me, I’ve never set foot on a surfboard 😉

Santa Barbara Mission and rose garden.
We stopped off to visit the beautiful mission of Santa Barbara, which was founded in 1786.  I always enjoy visiting the mission, but I must confess that my attention was diverted by the adjoining rose garden that was in full bloom.

I’ll share more about my visit to another special rose garden later this week.

My husband and I both enjoy visiting this area since we spent time there when we attended Westmont College in Santa Barbara, which is where we met.

The college has beautiful grounds and I recently shared some photos of our most recent visit there, which you can see here.  

Back home, homecoming at our local high school arrived early this year.  Our daughter, Ruthie had fun getting ready and had a great time!


Earlier in the month, Ruthie took part in the ice-bucket challenge for ALS on behalf of her grandpa who died from this truly horrible disease 3 years ago.

I was so proud of her.


Has your husband ever had a dream of owning a certain car or motorcycle?

Mine has wanted a Harley Davdison motorcycle for over 9 years.  He has stacks of old motorcycle magazines dating back from 2006 that he has kept hidden away in a huge Rubbermaid plastic tub.  

I am married to someone who is so giving and self-sacrificing and it was so nice to see the joy as his dream was finally realized.  

He has been walking around with a smile on his face for weeks now and he looks forward to driving to and from work on his new bike.


Surprisingly, my granddaughter, Lily, has been quite taken with her papa’s new motorcycle and asks to see “the Harley Davidson” when she visits.

It is really kind of funny since her parents aren’t into motorcycles at all.  But, she adores her papa and his new bike.

While at our local Harley Davidson dealer, my husband saw kid tattoos and picked up one for her that had a scorpion on it.

Lily likes to wear little tattoos of Minnie Mouse or other cartoon characters, but I was shocked when she wanted to wear the one her papa bought her with a scorpion on it.

If my granddaughter turns out to be a ‘biker chick’ when she gets older – it will be her papa’s fault 😉


Two weeks ago, we received record-breaking 5 1/2 of rainfall within a few hours time!!!

My husband had to delay going to work in order to sweep water off of the patio to keep our house from flooding.  When he did finally get on the road to get to work, it took 30 minutes to drive 4 miles!

The garden loved the rain and now all the weeds are beginning to come up, so I’ll mix up a batch of my homemade weed killer.  

So what will the coming month bring?


Right now, I’m busy designing landscape for four different areas on a golf course, where they are removing large areas of turf, in favor of a drought tolerant landscape.

My dining room table has been taken over by large sheets of vellum (what I draw my designs on), drafting supplies and the like.

I tend to get involved in creating designs this way and can easily spend an entire day in my own little world.


This month also brings another first for us.  My husband and I are both alumni of Arizona State University and have season tickets this year.

We are so excited and hopefully, our team will do well this year.

Next week, we will be adding a new member to our family.


Meet Polly!

We recently said “goodbye” to our 15 year-old golden retriever and decided to welcome a new dog into our lives.

Although Polly is not ready to come live with us yet, we were able to visit her and her litter mates.

It will be hard to wait a whole week to hold her again.  In the meantime, I’ll stock on doggy toys, puppy food, dig out the baby gates again and be sure to have a lot of pet/floor cleaner on hand 😉

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Well, that is a snapshot of the past month and some of what will be happening soon.

Thank you for taking a little time out of your day and allowing me to share a little of my life.

I appreciate it so much!


If you have been following along with my last couple of posts (Part 1 and Part 2), then you know that I have been showing some of the highlights of this year’s Arcadia Edible Garden Tour.


Well, here is the last installment, showing some of our favorite highlights from the last few gardens we toured.



I was looking forward to visit Caroline’s garden.  She blogs about growing and cooking great food at Boho Farm and Home.


The first thing you notice as you enter her back garden is that you start to feel relaxed amidst the beauty and shade.



Who wouldn’t want to spend time enjoying a beautiful summer’s day in the shade?



Galvanized tubs are all the rage for planting vegetables gardens, flower, etc.  I may need to get one for my garden…



I love the wire mesh arch connecting both of these raised vegetable beds at Boho Farm.  I can just imagine growing Scarlet Creeper vines up and over this arch.



The vegetable beds were full of delicious vegetables, which Caroline serves to visitors.



I like her fence, don’t you?



Her apple trees are espaliered along the fence.



Throughout the gardens at Boho Farm were artichokes mixed with ornamental plants.  Artichokes are a beautiful plant, so why not combine them with the rest of your garden?


Our last stop was a home where I was inspired to create my own trellises…

This scarlet creeper vine, which are very easy to grow in the summer, is growing up a vine made up of rebar and wire mesh.  


How simple would that be to make?  I think my husband and I are up for it.


Rebar is the hot trend in garden art right now.  I love trends that are cheap – you can’t get much cheaper then rebar.



Of course, we saw more apples growing.  They won’t be ripe until mid June.


Which reminds me – it is almost time for me to haul out my canning supplies and get ready to make peach, plum and strawberry jam.  You can read about my adventures in canning hereif you like.


Of course, I will also make some applesauce too using apples from my mother’s trees.  My apple trees are too young to be producing apples yet.  I’ll probably have to wait a few more years.


As you can see, we had a wonderful morning together and I came home with some new plants and a few new ideas for my garden.




Would you like to go on this tour next year?


The Arcadia Edible Garden Tour has been held the past 2 years in early May.  Tickets sell out quickly, so start looking for them on Sweet Life Garden’s blog in early April.

Who knows…we may bump into each other next year!

The past couple of days on the road have been both eventful AND uneventful.


Yesterday morning found us in Columbia, SC.  We set on our way to find a folk art festival that was scheduled near the campus of University of South Carolina (USC), but couldn’t find it.


What we did find, driving through the campus, was a community garden, a rose garden and beautiful perennial beds along the roadside.


We parked near the university book store in the only spot we could find – we had only 30 minutes to explore or else we could get a ticket.



These perennial beds were filled with vegetables like artichoke and swiss chard, which look great as ornamentals alongside the pansies, dianthus and lamb’s ears.

Pink and coral poppies were in full bloom.  
The red poppies in my garden at home were just beginning to fade before I left.  


The campus of USC also has historical significance during the Civil War, where the parade grounds and barracks were located.

As we continued our walk, I kept seeing more things that got me excited.


As we turned the corner, we found ourselves in a small rose garden.


Isn’t this Peace rose, pretty?  It was raining lightly as you can see.


This climbing rose used a nearby tree as a support.


I have grown many different kinds of roses, but never climbing roses.  Maybe I should try?

Being from a dry climate, I am fascinated in observing the differences in gardens of wetter climates.


Okay, I know that those of you who live in more humid climates may be rolling your eyes at this point when you look at the photo, above.  

But, I thought these ferns looked just beautiful growing out from the brick wall.

I am also always interested in seeing familiar plants, adapted to dry climates, being represented in other areas, like the Yucca, below.


We came upon the largest agave that I have seen, which is saying something because I see a LOT of agave.


I was having a great time and looking at my watch, realized that we had to start heading back to our car so we wouldn’t get a ticket.


But then, we came upon this community garden.

I was in heaven!

These raised beds were filled with delicious vegetables.


Next to the raised beds, was a garden with herbs, including these flowering broccoli.


The separate beds were divided, not with boxwood hedges, but rosemary.  I really liked how it looked.

At the back wall of the herb garden, stood a ‘tipsy-topsy’ planter.

There was a different herb in each pot – chives, cilantro, basil, oregano and rosemary.  
As the clock was ticking and we didn’t have any time to spare, we walked by this beautiful bed of flowers, containing one of my favorite plants – Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).



USC has a beautiful campus and I was so happy to have to found such an unexpected garden ‘jewel’.

After leaving USC, we decided to visit the Confederate Museum in Columbia.  
You see, my mother and I love to learn about history and that entails visiting museums and historical sights.  
I am both a product of both the North and the South in regards to my ancestry.

It was time to leave Columbia for our next destination.  

*The community garden was so wonderful that I will need to feature it in an upcoming post.

**Tipsy-topsy pots are very popular right now and aren’t hard to make.  I found a tutorial that you can click on here.

I love roses, don’t you?

Believe it or not, I used to have 40 different varieties of hybrid tea roses in my garden when I lived in Phoenix.

Now, I am perfectly happy with my 3 David Austin shrub roses.


Technically, they aren’t my roses.

They belong to my kids.

The beautiful pink rose, above, is Abraham Darby, which belongs to my daughter, Ruthie.

We planted these roses 3 years ago.

You can read about our planting adventure here, “Three Little Roses – Ready for a New Home” and “Three Little Roses -Time to Plant” complete with rose planting guidelines and pictures of my kids when they were much younger – where does the time go?

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Hope your week is off to a good start!

I must admit that I am really missing my daughter, Rachele, who is entering her second week of basic training in the Navy.

Do you have peppers growing in your garden?

I don’t….

Sure, my bell pepper plants are beautiful.

But, I don’t have any peppers growing on them.
So, I added a ‘secret’ ingredient to them today.  I didn’t have to go out and buy it.  It was already in my cupboard…

 Yes, I’m talking about Epsom salt.
Some of you may have already heard about the benefits of Epsom salts in the garden.
Epsom salts are made up of magnesium sulfate, which is a nutrient that plants like to have, especially if your soil is deficient.
If you want me to get ‘scientific’ on you magnesium strengthens cell walls, aids in photosynthesis = dark green leaves, helps seeds to germinate and can help flowers, fruit and/or vegetables to form.
And so, I applied 2 tablespoons around each of my pepper plants and watered it in.   Some gardeners like to create a spray out of Epsom salt and water and spray on the leaves, but it is too hot in the summer to do this – the leaves will burn.
 
I can’t wait to see the results.  I am hoping for lots of peppers.  I’ll keep you posted!
*Roses also love Epsom salts – apply 1/2 a cup around the base of each of your roses.

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I love to bake and cook and just started a new cooking blog called “azplantlady cooks

I have a couple of delicious recipes already posted and many more already written, ready to post.

If you have minute to spare….I’d love for you to visit 🙂 

Graham Thomas, Abraham Darby, and Falstaff David Austin shrub roses.
Do you love roses?
I do….
In fact, at one time – I had 40 rose bushes growing in my garden in our first house.  I lovingly tended them and was rewarded with gorgeous blooms.
Years later, I don’t have quite as many roses in my current garden, but I love growing them just as much as I did years ago.
Abraham Darby
Because we grow roses for their beautiful blooms, I learned some tips from rose-growing experts on how to maximize blooms and the health of my rose bushes.
 
So, I’m going to share them with you.
*Basic rose care consists of fertilizing your roses in spring, using a fertilizer specially formulated for roses. You can do this and have a lovely rose bush. However, if you want the biggest and most floriferous rose bushes in your neighborhood, you’ll want to follow these tips. 
 
1. In spring, grab your broom (yes, I said a broom) and make six holes around each rose bush (about 1 ft. from the base).  Each hole should be 6 – 8 inches deep.  
 
2. For this next step, you will need 6 cups of compost, 3 cups of composted steer (or chicken or horse) manure, 1/2 cup of Epsom salts, the recommended amount of your favorite rose fertilizer and two handfuls of alfalfa pellets per rose bush.
 
So how do these ingredients help your roses?
– The compost improves your soil by adding fertility, increasing its ability to hold the right amount of water and feeds microorganisms in the soil.
– Using manure adds a natural source of nitrogen that is slowly released into the soil.  Make sure the manure is composted (aged) before using, or it can ‘burn’ your roses.
– Head to your nearest feed store and pick up some alfalfa pellets.  When alfalfa breaks down in the soil, it releases an alcohol (triacontanol) that roses love.  They respond to it by growing more branches (basal breaks) from the bud union AND increases the number of roses and their size.  
Falstaff
 
3. Mix all the ingredients together and then pour the mixture into each of the holes.  Work any extra mixture into the top inch of soil around your roses.  By adding the mixture into the holes, you are putting them right where the roots are.
4.  Water deeply to 18 inches.
That’s it!  Follow these tips, and your roses will soon be the envy of all your neighbors.
 
But, I’m not finished yet….
 
If you want to do even more….then follow this next step:
 
5. Add liquid fertilizer to your roses monthly during the growing season.
 
**In hot, dry desert climates – your roses will slow down their growth during the heat of summer because it is hard for them to focus on growth when it is hot.  Apply liquid fertilizer at 1/2 strength once a month beginning in May and lasting through August. In September begin your regular fertilizer schedule for beautiful, fall roses.

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Do you know what the definition of the word ‘conundrum’ is?


I do.  Actually, I had to look it up – but it basically means a “difficult situation”.  That sums up what I am facing in my back garden.


Here are the ‘parts’ that make up my conundrum:

First, there is my wonderful husband….


 You may have noticed that he is bit camera-shy when it comes to appearing on my blog 😉

The second part is the nest box that my husband made to attract leaf-cutter bees.


 As you can see, there are already some occupants in some of the larger holes.

You may be wondering why my husband is trying to attract leaf-cutter bees.  Well, he has recently become interested in beekeeping and is considering raising honeybees someday.
In the meantime, he decided that he would try to attract leaf-cutter bees.  

I was more then happy to encourage him in his experiment.  Leaf-cutter bees are important pollinators, are non-aggressive and rarely sting. 

But, that was then……

Do you know what else leaf-cutter bees do?


Like their name suggests, they cut circular sections out of leaves which they use to line their nests with.  They then store a supply of pollen and nectar, lay eggs and then leave.

Now my husband’s nest box is located right above my roses….



 Guess what a leaf-cutter bee’s favorite type of leaf is?

You guessed it….rose leaves.

So, you see what my conundrum is?  

I want to be a supportive wife…

I want pollinators in my garden…


Bees are in huge trouble and their populations are declining and I’d like to help…

I don’t mind some holes from leaf cutter bees, which won’t hurt my roses.  However, I would rather not have too many holes cut out of my rose leaves…

So, what should I do?

I will ask my husband if he wouldn’t mind moving his nest box elsewhere in the garden.  That way my roses will not get too ‘holey’, I’ll still have pollinators in my garden and my husband still gets to have fun attracting leaf-cutter bees.

I think that works, don’t you?

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Roses can handle a fair amount of activity from leaf-cutter bees, although too many holes will affect the health of your roses.  Remember that it is leaves that make the ‘food’ for your plants.

I don’t like to use pesticides if I can help it in the garden, but they wouldn’t help me against leaf-cutter bees.  Since the bees don’t actually eat the leaves, the pesticide is useless.  **More importantly, I don’t want to harm the bees, so I wouldn’t use pesticides against them, regardless.

If you don’t want to see any holes in your rose leaves, you can cover them with cheesecloth or fine netting to keep the leaf-cutter bees away (as people who exhibit their roses in shows do).

**So how about you?  Have you experienced a conundrum in the garden?  Who or what was involved?  I would love to hear about it 🙂