Posts

Do you have a citrus tree in your garden? I do.  
 
I have two trees – a Meyer lemon and a brand new ‘Trovita’ orange tree. 
 
As a child in California, we always had citrus trees in our backyard.  I would pick lemons from my favorite tree just off the back patio. Later, we moved to a larger ranch-style home that had several citrus trees. I honestly never paid much attention to them, because as a teenager I had more important things to think about – like boys and how to get perfect-perm for my hair (it was the 80’s).
 
Now as an adult (with permed hair thankfully in my past), I do pay attention to my citrus trees. Consequently, I look forward to the fragrant blossoms that cover citrus trees in mid-winter. As the blooms fade, tiny green fruit is left behind, which are baby citrus fruit. However, as spring progresses, some of the small, green fruit drop to the ground. Not surprisingly, this concerns gardeners who don’t understand why.
 
Well, let me put all your worries to rest.  This is a normal occurrence. Citrus trees produce more blossoms than it can grow into mature fruit. They do this in order to attract the most pollinators and after the flower petals drop, little green fruit is left behind, which ideally grow into large delicious fruit ready to harvest in winter. However, the tree cannot support that much fruit, so the tree figures out how much fruit it can grow to maturity and then drop the rest.
 
For those of you who have young citrus trees, I want to warn you that most of the little green fruit will drop. Citrus trees need a large root system and a lot of leaves to support a good amount of fruit and that only comes with age. So, if you see tiny, green citrus on the ground every spring – don’t panic. It is all part of the normal cycle of growing citrus.

Do you love roses?

I do.

For those of you who have been following me for any length of time, you know that my love affair with roses is something that I like to share with others. For that reason, on a lovely day in May, I made a visit to the Old West town, Tombstone, Arizona.  

This historic town has two different attractions that appeal to me and my husband. He loves old westerns, and walking along the main street and seeing where the famous gunfight took place is something he enjoys. While it’s fun to explore the real-life places from long ago, my favorite destination lies just a block off of the main street…
 
At first glance, you would never know that a famous plant resides beyond the front door of this historic inn that is now a museum. However, it is in the backyard of this building, the “Rose Tree Inn”, which lies the “World’s Largest Rosebush“.
 
Due to my love of roses, and having heard of this famous rosebush I am excited to see it in person.
 
As you walk into the little museum, you feel as if you have stepped back into time within its rose-scented interior. As I venture toward the back where the rosebush is, my first impression is of a beautifully shaded patio area.
 
 
Over the patio, the outer branches of the rosebush create dappled shade.  
 
As you make your way toward the main part of the rose bush, the sheer enormity of its size begins to be evident.  
 
 
In the center of the branches, you can see the large, twisted trunk of the rosebush.
 
It is really hard to get the scale of how big it is from pictures – but look at how small the door looks off to the right side.
 
 
Now, see how big it looks with me next to it in the picture, above. Note – I am fairly tall at 5’9″.
 
The trunk is approximately 12-feet around and very shaggy with strips bark falling off. It definitely looks old.
 
This photo is taken with a flash, which lights up the area considerably. In actuality, it is very shady underneath.
 
 
Even when you stand right next to it, you can’t quite believe the enormous size.
 
This rosebush is not only the world’s largest – but it is also very old. For that reason, the history of the rosebush and how it came to be in Tombstone is quite interesting.
 
 

History

The rose came from Scotland in 1887, which makes it over 130 years old. A young Scottish immigrant and her husband moved to Tombstone in 1885.  Her family sent their homesick daughter a box filled with cuttings of her favorite rosebush from home.
 
She gave one of the cuttings to her friend, Amelia Adamson. Together they planted the rosebush in back of Amelia’s boarding house where it has obviously flourished in its new surroundings.
 
Years later, the rosebush began to get attention with its large size. Consequently, it was declared the world’s largest in the 1930’s.
 
Now, the Tombstone rosebush reaches over 8,000 square feet!
 
 
To get an overall view of the rosebush, you walk to the other side where there are steps to climb. Because the only part you see underneath the patio are its branches, the view from above is quite different. As a result, you have a clear view of the lacy foliage and flowers in the spring.
 
 
Can you imagine how beautiful this would look in bloom? It is said that roses absolutely cover the entire upper part of the rosebush with fragrant, white flowers…

 

This is a close-up of the flowers from a different Lady Bank’s rose.

 
As you can imagine, holding up a rosebush this large isn’t easy. Therefore, metal rods form a checkerboard pattern that are large wooden posts hold up.

I spot a bird’s nest within the branches.

After I finish with my photos, I stroll back into the museum where I notice row of small rose bushes.
 
 
Above them is this sign…
 
 
Well, I don’t describe myself as an ‘impulse buyer’,  I just have to buy a cutting from this historic plant.
 
 
I do have a good spot for it where it can grow up on the wall in my side yard. Because it can’t climb without support, I will provide a trellis for it to grow up on.  Lady Bank’s roses also make great ground covers.
 
Although this rosebush was an impulse buy, it requires less maintenance than more traditional roses. I certainly can’t wait to grow a piece of the world’s largest rosebush!

I am excited to show you two pictures of one of my favorite perennials.


Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatonii)

Isn’t this a cool picture of a bee, ready to pollinate the flowers of this penstemon?

I must confess that I did not take this photo (or the other one below).  My husband took both of these beautiful pictures.


This firecracker penstemon is happily growing in my garden and is now over 14 years old, which is rare.  

Every winter, it sends up spikes covered in red, tubular flowers, much to the delight of the resident hummingbirds.

The blooms last through spring in my desert garden.  In cooler climates, it will bloom in spring through early summer.

To learn more about this red beauty and how easy it is to grow in your garden, click here.


***********************


I hope you have enjoyed my favorite flower photos.  Starting tomorrow, I will begin posting a series of my favorite DIY blog posts, so please come back for a visit!

Do you have a citrus in your garden? I do.  
 
Mine are quite young – I have an ‘Arizona Sweet’ orange tree and a ‘Meyer’ lemon.
 
Growing up in California, we always had citrus trees. When I was a young girl, I remember picking lemons from our large lemon tree in the backyard. We later moved to a larger ranch-style home which had several citrus trees and I honestly never paid much attention to these them, largely because I was a teenager and had much more important things to think about – like boys and how to get the perfectly-permed hair (it was the 80’s).
 
Now that I am all grown up and permed hair is thankfully in my past, I do pay attention to my citrus trees. Every winter, I look forward to the fragrant blossoms that cover citrus trees. These blossoms slowly turn into tiny citrus fruit. As spring progresses, some of these small, green fruit end up dropping to the ground, which leads to a host of questions from worried gardeners.
 
Well, I want to put all your worries to rest.  This is a normal occurrence. Citrus trees produce more blossoms than it can grow into mature fruit. They do this in order to attract the most pollinators and after the flower petals drop, little green fruit is left behind, which ideally grow into large delicious fruit that will be harvested in winter. However, the tree cannot support that much fruit, so the tree figures out how much fruit it can grow to maturity and then drops the rest.
 
For those of you who have young citrus trees, most of the little green fruit will drop.  Citrus trees have to have a large root system and a lot of leaves to support a good amount of fruit and that only comes with age. So, if you see tiny, green citrus on the ground every spring – don’t panic.  It is all part of the normal cycle of growing citrus.
Springtime in the desert southwest is a glorious time.  

We say “goodbye” to cold, winter temperatures and delight in the landscape around us and it bursts into bloom.

I enjoy spending time outdoors this time of year, realizing that soon I will go into what I like to call ‘summer hibernation’ as the temperatures reach triple digits.

Today, I thought that I would share with you some beautiful, pink flowering plants that are in bloom right now…

Pink Fairy Duster (Calliandra eriophylla)

Pink fairy duster shows off its pink flowers once a year in spring.  The rest of the year, it quietly recedes into the background until spring arrives again.

Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia basilaris)

My favorite prickly pear has vibrant, pink flowers throughout spring.  One of the reasons that I like beavertail prickly pear is that it stays rather small and does not become overgrown like other species can.

Parry’s Penstemon (Penstemon parryi)

I’m a sucker for plants that produce flowering spikes, like Parry’s penstemon.  It has such a delicate, pink color and hummingbirds find it irresistible.

Pink California Poppy

Did you know that the traditional, orange California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) comes in other colors?  I think I’m in love with the pink variety.

‘Raspberry Ice’ Bougainvillea

Bougainvillea makes an excellent container plant. All you have to do is water them deeply and then allow them to dry out before watering again.  Although I have a deep, magenta bougainvillea in my own garden – I must admit that I really like the variety ‘Raspberry Ice’ which has cream-colored brachts with pink tips.

Pink Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’

Although traditionally a summer-bloomer, this pink gaura was already blooming in March.  I have white gaura growing underneath my front windows and I love it.

Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlandieri)

Pink, cup-shaped blooms cover Mexican evening primrose in spring.  This groundcover looks great in natural desert landscapes, but can be invasive, so be careful where you use it.

Hedgehog Cactus (Echinocereus engelmannii)

The one beauty of this spiny cactus are its magenta flowers that appear in spring.

In my own garden, I have two pink flowering plants in bloom…

Hollyhock

Every year, hollyhocks come up from seed next to one of my vegetable gardens.  They tower over our house and are at least 15 feet tall. 

I first planted hollyhock seeds 4 years ago and that was it.  Every year, they self-seed and I thin them out so that 5 remain.  I’m never sure what color variety will come up.  Sometimes they are white, pale pink or red.



This year, they are deep pink.  Aren’t they pretty?

Pink Wood Sorrel 

I received a small division of pink wood sorrel from a fellow blogger who lives in Oregon.  I wasn’t sure if I could grow it in our desert climate.  So, I gave it a home in my vegetable garden.

Since then, it has done so well.  So well in fact, that I have divided it and planted it in all three of my vegetable gardens.  

It dies back to the ground in summer, but comes back in fall.

Do you have any favorite pink-blooming plants?  Are any in your garden?  

Every year as Christmas approaches and most of my plants have gone to sleep for the winter, my favorite shrub is just getting started…


It begins with small buds appearing along each branch.


By mid-January, the buds have burst open, exposing their crimson centers.


By Valentine’s Day, my shrubs are absolutely covered in masses of red flowers.

Wonder what this shrub is called?

“Valentine”
(Eremophila maculata ‘Valentine’)

You can find out more about my favorite shrub and what it looks like when not in bloom in my latest article for Houzz

Kitchen ideas, bathroom ideas, and more ∨

From designer seating and office desks to message boards and credenza, create your dream home office.
Light up your living spaces with recessed lights, designer chandeliers or even a row of pendant lights.



Does the fact that Christmas is fast approaching make you think of growing tomatoes?

Of course not.  Our thoughts are focused on making sure our homes are decorated for Christmas, looking for the perfect gift for that special someone and hopefully some holiday baking.

But, I am going to tell you why you should also be thinking about growing tomatoes this time of year.


But, did you know that December is the best time to start growing your tomatoes from seed indoors?

For those of you who have grown tomatoes in the arid desert, know that our tomato growing season occurs in spring and fall.  

Oh, your tomatoes will live through the summer with a little shade – but they will stop producing new tomatoes once temperatures hit the 90’s because their pollen is not viable.

The other limiting factor is that you can’t set out tomato plants into the garden until the danger of frost is past, which is usually around the beginning of March in the Phoenix metro area.

So, to get the most tomatoes, you want to plant the largest (oldest) tomato plant you can in early March.

Many nursery greenhouses are starting their tomato plants from seed right now where they will grow, protected from the elements until March arrives when you will find them on the shelves of your nursery.

You may be wondering why you should start your own tomato plants instead of buying them at nursery?

Well the problem with purchasing your tomato plants from the nursery is that they have a very limited selection of tomato varieties.  And, they may not have the variety you want, or it is sold out.


**Right now, many seed companies are having Christmas sales on their seeds including Burpee and Botanical Interests.

Growing your own tomatoes from seed is very easy and rewarding.

Here is how I have done it…


I like to use Starbucks coffee sleeves or toilet paper rolls, cut in half as my seedling containers.



Grab some seed starting mix from your local nursery or big box store.  Some seed mixes have fertilizer already added.  If not, then I recommend adding a slow-release fertilizer to your potting mix.

Wet the soil before adding to your containers.

Fill your recycled containers with the seed mix and add your seeds.



Place your newly planted seeds in a warm area, such as the top of your refrigerator.  The heat will help them to germinate.

**Use a spray bottle to keep them moist.  Don’t allow the soil to dry out.

Once the seeds begin to sprout, put them in front of a sunny window.


In just a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how quickly your tomato plants will have grown.

During warm winter days, you can place them outdoors to get a little extra – but be sure to bring them indoors at night until the danger of frost is over. 

As your tomato seedlings grow, you can transfer them to larger containers until you are ready to put them out in the garden.

*For more information on seed starting, click here.

Many of us are familiar with how over-pruning can take away much of the beauty of flowering shrubs, in addition to contributing to their early death.


But, have you ever wondered what they look on the inside?


I found this ‘ugly’ example alongside the drive-thru of Taco Bell.


It isn’t pretty, is it?

The side of the ‘Green Cloud’ Texas Sage was sheared away because it was growing over the curb.  
The result of planting the shrub too close.

You can see the thin layer of leaves that cover the shrub and the dark, interior where sunlight seldom reaches.  

If this resembles your shrub(s), you can fix them.

Below, is a link to a previous blog post of how to do ‘renewal pruning’ on your desert flowering shrubs and what they look like as they grow back.


You can still do this in April for your Cassia (Senna species), Sage (Leucophyllum species), Ruellia, Fairy Duster (Calliandra species) and Lantana shrubs.
Spring is my favorite time in the garden.  Is it yours?

Plants are in full bloom and my vegetable garden is filled with both cool-season and a few warm-season crops.

Today, I thought that I would take you to the ‘farm’ to see how my mother’s vegetable garden is growing.


The ‘farm’ is nicknamed “Double S Farms” by the family.  It is just down the road from our house and is a favorite place for all the family to gather.


My mother has two raised vegetable beds and she loves tending her vegetables.

One bed is dedicated to cool-season crops that will soon give way to warm-season vegetables.


She still has lettuce growing, which she uses to make delicious salads when we all gather together for dinner on Tuesday nights.


The broccoli has gone to flower, but it looks so pretty, that she keeps it in the garden.

Do you see the orange flower in the background of the photo, above?  That is a marigold, which is a great ‘companion’ plant for the vegetable garden because it helps to repel bad bugs who might eat her vegetables.


While we spend time looking at the vegetable gardens, the neighbor’s tortoise stops briefly, to see what we are doing from the other side of the fence.


The second vegetable garden was built by the family as a surprise for my mother’s birthday over a year ago.

She has started her warm-season crops in it, including tomatoes, summer squash and gourds.


Sugar snap peas (one of my favorite vegetables) hang from vines growing on a small trellis.


The newest vegetable bed is also home to…


A toad, which is helpful with insect control.

He recently moved from his previous home next to the chicken coop.  My nephew, who is a Star Wars fan, gave him a special name.


While the toad keeps bugs in control around the vegetable gardens – Francie, the resident ‘naked-neck’ chicken, patrols for bugs outside of the garden.

As you can see, spring has sprung at the family farm.  

Soon, summer will be here which heralds another favorite activity…


Picking peaches and making jam!

How about you?
What is growing in your garden this spring?

Will you grow something different this year?

My tomato plants are turning one-year old this week.

I didn’t plant them.  They sprouted up from fallen tomato seeds from a stray tomato that was unpicked the previous year.
When I saw the little seedlings coming up, I decided to protect them from the winter frosts in hopes that I would have a jump start on the growing season in spring.
I covered them with sheets when temperatures dipped below 32 degrees and even put a light bulb underneath the sheets to provide additional warmth.
In the spring, I did get a jump-start on the tomato growing season.  They performed very well.
In May, as summer temperatures arrived – I put up shade cloth to shield them from the sun and keep them from burning up.
My hope was to be able to enjoy a fall harvest of tomatoes once the temperatures cooled.
Now that November has arrived, my tomato plants are covered with flowers, just waiting to form into new tomatoes.
I checked over my tomatoes today and this is what I found…
       
A single ripening tomato.
I’m not too sure I will see any more tomatoes form because soon we will be getting too cold.
I must admit that I have mixed feelings about working hard to help my tomatoes survive another winter.  
I’m not sure why I feel this way.  It was worth it because I did get a jump-start on the growing season and as a result, got more tomatoes.
Even when working to protect tomatoes from the occasional freeze – there is no guarantee that they will survive.  A colder then normal winter will kill them no matter what protective measures I try.
Oh wellAt least I don’t have to make a decision for a few weeks.
**How about you?  Have you raised tomato plants for over a year?  Was it worth it?  Or was it easier to start off fresh with new tomato plants in the spring?       
*********************************
Grand Canyon University is getting ready for their third Run to Fight Children’s Cancer, which is a 5k/10k run that will raise money to support children and families dealing with childhood cancer.

The run will benefit the Children’s Cancer Network & Phoenix Children’s Hospital (a wonderful hospital – our son, Kai, had surgery there on his hip).

Please take a minute to check out the video link
which shows childhood cancer survivors in an honest, heartfelt way that will leave you inspired.