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I have a confession to make.  

I don’t have any containers filled with flowering annuals. Shocking isn’t it?

There are a few reasons for this, the most important one is that I prefer using relatively fuss-free plants that look great all year in my pots.  

I don’t have much patience for high-maintenance containers. In particular, ones with flowering annuals that need frequent irrigation. Not to mention deadheading of spent flowers and having to change them out seasonally. But, I do love the way they look.

container-red-geraniums

Red Geraniums and White Bacopa

My inclination to avoid flowering annuals in my own garden has to do with my past and no, it’s nothing scandalous.

It does have to do with my work in the past. For five years, I was in charge of 45 pots. Each container was always be filled with colorful flowers.

Believe me, keeping all of those pots looking beautiful was a lot of work! Countless trips to the nursery, fertilizing, watering and replacing them twice a year got tiresome. Not to mention that I broke my foot when I tripping on a curb, while loading flats of flowers. 

So, it may not come as a surprise that I prefer using succulents in my pots.

Victoria Agave ‘Compacta’
 
Much of my inspiration for using succulents in containers come from those at the Desert Botanical Garden as shown in the photo above and below.
Agaves are some of my favorite succulent plants and the smaller species do very well in containers.

In an article I wrote for Houzz, I list my ten favorite small agaves for Houzz that are suitable for growing in pots.

I hope you enjoy it and find one that is perfect for you!
 
 

I am always on the lookout for design inspiration, seeing how others create beauty in the garden so that I can help inspire you with your outdoor spaces. So, here are some design notes from the field that I found that I hope you will find useful.

REFLECTIONS:

Often when walking through the garden, I find myself pausing to admire the view of a garden’s beauty reflected on a window.

It is much like looking at a landscape in a mirror, which expands on its beauty while making it appear even more extensive.

SUCCULENT NOOK:

On a visit to a client’s landscape, I noted a unique way that they display their succulents. Little nooks were created along the bare expanse of wall, where small pots filled with succulents were nestled inside.

What a lovely way to break up what would otherwise be a bare wall.

CIRCULAR STEP STONES:

Pathways are an essential element of the landscape, allowing us to move from one area to the other. Normally, you see square step stones, a continuous path, or flagstone in a variety of shapes forming the path. However, I like these circular step stones, which create a distinctive look. The concrete is poured into molds onsite to make these step stones.

COLORFUL PORCH:

While strolling among the buildings of the La Villita Historic Village in downtown San Antonio, Texas, I spotted a delightful splash of color on a front porch. Vintage-inspired chairs in vibrant red and turquoise created a welcoming seating area in front of an old, historic home.

I hope that you enjoyed these design elements that speak to me. This is a series of design-inspired posts that I hope to feature from time to time with you. Have you seen any unique design that inspired you?

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This day of our road trip proved to be the most activity-filled of all.


Our hotel, The Butterfly Grove Inn.
We spent the night in a place that holds special memories from my childhood.  Pacific Grove is a town that is located next to the city of Monterey.  My grandparents would spend their summers there each year and we would venture up the coast to visit them.


We would take the short walk from the house to the beach, which was filled with rocks to climb on and tidal pools filled with anemones and hermit crabs.  Small sea shells were plentiful as well.

So, while planning our itinerary for this trip, Pacific Grove was one of the first places we chose to visit.


As we got ready to leave our hotel in the morning, we drove by the Monarch Grove Sanctuary.  

While many Monarch butterflies head south to Mexico, those that live west of the Rocky Mountains head to the coastal areas of California where they winter in the pines.


Pacific Grove is called “Butterfly Town, USA” and  it residents are proud of its seasonal visitors.  In fact, if you purposely cause injury to the butterflies, you could be faced with a $1,000 fine.


The main street is filled with colorful Victorian homes that have been converted into businesses.


A handmade furniture store located in one of the older masonry buildings had this sign up in their window, reminding us that earthquakes are a part of life in California.

Years ago, in the 80’s, we were walking downtown and saw an old, white Victorian house that was for sale for $1.00

Of course, there were stipulations that the city would require for renovating the house without sacrificing its historical character.  

We never forgot that house, but after 30+ years, we couldn’t recognize which house it was.


One of my favorite stores on the main street was a little garden shop.  Two friendly dogs welcomed visitors as they walked up the steps to an outdoor area filled with unique containers filled with combinations of succulents.

Vintage glass containers filled with succulents.

I have always had an affinity for recycling old items and turning them into containers for plants. 


I have seen chairs planters filled with colorful annuals, but this is the first one with succulents.  I like it, don’t you?


After shopping downtown, I couldn’t wait to get to the beach and explore the tidal pools and the beaches.

While I was taking pictures of the sea, my mother was taking a photo of me.


And I took one of her.


I decided that at 50, I was still young enough to climb over the rocks to explore.


As I turned to walk back to the car, where my mother was patiently waiting, I was pleasantly surprised at how far I had come.  I could just imagine my 14-year-old son scrambling over the rocks with me.

When I spotted my mother in the car, I noticed that she had made some new friends.


She had taken some of our whole wheat sourdough bread and was sharing some with the birds.


Once I reached the edge of the beach, I was greeted by a little friend who was undoubtedly hoping that I was generous like my mother.



Well, it turns out that I was willing to share some bread, so my little friend invited some of his friends.



This Canada goose also wanted some too.

After feeding both birds and squirrels, my bread was gone.


However, this was not to be our only encounter with wildlife this day.



As we drove down the coast toward Lover’s Point, we noticed a group of people gathered next to a temporary fence with binoculars and cameras.


Curious, we parked our car and joined them.



This is what they were looking at.  


Can you see the two animals in the center of the rocky shore?


Here is a closer view.  This is a harbor seal with her baby, which is only about a week old.


This particular beach in Pacific Grove is a very popular place for harbor seals to give birth and raise their pups.  From March to May, they give birth and care for their babies for about a month before leaving them to fend for themselves.


 The people we joined in viewing the seals, were volunteers, who observe the seals and note their size and activity.  Some volunteers keep track of how many babies are born each season.  So far, there had been 35.



As we were watching the seals swimming along the shore, a mother and her pup came up on the sand so that her baby could nurse.  What a special moment to have been able to see!

Carmel Mission



After we had spent some time with the seals, we drove to the nearby city of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a small beach city that is famous for its beautiful mission, picturesque downtown and fairytale cottages.



If you have followed our road trip, then it shouldn’t surprise you that we found ourselves at the Carmel Mission.  I had first visited this mission back in 2000.  Known as the “crown jewel of the missions” for its beauty, the Carmel Mission  opened in 1793.


The gardens surrounding this mission were absolutely lovely.

Wooden gates were flanked by large beds filled with a combination of flowering perennials and shrubs.



For entry into most missions, you pay a small fee, usually at the gift shop before entering.




Within the walls of the mission were smaller structures with a colorful mixture of geraniums, roses, Jupiter’s Beard (Centranthus ruber), sea lavender (Limonium perezii) and Santa Barbara daisies (Erigeron karvinskianus).



The branches of a Lady Banks rose adds beauty to the side of this mission building.



A large cork oak tree adds beauty to this inner garden of the mission.

Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus)



You often see Santa Barbara daisy, with its small white and pink daisies, growing throughout many coastal areas of California.  I grew it as well in the garden of our home in Phoenix in filtered shade.

This is a part of the cemetery where native American graves are edged with abalone shells. 

The significance of the abalone is explained with this sign.



After touring the garden and other structures, we headed into the church.



As you can see, the interior is beautiful. The metal rods that run through the ceiling help to provide stability.



At the front of the church, the crucifix along with other statues add to the beauty of the church.



For those of you, like me, who learned the history of California in school, this grave will interest you.  Father Junipero Serra, the founder of many of the California Missions is buried right here, where his picture rests.


Besides the having the “crown jewel” of California Missions, Carmel is also know for its fairytale cottages.

Our House Cottage

These small cottages were built in the 1920’s, by Hugh Comstock and they look like they stepped straight out of a fairytale.  

I’m not sure which one this is.

He created the homes for his wife’s rag dolls that she made and sold.  The cottages came with unique names such as Birthday House, Hansel, Gretel, Fables and Storybook Cottage, just to name a few.

Fables


The Birthday House



The size of the homes are quite small and people really do live in them.


To get to them, you have to hike up some hilly streets – (my feet still hurt) while being respectful of the occupants privacy.

Hansel

To learn more about the imaginative cottages, click here.

Toward the end of the day, we headed toward adjoining Monterey and The Old Monterey Marketplace and Farmers’ Market, which takes place on Tuesday evenings, beginning at 4:00.




Three city blocks are filled with vendors selling delicious organic produce, baked sweets as well as handcrafted items. 



We bought some food for our dinner before heading off to our next destination of Santa Cruz.


Walking toward our car, we passed by this vendor displaying his wares…



If that doesn’t scream California to you, then I don’t know what does.


I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your kind comments on both my blog and facebook page.  It has been so fun sharing our experiences with you!

Spring in the desert Southwest is a busy time of year.  While those that live in colder climates countdown the days until March 20th, the spring season begins a full month earlier where we live.


As a horticulturist / landscape consultant, my days have been quite busy lately assisting people with their gardens.


Today, I thought that I would show some glimpses of my week in review, which was filled with creative containers, newly planted xeriscapes, flowering cacti and the heavenly fragrance of orange blossoms.


The weather this past week has been warm, in the low 80’s.  Spring-flowering plants were in full bloom such as this sweet acacia tree which produces small, golden, puffball flowers.  I love how the deep yellow looks against the blue sky, don’t you?

Often, in my travels assisting clients, I see some great examples of beautiful xeriscapes.


This is a newly planted landscape which stood out from the surrounded homes with its mature plants, the selection of desert-adapted plants and the nice design.

The vibrant purple flowers of the verbena (Glandularia pulchella) demanded attention from passersby.  I also liked how the golden barrel cacti looked in the raised bed.


Another landscape that I saw this week was filled with countless different types of plants.  Often, when you have too many kinds of plants, the effect can appear ‘messy’ visually.  But, not with this landscape filled with succulents of all sorts including aloe, artichoke agave and golden barrel cacti.


While driving by a church landscape that I had designed previously, I stopped to take this photo of the damianita (Chrysactina mexicana), which was in full bloom.  I absolutely love this plant and have several in my own garden.



I took a few moments to stop by and talk to my friends, Sam & Lulu, who happen to own Verde Valley Nursery in Fountain Hills.  My visits always last longer than planned because we enjoy talking about plants!



During visits to a few of my regular clients, who have me come by on an annual basis, I saw some great examples of container plants, including this one filled with Blue Elf aloe, golden barrel, small variegated agave and totem pole ‘Monstrosus’ cactus.  


This looks so nice, it almost makes it easy to skip planting high-maintenance annual flowers.

I really liked this container.  Many people have problems growing flowers in entryways where there is not enough sun.  In addition, there is the burden of having to water frequently that can lead to stains on the concrete.  


This colorful container is filled with dried, flowering agave stalks – I love it!



One of the joys of my job is when clients invite me back to see their landscape and sometimes recommend a few ‘tweaks’.  It was during one of these repeat visits that I saw this trio of Blue Elf aloe, which looks great when planted next to boulders, don’t you think?

Sometimes, I see things that are somewhat unusual, like this Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marinatus) that was forming flowers.  They do not always flower in the low desert, so this was a really neat to see close up.



Visions of purple-flowering plants filled my week. While on a date night with my husband, we strolled through our local outdoor mall and I saw these lovely sea lavender (Limonium perezii).



Although I do not have lavender in my garden, I enjoy seeing lavender in other people’s gardens.  This Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) looked beautiful.



I came upon this gorgeous blue hibiscus shrub in an unlikely place – the supermarket parking lot. 



While not quite purple, the dark pink of Parry’s penstemon looks so beautiful in the spring landscape.  I recently added one in my garden in partnership with Monrovia.



Today as I drove home from an appointment, I rolled down the windows so that I could smell the heavenly fragrance of the orange blossoms from the surrounding orchards.


After beautiful weeks like this, I feel so blessed to work outdoors – especially when I am stuck inside working on taxes today 🙁


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I hope you had a great week and have something fun planned for this weekend!