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Do you like to visit California?


I do.  I spent the first 20 years of my life in the Golden State before getting married and moving to Arizona.


Since then, California was a frequent destination for visits with my parents, siblings and their families.  


But, now since my family all has moved to Arizona, visits were infrequent.  


That is, until my daughter was stationed at a Navy Base in CA.  We have just finished up a trip visiting with my daughter and our 3-month old grandson.


It’s times like these, that we live only 7 1/2 hours away.

During our visit, we stopped by one of our favorite little beach towns, Carpinteria, which is located about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

Fuchsia dependens

While there, we stopped by our favorite cupcake store, Crush Cakes, and then took a stroll through Carpinteria Landscape Nursery, which is always filled with a great variety of plants.

Fuchsia dependens

As I walked into the entrance, a bright-red flowering plant caught my eye.  Fuchsia dependens is a great choice for the California climate.

Hydrangea

A group of hydrangea made me lament again that fact that they cannot grow in the desert climate.  But, that doesn’t stop me lusting after them.

Foxglove (Digitalis)
Whenever I see foxglove, I imagine myself standing in an English garden. I’ve even seen them offered for sale at our local big box store in AZ, but they would die soon after planting in the desert climate.


A wire container was filled with purple trailing lantana and coreopsis, which I thought was a great example of cool and warm color contrast.

Whenever I find myself near a plant nursery or nice-looking garden, my family knows that I whatever we are planning on doing, will be delayed for a few minutes while I take time to look around.

Because of that, I try my best to hurry as I did this day.  But, when I had finished, I couldn’t find them.  It turns out that they had found their way to the attached hardware store next to the nursery.

Mt. Lemon Marigold (Tagetes lemmonii)

This shrubby perennial grows great in the Southwest, drought tolerant garden.  Mt. Lemon marigold produces sunny, yellow flowers and looks great, but its foliage does have a strong fragrance when it is touched.  I don’t care for the fragrance, so I would be sure to plant it in the background where the fragrance won’t be an issue.


I wish that I could say that Eric was enjoying all of the plants as much as I was, but he slept through the entire visit.

Verbena lanai series

I’m always on the lookout for new plant colors and varieties.  Here was a verbena, which was labeled ‘Verbena lanai series’.  I liked its unique purple/white flowers.


This particular nursery has a variety of garden art items.  This bunny is the only one you would want to see in your garden.


I loved this flower pot with the drought tolerant kangaroo paw plant growing inside.


News of the severe drought in California is everywhere you go.  People are tearing out their lawns and forgoing flowering annuals in favor of succulents.  Many drought tolerant plants were featured throughout the nursery.  I loved the colorful variety of succulents.


What more is there to say?  I would love to have a ‘head planter’ planted with a kalanchoe.

Our trip was short, but fun-filled.  We will return again this summer to spend more time visiting and exploring.

When you visit a nursery, do you wonder which plants are drought tolerant as opposed to those who will wilt if not given enough water?


There are a few different traits that many drought tolerant plants share.  For example, did you know that small leaves and gray foliage can be signs that a plant may be drought tolerant?  


I recently shared several traits to look for when shopping for drought tolerant plants for Houzz.com



I hope this article will help you to create a beautiful, drought tolerant garden!


Have you every thought of a nursery of more than just a place to buy plants?

How about one with secret corners where visitors are invited to sit and eat their lunch or read a book?
Or have you visited a nursery that is nestled underneath a 50 year old, flowering tree that shades everything below?
On a recent visit to California, I came upon a most unique plant nursery.

I hadn’t planned on visiting a nursery on this particular day, but I noticed a large floss silk tree (Chorisia speciosa) dominating the blue skyline with its dark pink flowers.  It took me a moment to notice the nursery tucked underneath the branches.
The gate leading into the nursery, had decorative wooden signs describing what was yet to be discovered within.

I was greeted by a large jade plant, which if you’ve ever traveled to California, must be the ‘unofficial’ succulent plant of this beautiful state – everyone seems to have one growing in a pot somewhere in their garden.
Walking a little ways in, I immediately noticed a small pathway leading into the depths of the nursery, beckoning the visitor to discover where it led.

Flanking the shady path were a variety of tropical plants, succulents and garden ornaments.

A galvanized container held a variety of wooden garden signs. 

 I decided to take the signs literally and to be on the lookout for gnomes 😉
Reaching the end of the pathway, visitors discover worn, yet comfortable garden furniture, inviting you to take a break and enjoy the shade on a warm summer’s day while being surrounded by the beauty of the plants.
Throughout the entire nursery were hidden corners filled with chairs and comfortable cushions.  

Visitors are encouraged to bring their lunch and eat in the garden or bring along a favorite book.

If I lived near this nursery, I would be tempted to spend a lot of time here where I would be able to enjoy two of my favorite things – plants and books!

The branches of the floss silk tree extended their shade over a large number of plants.

Floss silk trees have a very unique trunk.  It is green, much like the palo verde, but they have very large thorns.

As I continued my journey of discovery through the nursery, I found that it was hard to reconcile this place as your typical nursery.
Oh, they did have basic gardening supplies such as organic fertilizers, peat moss, compost and pots – but it was the lack of obvious organization and the randomness that I found throughout.

Small garden rooms were filled with an assortment of succulents, palms and unusual flowering plants.

White icicle lights were strung throughout the nursery, which made me wish that I had a chance to visit in the evening hours.

Plants could be found in a variety of sizes.  There was no plant signage or pricing information that could be easily seen.


Everywhere you would turn, there would be something new and unexpected to discover.

A row of old cowboy boots sat, ready to be used as planters.


A container made from grape vines in the shape of a swan held a variety of succulents.

A pair of rusty enamelware bowls sat empty on a plastic crate – maybe they will be filled with some succulents someday?  Hopefully sooner than later before the bottom rusts out.

While enjoying the unusual things throughout out the nursery, there were some more traditional areas with flowering plants available for sale.

Colorful begonias and fucshia plants beckoned California gardeners.

I found a corner filled with adeniums, which I must admit that I am fascinated by.

I just love this delicate, pink adenium flower, don’t you?

I must admit that there were so many different things that I loved about this little nursery – it’s lack of organization, the fact that it looked more like a garden than a nursery, the hidden seating areas where you could read a book, the unique garden art (junk) and perhaps most of all was that the focus was on enjoying your visit to the nursery whether you bought anything or not.

The roof of the little garden shop was decorated by a row of potted Yucca gloriosa and more icicle lights.  

As I got ready to leave, I took a few minutes to talk to the woman who worked there.  She directed my attention toward the flowering canopy of the floss silk tree and told me that 5 hummingbirds make their home in its branches.

Male hummingbirds are extremely territorial, but the tree was so large that they all are able to live in it somewhat peaceably.  I was told that each hummingbird has a specific section of the tree that belongs to them and if one oversteps his section, than there are little arguments.  

I enjoyed my visit to this 50-year old, unique plant nursery/garden and can’t wait to have a chance to come again.

**If you are ever near Carpinteria, California, I encourage you to take some time to visit the Carpinteria Landscape Nursery – but, be ready for a rather unorthodox nursery experience.
Do you like to visit plant nurseries?

I do – especially when I am traveling.  It is always nice to see what plants are popular in other areas.

Last weekend, my husband and I made at trip to California to visit our daughter who is serving in the Navy.

I always enjoy visiting California – not just for its nice weather, beautiful beaches, laid back people and the scenery – although those are all things that are reason enough to visit.  The real reason that I enjoy spending time in California is that I grew up here.

I am a 4th generation, native Californian.  Those who came before me were farmers, lumbermen, a city sheriff, a truck driver who worked his way to oil company executive and a social worker (who was my dad). 

Now that my daughter is stationed in California, I now have more reasons to make the trip over.


During the course of our trip, we stopped by one of our favorite small towns, Carpinteria, which is located a few miles south of Santa Barbara.  This is a wonderful beach town that is backed up by tall mountains.

As we got out of our car with the intent of heading to our favorite cupcake place, I noticed not one, but two plant nurseries just a few yards away.  So, my husband and daughter patiently waited for me while I headed into to see what discoveries I could find.


I had not brought my nice camera on our trip, so I had to rely on my iPhone camera, which did a pretty good job, except that I tend to take a lot of pictures and my battery soon died.  Luckily, my husband had his phone and I used it to take the rest of my pictures.

Believe it or not, I don’t buy a lot of plants when I visit nurseries – my landscape has more than enough plants in it.  But I am always on the lookout for plants that I don’t know about or are new to the market.  

Often, nurseries can serve as inspiration for your own garden with creative plant pairings as shown in the photo, above.

This particular nursery was filled with mostly flowering perennials, annuals and vegetable transplants.


I love a colorful garden and was excited to check out the flowering perennials.  I did find a new perennial introduction called ‘Echibeckia’, which is a cross between purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) and black eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).


I saw this shrub that had been pruned into a tree.  Its brilliant purple flowers were almost blinding.  I’m not sure what it is – but it’s gorgeous!


*Update – a very kind reader (Rusthawk) was kind enough to identify this plant as Tibouchina – thank you!


I love Mediterranean climates and the plants that grow well in them.  Many of these plants also grow well in the desert garden like lavender and lantana.


Like I mentioned before, I do love flowering perennials and I have both black eyed Susan and purple coneflower growing in my garden.  However, I don’t have them in my regular landscape areas where it is not fertile enough and doesn’t get enough water.  I plant a them among my vegetable gardens where they help to attract pollinators.


In addition to pretty perennials, I am a sucker for beautiful containers like these.  Too bad that I don’t have a big enough budget to even consider buying these.  I’m still figuring out what to do with my free Tuscan planters.


Butterflies and hummingbirds were flying about, enjoying the nectar from the colorful flowers.

Butterfly Weed

If you add butterfly weed to your garden, you’ll be bound to attract any butterflies nearby.




There were so many butterflies fluttering about that people were able to get up close to them.


A monarch butterfly was feeding on the purple blossom of a butterfly bush, seemingly ignorant of the people who stopped to admire it.  A very nice woman, standing next to me, took a video and was kind enough to share it with me – Thank you, KD!


After I tore myself away from staring at butterflies, I decided to see what else this nursery offered in addition to to flowering perennials.  My attention was immediately drawn by the variety of potted succulents.  If you like succulents – there is no better place to grow them than in California where they enjoy the Mediterranean climate with its warm, relatively frost-free temperatures.


As I was looking at the succulents, I saw a bright flash of purple and bright green off to the side.



New leaf lettuce transplants had just arrived along with potted artichokes.


While my garden is not quite ready for fall planting, I am already envisioning rows upon rows of leaf lettuce, which is my favorite vegetable to grow.




Who says that vegetable gardens can’t be beautiful?  


I plant both red and green leaf lettuce varieties in my garden each year.  I like the gorgeous color contrast that also looks great in your salad bowl.




I also like these assorted kale transplants.  I didn’t add any to my garden last year, but may consider doing so this year.


Have any of you grown kale?  How did it do for you?


As I slowly walked back through the nursery, I stuck my phone in my pocket and was ready to join my husband and daughter who were patiently waiting for me.


BUT, as I walked out the entrance I found myself facing another nursery.




I’ll give you this glimpse of the entrance of the most unique nursery that I have ever had the opportunity to visit.


Behind its fairly unremarkable entrance, lay secret gardens filled with unusual plants that I will show you next time.

A couple of years ago, I visited a beautiful winery in upstate New York.


I must admit that I was more interested in the gardens that surrounded the winery than the wine itself.  


The gardens were filled with a variety of perennials and even a prickly pear cactus that thrived in despite the frigid winters.  


But, it was this unique planter that caught me eye…

 
These old boots were filled with hen & chicks succulents that sit amid flowering thyme.
 
I don’t know about you, but I have never thought of an old pair of shoes as a plant container.  I must admit that I really like it, how about you?
 
You can see more about my visit to this beautiful garden as well as other adventures in upstate New York, here.

Today was spent driving from Wisconsin, over the Mississippi River into southeastern Minnesota.


Bridge over the Mississippi River toward Minnesota. *Cell phone + dirty windshield = grainy photo.


You know how people who haven’t lived near the ocean, find it fascinating when they get the chance to visit?

I think it is somewhat the same for me in regards to seeing the Mississippi River.  The immense size of the river is amazing.  

This is the third time that I have seen the Mississippi River and it is still something that I always look forward to.

We arrived into the town of Winona, Minnesota – we drove up to Garvin Heights, where a path leads from the parking lot to a viewing point located over 500 ft. above the river and the city.



Isn’t it beautiful?


Off in the distance, you can see the bridge that we drove over, which connects Wisconsin to Minnesota.


My mother has been enjoying her first smartphone.  During our trip, she had taken multiple pictures of me taking photos of plants and/or scenery.  


It makes me feel happy and special at the same time 🙂


During the first part of our day, we spent some time shopping for antiques.

My mother loves antiques and I like to find old pieces that I can use as planters in my garden.  In the Midwest and Eastern regions of the US, antiques are a lot less expensive then in the west – so we like to take advantage of nice antique stores when we can.

I found a large, old coffee pot (the kind they would use in a chuck wagon for a lot of people) that I plan on using for a flower planter in my smaller vegetable garden.

You may be wondering how I am going to get my coffee pot home.  Well, that leads to a tradition that my mother and I started during our first road trip 3 years ago.  We wait until the last day of our trip and then go to a local UPS store and send our souvenirs home.  It makes our life much simpler and we have less to carry in our suitcases.

Another grainy cell phone photo taken through the windshield.

As we headed toward the southeastern corner of Minnesota, we found ourselves alone on country highways for long lengths of time.


Not that I’m complaining about the absence of vehicles.  I’m sure that after spending a day or two at home that I’ll be wishing for fewer cars on the road.


The weather during our trip has been very nice.  There was some rain, which fell during the night, so it did not affect our activities.


Our day’s journey ended in Lanesboro, Minnesota, which has been the recipient of the Great American Main Street Award.  Lanesboro, is located close to Amish communities and we have seen some Amish folk during our travels today.

The main street is lined with historic buildings that have been transformed into trendy shops and eateries.

Unlike many Amish communities that I’ve visited in the past, Lanesboro has upscale, trendy shops, which I really enjoyed visiting, instead of shops stocked full of Amish souvenirs.


A few of the shops had a combination of both new and old things, like this old antique that was transformed into a planter.


This shop had an interesting planter with a galvanized pipe with flowers sitting in a dish planted with real grass.


A variety of succulents were displayed with old, wooden boxes.


This alleyway was filled with plants and antiques, which I love.


One interesting observation about our travels this day is the popularity of rhubarb.  

It was planted along the main street.


Rhubarb ice cream was also available in many of the shops.

I bet you didn’t know that rhubarb was so popular did you?



I admit that I didn’t try the rhubarb ice cream flavor.  I went for salted caramel crunch – yum!


Remember the cheese curds that I tried on day 5 of our road trip?  They are everywhere.  I usually see them offered fried.

As our trip draws towards its end, here are a few observations in contrast to living in California and Arizona (places that I’ve lived).

– In almost every restaurant, Coke products aren’t offered – Pepsi is the drink of choice.

– In all of our driving, we have only seen one highway patrol car (in CA and AZ you often see one every few minutes).

– Starbucks is a huge favorite of my mother and during our road trips, we usually make at least one stop there each day.  On this trip, we have hardly seen any Starbucks stores.  But, there have been quite a few other coffee shops, including independent ones.

Tomorrow, we will fly home in the evening from Minneapolis.  My husband has been wonderful taking care of the kids and house while I’ve been gone.  

But, I’m not sure about what he has been feeding the kids…


My 12-year-old son posted this picture of his dinner the other night, which consists of french fries, cheddar cheese and bacon.

I protested the lack of vegetables, which my husband responded to by saying, “We each had 4 mini-carrots to round our dinner.”  He then went on further to say, “And we had vegetables on our pizza for lunch.”

I told my kids that I have quite a few dinners planned when I get home that will have lots of ‘greens’ in them.

*Tomorrow, we will spend the day in Minneapolis and I’m looking forward to visiting my friend and fellow garden blogger, Amy of Get Busy Gardening.  I can’t wait to see her and her garden.  I’ll be sure to share my visit with you!

What if you could create a small world in a container?


Have you ever seen one?  


If you have ever seen a terrarium, then you have.


Last week, as we arrived at the family farm for our weekly dinner gathering, I was greeted by the following sight when I entered the dining room…


The table had beautiful terrariums lined up in a row.

They were so beautiful and I wanted to share them with all of you, so I whipped out my cellphone to take some pictures for you.

Now you may wonder, whether or not my mother had spent a small fortune buying these beautiful arrangements.

Well, the answer is no.  She created them herself.


My mother has always had a special affinity for succulents and with her artistic eye, she creates stunning arrangements.


She creates tiny worlds using various succulents and arranging bits and pieces of things such as seashells, lichen, twigs, moss and pebbles.


These arrangements were prototypes that were to be photographed so she could use the pictures to apply for entry for a large holiday boutique held at a local church.


Two of these beautiful terrariums were then being taken to California as gifts for her sisters.

Last year, she made me a lovely terrarium…

Chopsticks are a great tool for placing items inside a terrarium.

Terrariums are quite expensive if you buy them at the store.  

But, you can create your own small living world yourself.  Believe it or not, my mother got all of her containers at the local Goodwill store.  

Pebbles and moss can always be purchased at the local craft store.  But, you can also gather many items for terrariums such as twigs, lichen, small rocks, etc. the next time you take a nature walk.

If you would like to learn how to create your own terrarium; I wrote a “how to” post for Birds & Blooms that you can see here.

I am so glad that September is finally here!


Oh, I realize that it is still hot, but if you look carefully, there are signs that summer is beginning to wane.  The days are becoming shorter and you can see lengthening shadows at days end.


Fall is a busy time in the garden if you live in the desert Southwest, because that is the best time to add new plants to the garden.


Are you wondering what to do in your garden this month?  Here is my latest garden article from Houzz.com

General contractors, home builders, and more ∨

From Shabby Chic home décor to contemporary furniture and decorative mirrors, browse thousands of decorating ideas to inspire your next home project.
From wall paper to stencils for walls, upholstery fabrics to room dividers, design doesn’t stop at construction.

What are your plans for the garden this month?


**There is still time to enter the giveaway for a fabulous book, “Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard”.


I’ll announce the winner tomorrow!






Do you ever wonder what you should be doing in your garden in a particular month?

As a freelance writer, I write a few monthly gardening articles and newsletters.

So, instead of writing an entirely new blog post, here is my latest “What To Do In The Garden” article for the Southwest that I wrote for Houzz.com
(I hope you don’t think I am lazy, but I would rather not write the same thing twice 😉



With warming temperatures, many of us begin to think about changing out our cool-season annual flowers for plants that can take the heat of summer.


Last week, I gave a potting demonstration for attendees of a local home tour.  


The pots were then to be raffled off.

I planned on creating two succulent pots and one using a combination of perennials and annual flowers.


My daughter, Rachele, came with me to help carry the bags of soil, pots, plants, etc.

It was also an opportunity to spend time together before she left for the Navy.

There were to be two different potting demonstrations.  I created one succulent pot ahead of time…


This container has pink-flowering Crown of Thorns, tall Lady’s Slipper, Variegated Elephant’s Food and a gray-colored cactus.

I like to create container plantings with a tall plant for vertical interest.  The Crown of Thorns provides striking floral color.  The Elephant’s Food will trail over the edge of the pot as it grows, which adds texture and softens the container’s lines.  

Lastly, the gray-colored cactus (I admit that I don’t know what kind it is), adds great color contrast with its gray/blue color.

Soon, it was time for the first demonstration.  My daughter took photos of me talking.  The lighting is terrible because I was in the shade and behind me was the sun, but you can still see what I was doing.

Looking down at my notes.  Can you tell  I use my hands when I talk?

Planting the orange Calendula.
Adding Purple Verbena and filling the spaces with Celosia.
I just need a bit more Celosia in the front, don’t you think?

For this container, the tall vertical interest comes from Mexican Feather Grass.  The bright color is from the Calendula.  The trailing plant is Purple Verbena and gray Lavender provides the color contrast.

I used Celosia to fill in the empty spaces.  I was pretty happy with how it turned out.

When planning on what plant combinations will look good in a container, I simply arrange the plants, while they are still in their containers at the nursery.


Now it was time for planting the second succulent pot.

First, adding the Elephant’s Food.

Ever wonder how to plant a cactus without getting pricked?


An old towel, folded into quarters (4 layers thick) works great.  I covered the top of the Golden Barrel Cactus with the towel as I turned it over to plant.  The towel came off easily once I was finished.

Newspaper is also helpful in planting cactus.

Almost done…


Finished!

The Blue Elf Aloe provides the height for this planting combination.  Elephant’s Food will grow to trail over the side.  The Golden Barrel cactus adds color contrast with its round shape and yellow spines.  Ice plant with brightly-colored red flowers adds a needed splash of color.


The pots each went to good homes and raised money for future community projects.

Do you like growing plants in containers?  

Or maybe, you haven’t tried before.

Well, it’s not difficult.  Come back for a visit in a couple of days and I’ll share with you my container guidelines.