I am sharing with you a few of my favorite close-up flower photographs this week.

Here is one that brightens up my garden summer and into early fall…

It is hard to find a flower that grows so large and that is easy to grow.
I plant mine from seed each spring and then plant a second crop in mid-summer.
Did you know that you can make a bird feeder and shade tomatoes using sunflowers?
Now for the winner of the book, Hellstrip Gardening…
And the randomly picked winner is….

Liza who blogs at “Good to Grow

Thanks to all of you who entered.  I highly recommend getting a copy for yourselves and transforming your garden.

*Disclosure: I was given a free copy of this book in return for my honest have a narrow strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb? 

Do you have a narrow strip of land between the sidewalk and the curb? Many people do.

Have you ever looked at this area as an extension of your garden?  Oftentimes people ignore this strip of land that is often planted with a struggling lawn, overgrown tree or nothing at all.
What if people could see this often ignored area as an opportunity to increase curb appeal by adding attractive plants.  
Landscaping this area would also help your property to look larger.
This curbside bed was planted with a combination of edible and ornamental plants, which I think looked just lovely with the contrasting shapes and shades.
It was an unexpected sight in an area where there would usually be a patch of grass growing instead.
This is just one example of what you could plant in the area between the sidewalk and curb – referred to as a “hellstrip” by Evelyn Hadden, the author of “Hellstrip Gardening”.
As a child, I remember the beautiful roses we had growing in our hellstrip in front of our California home.  My dad was so proud of his roses and we would often cut off the perfect bloom to give to our teacher. 
I have been wanting to get my hands of Evelyn’s new book for a while now and was so excited to get the opportunity to review it.
The book is filled with beautiful illustrations and great ideas for creating beauty through plants in this strip of land that many of us have.
From edible gardens, perennial beds, pollination & hummingbird gardens – the possibilities are endless.  Suggestions for ground covers, trees as well as simply stunning creations using only 2 different types of plants make me wish that I had a hellstrip in front of my house.
In addition to examples of existing hellstrip gardens, the author also talks about certain challenges to growing plants in this area that is so close to the curb including utilities, easements, HOA’s, de-icing salts and more.
“Hellstrip Gardening” doesn’t restrict itself to the narrow strips of land between the sidewalk and curb, it also inspires the reader with ideas of landscaping similar areas around our homes and businesses.
Even if you do not have a hellstrip, you will get a lot out of reading this book.  I plan on using some of the ideas when I redesign our back garden this winter.
Timber Press, is hosting a Hellstrip Contest where you can win a $250 nursery gift card and a copy of the book.
Click here to enter for your chance to win.  
The contest closes July 6th.
**It gets even better!  The publishers from Timber Press will give away a copy of “Hellstrip Gardening” to one of my readers.
All you need to do is leave a comment – that’s it!
I’ll reveal the winner on July 10th.
Good Luck!

*I was provided a copy of this book free of charge for my honest review.

The past few days have been full of celebration in our family.  Our daughter has returned home from her Navy training AND we have a new addition to our family.

For those of you who have been following along in my adventures, you may remember that my second-oldest daughter, Rachele, joined the Navy last spring.

This was our last family photo taken just before she left in March.

We missed her a lot, but were proud of her decision.  My husband and I, along with our oldest daughter traveled to Chicago back in May to see her graduate and I shared our journey with you back then.

Since then, Rachele has been in Missouri, training to be an equipment operator learning how to drive excavators, bulldozers, scrapers, semi-trucks, etc.  She did very well and love it – I’m not sure where she got her skills (not from me 😉

Last week, she graduated and became a “Seabee”.

Okay, so what is a “Seabee”, you may be wondering.  I know I did when she first told me that was what she would be doing.

Basically, a Seabee is a member of the Navy Construction Battalion.  They build bases, airstrips and roads – sometimes in hostile territories.  Unlike most members of the Navy, they spend little to no time on ships.

Once they graduate, Seabees trade in their traditional navy and blue camouflage uniform for 
“Seabee Greens”.

Last week, Rachele graduated and got the honor of wearing her “Seabee Greens”.

We were so proud and couldn’t wait for her to come home.  She arrived late on Saturday night.  We didn’t tell the kids when she was coming.

They were surprised when their big sister woke them up.

Rachele was happy that her cat remembered her.

The next day after church, we went to her favorite place for lunch.  

That evening, we had all of the family over for dinner.  Our home was filled with aunts, uncles, grandmas, cousins and siblings including my granddaughter…

Lily dressed up for the occasion.

I mentioned that we had an addition to our family.

I’d like for you to meet ‘Penny’…

Penny is the newest member of our furry family.  

She is an 8-week old English Black Labrador Retriever.  

There are two types of labradors – one is from English stock and the other, American.  The English types are shorter, stockier and blockier.

Both are classified as labrador retriever by the AKC.

Needless to say, our days have been filled with frequent trips to the backyard as Penny works on becoming housebroken.  And, our kitchen is filled with chew toys.

*Disclosure: I was given this book, free of charge, for my honest review. 

Anyone who likes to garden knows that birds are naturally attracted to many types of plants – especially native plants.

Costa’s Hummingbird visiting the velvety flowers of Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
I particularly enjoy watching the hummingbirds visiting my garden.  
The blooms of Ocotillo are irresistible to hummingbirds.
As I visit other gardens, I enjoy seeing the feathered visitors and note what it is about that garden space they find attractive.
As a garden writer, I am often given the opportunity to review books by the folks at Timber Press -especially those that marry gardening with birding.
So, I was thrilled to see their latest book on my doorstep…
This is a fabulous book filled with all you need to know to attract birds to your garden.
For example, what if you could create a bird-friendly garden that attracted birds that you don’t always commonly see in your neighborhood?
One winter, this small blue bird found its way onto my garden wall.  I had never seen any type of blue bird visit my garden, so I was thrilled.
House finches gather for a quick bite of bird seed.

For many people, our efforts to attract birds consists of hanging out a bird feeder and filling it with seed.

While you are providing food for birds by doing this, they require more then bird seed.  They need water, shelter and native plants to feed upon.

Gardening For the Birds by George Adams, will help you to create a sanctuary in your own garden filled with beautiful plants that will attract feathered visitors.

Inside this book are lists of plants, separated by region, that will help to attract birds to your garden.  In addition, many of these plants have over-lapping bloom cycles, which are there to provide a year-round source of food for birds.
I am not a black & white type of girl – I don’t like books about gardening (or birding) that only have black & white photos.  That is why I love the colorful photos of plants and birds in Gardening for Birds.
So are you ready to move beyond your bird feeder?  Get this book and learn how to add shelter, water, nesting sites AND native plants to your garden.  You will soon be rewarded with a wide variety of birds visiting your garden.
Roadrunner checking out the front patio.
Now, I am not going to let go of my copy of this book.  BUT, I AM HOSTING A GIVEAWAY WHERE YOU CAN WIN YOUR OWN COPY!
If you only own one book about birds and gardening – this is the one!  It would also make a fabulous gift for the bird-lover in your life (Christmas is just around the corner).
All you need to do is to add a comment, below, to this post.  For an extra entry – ‘like’ me on Facebook or ‘follow’ me on Twitter.
 I will pick a winner 1 week from today.  
 *I was provided a copy of this book for free, for my honest review.

Enjoying the beautiful birds of summer!

*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.*
Have you ever seen a miniature garden?  They are becoming very popular and are sometimes called ‘fairy gardens’. I must admit that I’ve been quite intrigued by them and so I was very excited with the publishers of “Gardening in Miniature” sent me a book, free of charge, for my honest review.
If you aren’t familiar with miniature gardens, it is helpful to think of them as large gardens shrunk down in size into a tiny world that fits into a single container.
If you like to peruse Pinterest, you have undoubtedly seen some great examples of miniature or fairy gardens.
I came upon a collection of miniature gardens for sale at an antique shop in upstate New York a couple of years ago.
They were planted in old enamelware pots and bowls.
As you can see, there is a pathway delineated by the larger pebbles, small fiber optic grasses, and a yellow viola in this garden.
This garden has a tiny shovel and watering can in it.  
For some people, the accessories are the most enjoyable part of creating a miniature garden.  I would probably be stuck in my local Michael’s or Hobby Lobby trying to decide what small accessories to include in my little garden.
I must admit that I have been thinking of creating my own miniature garden.  Imagine a tiny world neatly contained inside of a pot.  For those of you who experience cold winters, you can enjoy having a little garden indoors all winter long.
Have you considered trying to create a miniature garden?
Well, if you have – then I have a great book for you to read…
Gardening in Miniature by Janit Calvo is a visual feast of beautiful and unique little gardens.
Of course, there is much more than miniature garden photos.  The book has all the information you will need to create your own tiny garden.  From container selection, a list of plants, soil type and how to care for your little garden – this book covers it all.
A beautiful garden is well-designed and small gardens are no different.  Gardening in Miniature offers helpful advice on how to design your tiny garden using plants, pebbles, water features and adding small furniture or figurines.
Have you ever created your own miniature garden?
*I was given this book, free of charge, for my honest review.

Spring is in full bloom in my garden.  I love this time of year and frequently walk around, noting what is blooming and how quickly everything is growing.

Timber Press has a great tool for helping you get ready for spring.  They have monthly tips and are offering one of their great giveaways.  

The giveaway consists of a collection of their most popular gardening books. 
I had the opportunity to read one of their recent books and I just love it! 
Those of you who know me personally, know that one thing that I don’t like are landscapes that require a lot of maintenance.  
My ‘new’ favorite gardening book is called “The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden” by Valerie Easton.
She shares many of the same gardening philosophies that I do.

Here are a couple of my favorite quotes:
“…..they have a minimum of lawn, little pruning or dividing to be done…Most often, plants are placed where they can grow to their own natural sizes and shapes without interference.”
“….most are neither manicured nor scruffy, but maintained at a state somewhere in between that might be called lived-in.”
 I love that description, don’t you?

Leaf lettuce and garlic grow among alyssum, nasturtiums and violas, which repel bad bugs and attract beneficial insects to my vegetable garden.
 Here is my favorite quote that I feel describes my garden perfectly:
“New low-maintenance gardens offer beauty to feed your eyes, flowers to fill your house, fruit and vegetables to fill your family and friend‘s bellies….but don’t wear you out on the way.”
The NEW Low-Maintenance Garden has great tips and guidelines to get you on your way to creating your own beautiful, low-maintenance garden.
Take a few minutes to check out the Timber Press guide to spring and enter their “Ready, Set, Grow!” giveaway. 


For those of you who are kind enough to take time to read my “ramblings”, you know that I absolutely love to grow vegetables.

So, when I heard of a brand new book called, “The Speedy Vegetable Garden”, I just knew that I had to read it.

The publishers at Timber Press, were kind enough to give me a copy of the book to review and I must say, that I have already dog-eared more then 15 pages of things that I want to try in my garden.

What I really like about the book is that its focus is on growing vegetables and harvesting them within a relatively short time frame.

For example: I love to grow carrots.  But, I often get impatient and harvest a few carrots when they are still rather small.  Well, according to “The Speedy Vegetable Garden”, very young carrots are sweet and delicious.  

So, I went out into my garden and harvested some young carrots and enjoyed their delicious sweetness in my dinner salad.  I love this idea because I can spread out the harvest of my carrots – I can enjoy some while they are about 6 weeks old and the rest later.

Another project that I am anxious to try is making sun-dried tomatoes using cherry tomatoes, which ripen much more quickly then large tomatoes.  

I also learned that very young radish leaves make great micro greens for salads.

I was also inspired to start another gardening project – growing potatoes in containers.

If these potatoes were in your kitchen, you’d probably throw them out.  But, seed potatoes are supposed to have sprouts growing 😉
The last time I grew potatoes – I was a college student and we had each been given a piece of farm land to plant vegetables.  Since french fries was among my favorite foods at the time, I made sure that I included potatoes in my vegetable plot.

This time, I bought an inexpensive container with holes on the bottom for drainage, some seed potatoes and potting soil.  I filled the pot with 4″ of potting soil, added 3 seed potatoes (they are really small potatoes), and then added 4 more inches of soil.  

I must keep them well-watered, but not soggy.  I will apply fertilizer as well.  Soon, green leaves will appear and I will cover them with more potting soil.  This cycle will repeat itself (adding more soil once leaves appear) until the soil reaches the top of my container.  In just 8 – 12 weeks, I will be harvesting my own potatoes.

I can hardly wait!

I encourage you to read “The Speedy Vegetable Garden” by authors Mark Diacona & Lia Leendertz.

Maybe your copy will become as dog-eared as mine 😉
Periodically, the great people at Timber Press ask me to help promote interesting, new gardening books.

This time, they are promoting several great books with the “Garden Outside the Garden” contest and there are TWO different giveaways!
The winner will receive copies of these gardening books: 
Keshiki Bonsai
The Unexpected Houseplant
The Roots of My Obsession
The Layered Garden
*They will also receive artwork by noted artist, Brooke Weeber.

This is a fabulous book showcasing many unique ideas for adding plants inside your house.  
**All you have to do is to leave a comment to this blog post by November 2nd.  I will post the winner on November 3rd.
 To enter the “Garden Outside the Garden” contest, simply click the link below where you will be directed to the Timber Press giveaway site and enter your email.

 “Garden Outside the Garden “

So, be sure to enter both contests and 
Good Luck to all of you!!!

Have you ever had a problem in your garden?

Chances are that if you have a garden – you have experienced a problem in it at least once.

Sometimes, it is hard to know how to solve the problem.  

Sunburned Sago Palm
I am often asked by friends, clients, readers of my blog and newsletters for help in their garden.  
Overly pruned Cassia that lead to dead growth.
 Sometimes they know what the problem is, but need to know how to solve it.
Problem with slugs? Set out a bowl of beer.
 Other times, I am asked to help them to identify the problem and the solution. 

At night, the beer attracts slugs who will drown in the beer.
Timber Press has quite a few gardening books solely dedicated to problem solving in the garden.  

I was asked by them to review the book “What’s Wrong With My Vegetable Garden” by David Deardorff & Kathryn Wadsworth.

Quite honestly, I loved this book.  

The book is filled with color photos of the different problems that can affect your vegetables.  One of my pet peeves with some gardening books is the lack of photos and/or black & white photos.  
Information about each type of vegetable is listed with helpful growing tips.  
The authors provide helpful, organic solutions for all types of pest, fungal, insect and environmental problems that can affect your vegetables.
Timber Press is having a “Garden Problem Solver” promotion where you can ask your questions about a problem in your garden and be eligible for different prizes.
To check out their promotion, simply click below:

The other day, I took my new camera out into the garden to capture its progress.  My vegetable garden is in transition right now with both cool and warm-season vegetables growing.

I was thrilled to see the first sugar snap peas hanging off the vine…

I couldn’t wait to pick them off the vine…
I popped one in my mouth right away and shared the others with the kids.
As I went back inside, I was thrilled to see that a package had arrived….
I have been looking forward to this book and I absolutely love the title.
Now I just wish that I had strawberries growing in my garden….
Sugar Snap Peas and Strawberries by Timber Press Publishers, is filled with creative ideas on how to create an edible garden in a small space.  I am going to try using some of her creative container ideas too.   
I promise I’ll share.