Tag Archive for: vertical gardening

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

The holiday season is a time where I try to balance out the preparations for Christmas with time to sit back and enjoy the particular elements that only occur this time of year. On that note, I’m happy to report that I’ve finished shopping for gifts, which are all neatly wrapped underneath the tree or on their way to recipients who live far away. I must admit that I have never finished this early before and it is a bit disconcerting as I keep feeling as if I’m forgetting something important.

Phoenix Symphony Orchestra

Last weekend, my mother treated us to an outing to The Nutcracker, by Ballet Arizona and the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra. 

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

We arrived a bit early, which gave us the perfect excuse to walk through the downtown area. Years ago, I worked in a tall office building as a landscape designer, but it had been a long time since I had spent any time there.

I was delighted to discover a tall Christmas tree in the center of an ice-skating rink – yes, there is ice-skating in downtown Phoenix.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

Walking further on, we saw a unique use of umbrellas as art.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

My younger daughters couldn’t figure out why the umbrellas were hanging upside down, but I quite liked the artistic effect.

yellow bell shrubs (Tecoma stans stans)

A row of yellow bell shrubs (Tecoma stans stans) added a welcome splash of lush green and yellow color. While you’ll see them grown as a shrub, here they are pruned into small trees. Underneath is the groundcover yellow dot (Wedelia trilobata).

inside the Phoenix Symphony Hall

Once inside the Phoenix Symphony Hall, we admired the colorful Christmas trees. It was all quite festive, and my daughters were excited to watch their first ballet performance.

My mother and daughter, Gracie.&nbsp

My mother and daughter, Gracie. 

Although Gracie has autism, and many things cause her acute anxiety, she was doing very well as she had always wanted to see The Nutcracker.

My sister-in-law, daughters, and me!&nbsp

My sister-in-law, daughters, and me! 

There is one thing about the performance that I haven’t mentioned yet. My cousin’s daughter is one of the dancers in this ballet. She is a ‘snowflake’ in Act 1, and a ‘wildflower’ in Act 2.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

This is all I can show you of the stage as photos of the performance aren’t allowed.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

It was marvelous, and everyone enjoyed themselves. After the performance, we met my cousin’s daughter at the stage door, (Gracie hoped that she would still have her costume on). She was so happy that we had come to see her performance and I was struck by the fact that all the dancing genes in the family went to her (as well as her mother) – I certainly didn’t get any 😉

chuparosa (Justicia californica), octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana), and yucca

On our way back to the car, we passed by a striking vertical garden, filled with chuparosa (Justicia californica), octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana), and yucca. Even though the chuparosa was a bit too overgrown, the overall effect was lovely.

Back home, things are rather quiet in the garden, with one exception:

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

My Halloween pumpkins that I filled with birdseed are still creating quite a buzz with the neighborhood birds. We have had Alber’s towhees, curved bill thrashers, finches, Inca doves, and sparrows come for a visit. It’s been a real treat watching them out the kitchen window. The pumpkins will probably have to be thrown out in another week, but it’s been nice to find a way to reuse them.

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

Lastly, we’ve been busy baking cookies for upcoming holiday events as well as to give to friends and neighbors. Snickerdoodles are by far our favorite, and they are so easy to make with ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry.

The recipe I use is an old one. I received it at my wedding shower, back in 1986, from a college friend. It has never failed me and cookies are delicious. I’ve had many requests to share it, so here it is:

December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles
December Happenings: Ballet, Sideways Agave, Pumpkins, and Snickerdoodles

*Please feel free to print it out and start your own annual Snickerdoodle cookie tradition.

December In The Garden….Sit Back And Relax

One of my favorite stops on our road trip this year was visiting the gardens at the University of Tennessee.


Earlier in our trip, I visited the gardens of the University of South Carolina, so I was looking forward to seeing more campus gardens.

Even though, I had heard great things about the gardens at UT, I was surprised at how much there was to see. 

The kitchen gardens were the first area we came up to.

kitchen garden

The kitchen garden was bordered by trash cans filled with flowering annuals and tulips.

kitchen garden

Roses and a clematis vine greeted us at the entrance of the kitchen garden.

I wish I could grow clematis vines in Arizona.  I tried once – it did grow, but wouldn’t flower.  Definitely NOT a ‘fuss-free’ plant for a desert garden.

kitchen garden

The fence was made up of tree stakes, sawed in half and painted lavender.  The area inside was filled with vegetables, herbs and other plants.  The garden was a also a test garden for many yet to be released plant varieties.

kitchen garden

Here is a strawberry with red flowers, called ‘Toscana’.

kitchen garden

Garlic planted among leaf lettuce look so attractive, don’t you think?

Did you know that garlic keeps bad bugs away from the lettuce?  It’s true!

square-foot gardening

Here is a great example of ‘square-foot gardening‘.

Flowering chives

Flowering chives were just a few of the herbs that bordered the outer area of the garden.

The flowers are so pretty, that I think I’ll let some of my chives go to flower this year.

artichoke plants

The artichoke plants were huge – my mother posed beside it so you could see how big it was.

kitchen garden

Some of the beds were full of what many would call weeds.  But this crop of ‘hairy vetch’ is actually a cover crop, which is planted in between seasons because it adds nitrogen to the soil.

kitchen garden

Have you heard of the newest trend of vertical gardening?  I love this display.

kitchen garden

Of course, a kitchen garden should have a compost pile.

Do you see the plastic tube in the middle?  That is perforated all the way down, in order to get air to all layers of the compost pile, which helps with decomposition.

kitchen garden

Outside of the kitchen garden was an old, rusty truck that had potatoes growing in its bed.

This was a great example of what I like to call ‘functional garden art’.

A Rusted Pick-Up, Trash Can Containers and a Kitchen Garden

Here is a cute praying mantis figure.

Glandularia pulchella

I did see some familiar plants that are equally at home in the desert southwest like this prickly pear and verbena (Glandularia pulchella), below.

university garden

After leaving the kitchen gardens, I walked through the larger part of the university gardens.

university garden

One of the things that I enjoy about traveling, is discovering new plants that don’t grow where I live.  

Viewing this garden, I was often surprised to find quite a few plants that I also grow, even though my garden was about 1,800 miles away from here.

beautiful shade plants

As I walked through the larger garden, there were beautiful shade plants, like these hosta.

Brightly colored azaleas

Brightly colored azaleas dotted the landscape.

University of South Carolina

Isn’t this ‘Encore’ azalea beautiful?

delicate flowers

Lily of-the-Valley was blooming.  I love their small, delicate flowers.

hosta

I love the lime-green color of this hosta, don’t you?

honeysuckle

This honeysuckle smelled heavenly!

University of South Carolina

It was so pretty, too.

wisteria vine

We also found a huge wisteria vine, which also had a wonderful fragrance.

dogwood trees

The dogwood trees were blooming.

Did you know that the outer white petals aren’t the actual flower?  They are called ‘brachts’.  The real flower is in the center and isn’t too showy.

Road trip
Road trip
Willowleaf 'Blue Star

Willowleaf ‘Blue Star’ was in full bloom.  

lawn

Throughout the lawn areas were softly mounded planting beds, which I liked because they added height and interest to this large expanse of lawn.

red-flowering plant

From a distance, I could see a red-flowering plant. I walked closer to see what it was…

Trifolium rubens

I was surprised to find that it was Red Clover (Trifolium rubens).  It was very pretty, but you need to be careful when using it as a groundcover, because like other clovers; it can be invasive.

shade garden

As we got ready to leave the garden, we walked through the shade garden, which had places to sit and eat.

The UT Gardens have so many different events for the public.  I only wished that I lived closer 🙂

I encourage you to take some time and visit the gardens at your local university.  You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find there.

Our trip is nearing its end, but I am looking forward to visiting Kentucky.

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

“Thank you” to my friend, Dave Townsend (from Tennessee) who sent me to this wonderful garden.

I encourage you to visit Dave’s blog, Growing the Home Garden, which is a hugely popular blog – once you visit, you’ll see why.