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California bluebells and red flax
One of spring’s many joys are the fields of wildflowers that we often see growing along the side of the road.  It is one of the many miracles of nature how such lovely flowers can grow in the wild without any help from people.
 
I find it kind of ironic that if we want to grow these flowers of the wild in our own garden we  have to give them a little assistance to get them going.  But, the preparation is fairly simple and the rewards are definitely well worth the effort.
 
Arroyo lupine with white gaura
 
As with many things in the garden, planting begins in advance, and in the case of wildflowers, fall is the best time to sow the seeds for spring bloom.
 
 
I’ve planted wildflower gardens throughout my career, but I’ll never forget my first one.  It was on a golf course and I sowed quite a bit of wildflower seed in that small area – and I mean a LOT of seed.  The wildflowers were growing so thickly together and probably would have looked nicer if I had used less seed and/or thinned them out a little once they started to grow.  But, I loved that little wildflower garden.
 
If you like wildflowers, how about setting aside some space in your garden to plant your own?
 
I have shared my tips on creating a wildflower garden in my latest article for Houzz.  I hope you enjoy it.
 
**Do you have a favorite wildflower?
 
 

 

It may seem rather strange to think of landscapes decorated with lilies in fall, but summer and fall rain bring on the lovely blooms of rain lilies (Zephyranthes species).



Rain or ‘zephyr’ lilies add beauty to the gardens throughout the Southern half of the U.S., including the Southwest.  While their apperance may make you think that they are delicate and needs lots of coddling, nothing could be further from the truth.


Like other types of lilies, they are grown from bulbs planted in fall and are surprisingly, moderately drought tolerant.


The white species (Zephyranthes candida) is my favorite and has evergreen foliage.  There are other species and hybrids in colors such as pink and peach.

Rain lilies deserve a greater presence in the landscape, given their delicate beauty that adds welcome interest to the fall garden.  They are also easy to grow.

For more information on this delightful plant, including the different species and how to plant and grow your own this fall, check out my latest plant profile for Houzz.

It’s a beautiful summer day outside, yet my mind is on fall and Halloween?


Why?


Because, this is what I discovered growing in my vegetable garden this morning…



Okay, maybe you cannot see it yet, but once you part the leaves…


You can see a white pumpkin happily growing.


I’m so excited to have a pumpkin growing in my garden again.

You might be scratching your head at this point and wonder why I have a pumpkin growing in the middle of summer.

Look at any vegetable planting calendar for zone 9a deserts and you will see that pumpkin seeds should be planted in mid-June if you want pumpkins ready for Halloween.
Pumpkin vines are fairly easy to grow and they will spread out a lot!  We found that out the hard way when we grew our first pumpkin vine a few years ago.

Even though pumpkin vines grow well, they rarely form pumpkin fruit (yes, pumpkins are technically a fruit) when planted in the middle June as recommended.

Our first pumpkin in 2010

BUT, pumpkins will often form if you plant the seeds a couple of months early.  I’ve grown pumpkins from seeds sown in spring before (click here).  Unfortunately, I have had no luck having pumpkins from from seeds sown in June (as recommended).  

So my plan is to allow my pumpkin to continue growing and then pick it when it is ripe in late July  or early August.  

I’ll then store it in a cool, dry place where it should (hopefully) keep until I put out fall decorations in September.  I’m hoping it will last through October, but we will see.

*Incidentally, my mother has a white, heirloom pumpkin that she purchased last October that is still doing well and shows no signs of rot.  


I planted some heirloom pumpkin seeds from a pumpkin that I bought last fall, and the vine is growing well.  I hope to see a pumpkin forming on that vine soon.

From what I have observed, heirloom pumpkins with hard outer skin/shell seem to last a long time.  


I’ll keep you updated as to how my pumpkin patch is doing and when my new pumpkin is ready to pick!


The past two weekends have been busy ones in my household, or should I say, gardens.


The beginning of October signals great planting weather for all types of plants and vegetables.  As a result, I have been busy planting cool season vegetables in my edible gardens as well as sprucing up my container plantings.

Introducing my granddaughter to the wonders of plants at our local nursery.

The past two weekends involved visits to the nursery to peruse the vegetables as well as a few other types of plants.

It is very hard for this horticulturist to NOT get carried away with buying plants.  I try very hard to stick to my list of plants but I often fail and come home with another plant or two. 


In addition to my regular cool-season vegetables, I decided to introduce four other vegetables this year… 


Kale (I may try making Kale ‘chips’ and also using the younger leaves in salads).


Swiss chard (I plan to use the young leaves in salads).

Artichoke (I’m not sure if I will harvest the artichokes or let them continue to grow, since artichokes make great ornamental plants too).

The last vegetable I will be trying this year is celery.  Now, celery is said to be fussy and hard to grow in the Phoenix area.  But, part of the fun of gardening is experimenting.  So, I bought 2 celery transplants, just to see what will happen.

Of course, I have many other types of vegetables in the garden.  Most have been planted, but I still have some still to plant.

Later this week, I will show you what else I have planted in the garden.

Do you grow vegetables?  If not, it is easy to do and you don’t even need a plot of land.  You can grow vegetables in pots if you like.  

**Last week, I took you along on my shopping trip to the produce section of my local supermarket in my quest to create a natural, fall centerpiece.  I promise to show you what I came home with and what I created with vegetables and fruit in my next post.

It may be awfully hot outside, but my garden is awash in brightly colored flowers from my single bougainvillea, Arizona yellow bells and ‘Rio Bravo’ sage, which shrug off the summer heat.

Last year, we decided to create an edible garden along the side of our house. 

This was a large underused area that we look out at from our kitchen, family room and bedrooms.

To get it ready for planting, we had our ghost gum eucalyptus tree removed.  It was a beautiful tree, but was quickly outgrowing this area with its overhanging limbs.

The next step involved pulling out some of the flowering shrubs along the back wall and along the side of the house.  We kept the flowering shrubs along the side wall, because they add beauty and help to break up the bare expanse of the wall.

This is what the side garden looks like today…

The centerpiece of the edible garden is the vegetable garden.  Right now, it is filled with corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cucumbers and sunflowers.

In front, is my colorful container filled with a variety of herbs including basil, parsley, sage and thyme.  I bought an inexpensive plastic container and spray painted it a bright blue.  The container is connected to the drip system of the vegetable garden.


In the foreground (not pictured) is our new Arizona sweet orange tree.  We planted it last year and are excited to have three oranges growing on it.  

You may be thinking that three oranges is not much to be excited about, but the first couple of years after a citrus tree is planted – you are lucky to get any fruit at all.

Newly planted citrus trees shouldn’t be fertilized during the first year, because you want them to focus on root growth, not upper growth when there is not a substantial root system for them to rely on.  Since it has been a year since we have planted it, we will fertilize this year.


In front of the vegetable garden are a pair of new peach trees.  

I love peaches and have enjoyed the fruit from my mother’s peach trees for years.  I finally decided that I wanted to grow my own.  

We got 18 peaches this year, which is a lot considering that we planted them in January.

Notice the green plant at the base of the peach tree?  It is a gourd plant that will quickly grow and cover the ground.  This will serve as a ‘living mulch’ and help to prevent weeds and shade the roots of my peach trees.


Inside the vegetable garden, sunflower seeds are beginning to form.  It is so fun to see the birds hanging upside down trying to get to the seeds.  

You can allow the birds to eat the seeds or if you want to save them for yourself, simply tie a paper bag around the flower to keep the birds away.

I’ll probably save some flowers for ourselves and let the birds enjoy the seeds of a couple of unprotected sunflowers.


A large zucchini plant is growing in the background and as anyone who has grown zucchini will tell you, it is prolific.

The slightly wilting plant in the foreground is a pumpkin plant.  If you want a pumpkin for fall, then June is when you want to plant them.

It is normal for the leaves to wilt slightly during the heat of the day.  They will return to normal later in the day.


Zucchini can hide underneath the large leaves of the zucchini plant.  I’m going to use this one to make my chocolate chip zucchini bread.  It’s delicious and your kids will never know there is zucchini in it 😉

I found the recipe on Pinterest and have already made it once.  My family keeps bugging me to make more.  Here is the link to the recipe, if you are interested – Chocolate Zucchini Bread


My tomatoes are flourishing in the natural shade provided by my sunflowers.


One of my cherry tomato plants has even decided to expand a bit outside of the garden.


Behind the vegetable garden are my two apple trees, planted this January.  One is a Anna apple tree and the other is a Dorsett Golden.  These apple trees do well in the desert and although they will produce apples if planted alone – they will produce more apples because they will cross pollinate each other.

It will take a few years for any apples to appear, but the blossoms in spring are just lovely.


Behind the apple trees are six blackberry bushes.  This year, we enjoyed the berries so much and are hoping for even more next year as they grow larger.

Blackberries won’t produce the first year after planting because the berries appear on 1-year odd canes.

Did you know that there are now thornless varieties of blackberries available?  I have one….I only wish that the other five were thornless 😉

Well, that is what I have growing in my side edible garden.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what is growing in my original vegetable garden.

What do you have growing in your garden right now?