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Do you like to travel?  


Where do you like to go?


For those of you who have read my blog for a while, you are familiar with my annual road trip that I take with my mother.


Each year, we visit a different region of the United States.  We fly to one city, rent a car and end up several states away 8 days later.


Flowering window boxes of Charleston, SC

Whether its strolling through historic Charleston, South Carolina…


Or visiting horse country in Lexington, Kentucky


Visiting Lincoln’s Tomb in Illinois


Sampling the fudge in Mackinac Island


Driving through the Vermont countryside…


Touring old plantations in Georgia…

or


Watching an old Amish farmer fertilize his field with manure…

I never cease to be amazed at the wonderful things that I get to experience.

This year, we are busy deciding where our next trip will take us.

Last year, we visited the Upper Midwest and I was able to tour some beautiful gardens, including the Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Wisconsin.  


I enjoy taking photographs wherever we visit and this garden was filled with lots of beautiful areas, which you can view here.

Next time I will show you the possible routes that we have to choose from.
***********************

Baby Watch Update:

No baby yet.  The good news is that the amniotic fluid level isn’t low as they had previously thought and the baby is gaining weight.

However, they are still monitoring her closely and she has an apppointment this morning, so we will see what they say.

I have my suitcase packed and I’m ready to go at a moment’s notice.  I still have appointments scheduled and am busy designing landscape areas next to a golf course, but I can take most of my work with me, so that is good.


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!

Day 6 of our road trip began with gray, dreary skies and a chilly breeze.  


We decided to spend our time in Madison, Wisconsin by seeing the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, which were rated as the #1 attraction by Trip Advisor.


As we left our hotel, we were faced by roads under construction.  



Summer is the time for all road construction throughout the midwest because cold, wintery conditions are not conducive to construction.


Once we arrived at the gardens, we were greeted by the sight of containers filled with a combination of edible and ornamental plants.

I love how the blue of the lobelia contrasts with the bright green of the parsley and ‘Red Sail’ lettuce.


Cabbage is one of my favorite edible plants to add to containers.  

All of these edible plants can be grown in pots in my southwestern garden, but are planted in fall, not spring like in Wisconsin.

During this trip, we have visited three botanical gardens and have not spent one dime on admission fees.

Why?

Most major botanical gardens have a reciprocal admissions if you belong as long as you are a member of your local botanical garden and they are part of the reciprocal program.
At first glance, the gardens were beautiful and I couldn’t wait to start exploring.


The gardens have bee hives located in out of the way areas, which are filled with Italian bees that are said to be rather docile.

The bees play an important part in pollinating the flowering plants throughout the gardens.  The honey that is sometimes sold in the garden gift store


The individual gardens are spaced around ‘The Great Lawn’ which is a large circular grass area where concerts are held.  

The first garden I explored was the ‘Meadow Garden’.  This garden is sustainable and very low-maintenance.  

It is filled with drought-tolerant grasses along with wildflowers and flowering bulbs.  What I really liked about the garden is that it does not need supplemental water or fertilizer.  

Maintenance is limited to mowing twice a year.

What I didn’t like about the garden, was the mosquitos.  But, I came prepared and they mostly left me alone.


Walking on, I wanted to explore the herb garden because they play a huge part in my own garden.  


The entry to the herb garden is quite formal.  Boxwood hedges border the center garden area.


Edible plants combine with ornamentals for beautiful container plantings.


I love flowering chives and how they used them as a border.

Varieties of mint and thyme were nicely displayed and the herb garden also had herbs used for dyes.

*The brown plants in the background are recovering from the severe winter with new green growth slowly coming back.




This bed of flowering annuals was completed edged in flowering chives.



A Thai pavilion dominated the center of the Thai garden, which brought back memories for my mother who spent a few months in Thailand as a young woman.
While tropical plants cannot survive a midwest winter – the plants used in this area had a tropical appearance with large leaves while also being cold-hardy.


The bridge that connects the Thai Garden to the rest of the garden, crosses over Starkweather Creek, which bisects the garden.


People can canoe or kayak up 5 miles from this side of the bridge.



Boats can dock on the other side of the bridge and the creek leads out to Lake Monona.




This area is called the Sunken Garden, which is gently sloped so that rainwater flows toward the lake.




The formal water feature was flanked by two container plantings, which were quite contemporary in style.




The pond had beautiful yellow and purple flowering Japanese iris.




Vines were used in different ways throughout the garden.


A tree provided needed support for a clematis vine with its maroon flowers.




 Years ago, I tried growing clematis in our first home.  It did grow, but never flowered.  I learned later that it gets too hot in the desert for clematis.




Another clematis was flowering next to a beautiful host underneath a tree.




I love pink flowers, don’t you?




Wisteria was growing up on arbors and I never tire of viewing their lovely flowers and inhaling their heavenly fragrance.




The vision of a rose climbing upward always makes me want to go home and grow one up the side of my house.


Have you ever heard of ‘Paper Birch’ trees?

Their bark peels off in perfect sheets that is sometimes used to wrap around decorative candles.

I have always had a special place in my heart for birch trees.  Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb, we had three growing in our front yard.  I have always loved their white bark and bright-green leaves.


Underneath these birch trees was an interesting ornamental grass called dormitor quaking sedge (Carex brizoides).  I like how it lays down making it look like green waves underneath the trees.


 Walking near the Perennial Garden, I spotted a blue-flowering plant that looked rather familiar.


It turned out to be a blue-flowering variety of autumn sage (Salvia greggii), ‘Blue Note’.


Can you imagine how patriotic a planting of red, white and blue autumn sage plants would look?


Here is another lovely edible, ornamental container that caught my eye, using kale.


Don’t you just want to sit down and relax in this area?


Pale-pink bee balm (Monarda species)  was the only flower in this area of the garden, but it was more then enough alongside the ornamental grasses.


Sometimes less is more.




Walking on a paved area, I saw a planting of perennials right in the middle.  


Interestingly, there was no border or any clearly delineated space.  Just an opening without pavers where plants seemingly come up in the middle of a sea of pavers.


I kind of like this idea.  How about you?




If you have been reading my road trip posts, then you have probably noticed my obsession with peonies, which don’t grow in the desert.


Wherever we go, I see shrubs covered with gorgeous blooms.  




Well, Olbrich Gardens were no exception.


I must have taken over 100 photos of all the different blooming peony varieties that they had.




From a distance, peonies resemble bushes filled with roses.


However, once you get closer, you notice the the leaves have a different shape and so do the unopened blossoms, which are shaped into balls.




Their petals tend to be more ruffled then roses.




And, their blossoms are huge!


We spent a lovely morning in the gardens, but it was time to hit the road for our next destination.


On my way out, I noticed an outdoor eating area with centerpieces made from plants that I was quite familiar with…




(Agave americana var. medio picta) was the center point of numerous succulent containers.


It wasn’t unusual to see succulent plants in many of the gardens we visited.  While they do fine in the summer months, they need to be brought indoors and protected during the cold months of the year.


 After taking 334 pictures of the gardens (seriously), it was time to hit the road.


Whenever possible, we try to stay off of main highways and focus on using smaller highways that run through small towns and countryside.

The Wisconsin countryside is green.  I mean really green!


Dairy farms dotted the landscape along with beautiful scenery.  We thoroughly enjoyed our journey.



Tomorrow, we spend time along the towns by the Mississippi River before heading toward Minnesota Amish country.


**I wanted to thank those of you who have left such wonderful comments.  I appreciate them so much!

Yesterday, I mentioned the different ways that the residents of Green Bay honor their football team.   Today, as we got ready to leave, we saw a couple more signs of fervent fans.

The breakfast room at the hotel was filled with people wearing Packer football shirts.  There was a young boy, about 10 years old, who had prosthetic legs decorated with Green Bay Packer stickers.

Driving through Green Bay, we also noticed that the trash cans in front of people’s homes were green and yellow.  Green Bay, Wisconsin is the smallest city that has an NFL team and the residents are very proud of their football team.

We left Green Bay and made our way north to Door County, which is a narrow peninsula that rises above Green Bay.  It is dotted with small towns, orchards, dairies and fishing villages.


We spent the morning in Sturgeon Bay visiting the local farmers/craft market and the local museum’s rummage sale.

Have you ever heard of cheese curds? Friends of mine who have visited Wisconsin before, have told me to try cheese curds, which are chunks of solid cheese, which forms from the whey during the cheese-making process.  Once the curds form, they are pressed into molds to form cheese.

In the midwest, cheese curds are a popular snack.  It is said that they ‘squeak’ when you eat them.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to eat something that squeaks.  But, this has been a road trip of ‘firsts’ so I bought some curds at the farmers market.

We spent the afternoon driving south toward Madison, Wisconsin just in time to watch the horse race on television.  Sadly, our favorite, California Chrome, did not win, but we did enjoy a simple dinner of food bought at the farmers market earlier today.


A fresh baguette, cheese curds and carrots make a great dinner while watching the Belmont Stakes horse race.

And yes, the cheese curds do ‘squeak’, but they are delicious!

Tomorrow, we are off to explore and I promise to take lots of pictures!

We are officially halfway through our road trip through the upper midwest. (Feel free to read about days one, two and three). 


When we go on our road trips, not all of our destinations are necessarily known to draw tourists.  Sometimes we have to spend the night in an area just because it is on the way to our next destination.  


It is during these times that we get acquainted with small towns.  I have never lived in a small town – I have lived in suburbs my entire life.


That was where we found ourselves last night – in a small town halfway through the lower part of the  Upper Peninsula of Michigan.



The only restaurant in town was Bob’s Big Boy and we were greeted by a giant moose dressed as Bob.  The food was good and it reminded me of eating at Bob’s Big Boy restaurants as a child in California.

For some reason, there was a moose dressed in another outfit in front of our hotel as well.


This is the view from our hotel this morning.  It was cloudy and cold at 41 degrees.  

We dressed warmly and left on our way toward Wisconsin and further adventures.


This is the view that we saw from the car 90-percent of the time as we drove through the Upper Peninsula, which is sparsely populated.

As we were driving, I saw a young bear cub romping toward the trees and the beach – pretty cool!


We crossed into Wisconsin and stopped by a small restaurant that is a favorite among locals.  As we stepped out of our car, we noticed that the temperature was 40 degrees warmer (81 degrees) then where we had left from that morning. 


The food was good, but basic.  Bratwursts, hot dogs and burgers made up the menu.  You could tell that the restaurant was very popular with newspaper articles posted on the walls, t-shirts for sale and a lot of customers.


When in Wisconsin, you shop for cheese.  My husband loves cheese, so I made sure to buy some for him.


There were many types of cheese and while my husband likes trying out unique flavors, I figured that he wasn’t up to having chocolate cheese fudge.

I did end up buying garlic cheddar, smoked cheddar and chipotle cheddar cheeses.

An piece of a tree trunk makes a nice planter for annual flowers at the entrance to the Green Bay Botanical Garden.

As we entered Green Bay, Wisconsin, we decided to visit the local botanical garden.


As my loved ones know, when I am in a garden, I tend to walk off and disappear as I take pictures of plants.  Thankfully, my husband and my mother are understanding about this tendency.

Curve your garden paths to add interest and a bit of mystery as to what is around the bend.

As a horticulturist and garden writer, I have a large photo library of plants.  Some of the writing I do is not limited to the southwest, but for all regions of the United States.  So, I like to take opportunities when I travel to take photos of plants that I will use later.

Newly-opened pink roses bloom next to dark-colored buds that have yet to open.

I have a list of plants that I would love to have in my garden – but that do not grow in my desert climate.

Red Peonies

One of those plants on my list are peonies.  

I love their full, ruffled flowers borne above bright-green foliage.

Did I mention that they are also wonderfully fragrant?

Lavender Peonies

The Green Bay Botanical Gardens were filled with flowering peonies in a myriad of different colors.

Maroon Peonies

I have photographed peonies on previous trips, but I’ve never had the opportunity to see so many different-colored peonies in one place.


Peonies bloom once a year in late spring into early summer depending on the variety and climate.

They die back to the ground in winter.


While peonies will grow in most climates, but they need cold temperatures in winter, so they do not grow well in zones 9 and above.

Bleeding Hearts ‘Alba’

Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra spectabilis) are another flowering plant that I would grow, if I could.  They love cool, shady gardens.  Their flowers resemble a ‘bleeding heart’, hence their common name.

Available in both pink and white forms, this flowering perennial is just lovely.

White Bleeding Hearts


Do you have a bird bath in your garden?  I like the simplicity of this stone one.


When visiting botanical gardens, I am always getting new ideas for the garden.  

While I have seen trellises created from branches before, I think this is the best one I have seen.  The branches are large enough to be able to provide support for climbing plants.  Rebar posts are used to anchor the trellis.

I think that I may have to make some for my own garden.

False Indigo (Baptisia australis)
Blue-flowering plants help to visually cool the garden, which can be welcome during the warm summer months.

Blue Forget-Me-Nots (Myosotis sylvatica)

Blue flowering plants look great when paired with white, pink or pale yellow plants.

Willow Amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana)

From a design standpoint, I like how a strip of blue phlox was planted to divide two separate plantings – don’t you?

Wild Red Columbine (Columbine canadensis)

Wild red columbine was planted throughout the garden, in order to attract ruby-throated hummingbirds, which is the only hummingbird species found in Wisconsin.
As I got ready to leave the garden, I spotted this guy working very hard cutting back the weeds/grass with a brush cutter.  The slope was steep and it was a hot day – it made me glad that my garden doesn’t have steep slopes.

*After leaving the gardens, we drove through the city of Green Bay.  Now, if you haven’t heard of the fervent fan base of the Green Bay Packers football team, than you must have your head buried in the sand.

Packer Stadium

Spend just a few minutes in the city and it is obvious that they love their football team.

How do I know this?


Across the street from the stadium are homes that back up to the street.  Without exception, every house has some sort of Packer decoration.


From a decorated gate, a raised deck encircled with etched glass with the Packer emblem and a giant football statue – the neighborhood has it all.


You can even buy cheese in your favorite Packer shape.

*I hope you are enjoying reading about our road trip adventures.  Thank you to those of you who have commented!

Tomorrow, we are off to more road trip adventures!

I love to travel.


A lot.


For the past few years, I leave my husband and kids behind and embark on a road trip along with my mother where we explore a different region of the United States.


We fly into one city, rent a car and several days (and states later) fly out of a different city.

I must admit that I love planning our trips and I have a binder filled with our itinerary and places of interest.

We named our first road trip “The Midwest”, which began along the west coast of Michigan.  We ended up in Springfield, Missouri with stops in Indiana Amish country and visits to historical Abraham Lincoln sites in Illinois along the way.

What I love about these trips are meeting the people and learning the regional differences in food and culture.  For example, who knew that a ‘regular’ ice-cream cone is 3 scoops?  
My favorite memory from this trip was walking into our bed & breakfast in Amish country to find the owner entertaining three elderly Amish women who were watching the royal wedding on television.

You can read my blog posts from our first trip here.


Our second trip took us to the Northeast.  We began in Columbus, Ohio (where I visited an old friend) and ended in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Along the way we drove through West Virginia, eastern Pennsylvania, upstate New York and Vermont.

Memories that stand out for this road trip are visits to my grandfather’s grave outside of Pittsburgh and seeing the graves of my third-great grandparents.  Seeing Niagara Falls in person was breath-taking and I enjoyed walking through some small towns in upstate New York.  Vermont is a great place to visit and lots of good food – cheese, ice-cream and maple syrup.

You can read my blog posts from our second road trip here.


Last year, our annual road trip found us in the South.  Our journey began in Savannah, Georgia and ended in Louisville, Kentucky.  Stops along the way included Charleston – South Carolina, Asheville – North Carolina and Tennessee.

The special memories that stand out were seeing the colorful window boxes along the historical streets of Charleston and the fabulous kitchen gardens of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Visiting plantations in Georgia and touring the thoroughbred horse farms in Kentucky was so interesting.

We visited a bourbon distillery Kentucky and had a tasting (I learned that I don’t like bourbon) and later visited the first KFC, which has a museum where it all started.

You can read my blog posts from our third road trip here.

I am so excited for our next journey!  

Are you curious to know where we are going?


We have named this road trip “Upper Midwest”.

Our journey begins in Grand Rapids, Michigan and will end up in Minneapolis, Minnesota several days later.

For those of you who have followed me for awhile, you know that I like to blog from the road and this trip will be no different.  

**Any suggestions of what to see and do along the way would be appreciated!


For more links to previous travel blog posts to places like the Caribbean, California, the East Coast, Florida as well as popular Arizona travel spots – click here.