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Sweet potato vine trail underneath a planting of lantana and ‘Victoria Blue’ salvia.

I’ve spent a busy week on the road traveling back and forth throughout the central and northern parts of Arizona. 

While my road trips were for pleasure, there were some work elements involved, viewing the newest trends of high desert landscaping, and taking photos of pretty plants.

Planters filled with green and black sweet potato vines trail over the railing at Tlaquepaque with Mark Twan (Samuel Clemens) sitting underneath.

During the first part of the week, I spent a few days in Sedona. This colorful, high desert town holds a special place in my heart. It is where my husband and I spent our honeymoon, and we make a point of coming back up to visit every few years.

A must stop destination for us are the shops are Tlaquepaque, which is modeled after an old Mexican village. Fountains and courtyards are scattered throughout the stores, inviting visitors to sit and enjoy the dappled shade while listening to the gentle sounds of water features.

To be honest, I do enjoy perusing the galleries and shops, but the main draw for me is the beautiful container plantings. Sweet potato vine, lantana, ‘Katie’ ruellia, and salvia are artfully arranged within the containers.

A ‘Painted Lady’ butterfly drinking nectar from a lantana.

Butterflies and hummingbirds are also frequent visitors to Tlaquepaque.


Area hotels also feature lovely examples of plants that thrive in the dry heat like the trumpet vine and yucca, above.

While in Sedona, we made side trips to Flagstaff and Cottonwood before it was time to travel back home.

After one night home, it was back into the car and off on another journey. This time, we brought our kids with us for a destination wedding in Skull Valley, which is a half hour outside of Prescott.

The wedding was held in the middle of the wilderness, reached by traveling over 20 minutes on a curving, unpaved road. Wildlife was plentiful as we spotted a coyote, deer, and a roadrunner, while also smelling a skunk along the way.

It was dusk when the wedding began, and the setting couldn’t have been more beautiful. A cool breeze welcomed guests to the venue that backed up onto the Prescott National Forest. 

The ceremony was beautiful, and the groom got all choked up in the midst of his vows. Guests spent a great time celebrating at the reception, held in an old barn, and we got back to the hotel late.

We took a back way back home, which involved driving some curvy mountain roads, but we traveled through little towns that we had never heard of such as Wilhoit and Peeble Valley. 

I love the fact that even after living here for over 30 years, I still enjoy the beauty of our state and yet encounter new places.

**Do you have a favorite place to visit in Arizona?

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With the arrival of winter, some people resign themselves to a boring garden, devoid of interest until spring arrives with its warmer temperatures.


Thankfully, we don’t have to settle for ‘blah’ winter gardens if cold-hardy succulents have a spot to grow in the landscape, many of which can survive temps down to 0 and even -20 degrees F.


Yucca growing among boulders.

When the flowering plants are ‘sleeping’ through winter, succulents take center stage with their unique shapes and growing patterns.

Whale’s Tongue Agave (Agave ovatifolia)

While the cold temperatures may freeze back your favorite bougainvillea or lantana flowers, cold hardy succulents like these whale’s tongue agave steal the show with their beautifully shaped leaves.

Toothless Sotol (Dasylirion quadrangulatum)
During the warmer seasons, these succulents add texture and welcome structure to the garden, often serving as a backdrop to flowering shrubs and groundcovers.  But, when winter arrives, they get their turn to shine.

Want to learn more about cold hardy succulents, which will add beauty to your outdoor space, not just in winter, but year round?  I recently compiled a list of 10 cold hardy succulents, for Houzz.com that would be a welcome addition in most landscapes.


Hopefully, you’ll find some of your old favorites and maybe a few new ones.

Do you visit your local botanical garden?


I try to make it to my local garden at least 2 – 3 times a year, which just happens to be the world-renown, Desert Botanical Garden.


Last week, I visited twice – once for their spring  plant sale and again with my kids.  Spring break is a great time to visit when the garden is in full bloom.  The kids were excited to go, so we made the 30 minute trip.


I must admit that they were getting a little cabin fever over their spring break.  The problem is that spring is my busiest time of year for landscape consultations (spring for a horticulturist is like tax season for an accountant), so we can’t go out of town.  So, we try to carve out outings throughout the week.

The kids enjoy visiting the garden and one thing that we like about visiting the garden several times a year, is that it never looks the same.  Each season brings a different look as different plants take center stage as they flower or show off their foliage.


One part of the garden that really caught my eye was a bed filled with plants with gray foliage interspersed with spiky plants.

As you can see, there are layers of plants in this area, most of which have fine-textured, gray foliage.  They are interspersed with greener spiky succulents for a great color and texture contrast.


In this area, the garden enjoyed filtered shade from a Texas honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), including the aloe vera in the background.


The feathery foliage of artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ filled the back spaces of the garden.  This is a great choice for gray-blue color in the garden.  It appreciates filtered shade in the Arizona desert.


The spiky plants in the center are two young yucca  – I’m not sure of the species (I must confess that I’m not a fan of yucca, but I’m in the minority).  Young yucca are often mistaken for agave.


At the base of the yucca was moss verbena (Glandularia tenuisecta formerly Verbena tenuisecta).  I love the carefree nature of this trailing ground cover with its purple flowers and bright green foliage.

The next section of the garden was filled with Caribbean agave (Agave angustifolia ‘Marginata’), lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus) and the small black-spined agave (Agave macroacantha) in the front.


Along the side of this garden bed were Agave ocahui, which is a nice small agave that looks great in this staggered arrangement.

These were just a few of the beautiful plants that have gray-toned foliage that we saw that day.  Introducing the plants with shades of gray that range from green to blue tones of gray, create a cooling effect and contrast nicely with the darker greens in the landscape.

Next time we will look at some of my favorite plants with shades of gray.

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For now, I need to get my 3 youngest kids ready for school, which starts tomorrow.  Just 2 more months until summer!


On another note, my second-oldest daughter, Rachele, returns to work after 2 months off for maternity leave.  I remember how hard it was to go back to work after she was born – especially those first 2 weeks.  

Rachele and baby Eric are back on her Navy base and I can’t wait to go and visit them in a few weeks!

The past couple of days on the road have been both eventful AND uneventful.


Yesterday morning found us in Columbia, SC.  We set on our way to find a folk art festival that was scheduled near the campus of University of South Carolina (USC), but couldn’t find it.


What we did find, driving through the campus, was a community garden, a rose garden and beautiful perennial beds along the roadside.


We parked near the university book store in the only spot we could find – we had only 30 minutes to explore or else we could get a ticket.



These perennial beds were filled with vegetables like artichoke and swiss chard, which look great as ornamentals alongside the pansies, dianthus and lamb’s ears.

Pink and coral poppies were in full bloom.  
The red poppies in my garden at home were just beginning to fade before I left.  


The campus of USC also has historical significance during the Civil War, where the parade grounds and barracks were located.

As we continued our walk, I kept seeing more things that got me excited.


As we turned the corner, we found ourselves in a small rose garden.


Isn’t this Peace rose, pretty?  It was raining lightly as you can see.


This climbing rose used a nearby tree as a support.


I have grown many different kinds of roses, but never climbing roses.  Maybe I should try?

Being from a dry climate, I am fascinated in observing the differences in gardens of wetter climates.


Okay, I know that those of you who live in more humid climates may be rolling your eyes at this point when you look at the photo, above.  

But, I thought these ferns looked just beautiful growing out from the brick wall.

I am also always interested in seeing familiar plants, adapted to dry climates, being represented in other areas, like the Yucca, below.


We came upon the largest agave that I have seen, which is saying something because I see a LOT of agave.


I was having a great time and looking at my watch, realized that we had to start heading back to our car so we wouldn’t get a ticket.


But then, we came upon this community garden.

I was in heaven!

These raised beds were filled with delicious vegetables.


Next to the raised beds, was a garden with herbs, including these flowering broccoli.


The separate beds were divided, not with boxwood hedges, but rosemary.  I really liked how it looked.

At the back wall of the herb garden, stood a ‘tipsy-topsy’ planter.

There was a different herb in each pot – chives, cilantro, basil, oregano and rosemary.  
As the clock was ticking and we didn’t have any time to spare, we walked by this beautiful bed of flowers, containing one of my favorite plants – Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii).



USC has a beautiful campus and I was so happy to have to found such an unexpected garden ‘jewel’.

After leaving USC, we decided to visit the Confederate Museum in Columbia.  
You see, my mother and I love to learn about history and that entails visiting museums and historical sights.  
I am both a product of both the North and the South in regards to my ancestry.

It was time to leave Columbia for our next destination.  

*The community garden was so wonderful that I will need to feature it in an upcoming post.

**Tipsy-topsy pots are very popular right now and aren’t hard to make.  I found a tutorial that you can click on here.

It’s that time of year, the weather is cooler, the trees are dressed up in their colors and people are almost ready for Halloween.  


My youngest daughter, Gracie, is going to be a ‘butterfly princess’ this year and my son Kai will be the ‘Brawny’ paper towel guy.  I bought him work boots (he loves those), a flannel shirt and of course, a package of ‘Brawny’ paper towels.  

This year, we will be hosting the family Halloween night with my sister, brother and their families.  I can hardly wait.  


This post has been a huge favorite every year.  I hope you enjoy it!

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My kids, aren’t the only ones ready for Halloween.  Use your imagination and see how these plants are prepared as well…..



Octopus Agave (Agave vilmoriniana) beginning growing it’s snake-like flower stalk.
Growing up to one foot a day, like a snake coming out of the snake charmer’s basket.


 
Creeping Fig (Ficus pumila) climbing up the pillar and underneath….hanging down 
like spiderwebs.


 
A Yucca reclining like a lovely lady.  
But beware….she stabs you with her leaves if you get too close….
(This Yucca was trained to grow this way)


 
Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) dressed as a giant.

 
 
The ‘claws’ of an Agave


 
Ocotillo (Fouquierea splendens) with a Medusa hairstyle.

 
Sticks of Fire (Euphorbia tirucalli), will not burn you….but it is poisonous.


 
The spooky silhouette of a Shoestring Acacia (Acacia stenophylla).
You can almost hear the hooting owls…


 
Crested Saguaro (Saguaro carnegiea)
A saguaro all dressed up with a new hairstyle.



Twin-Flowered Agave (Agave geminiflora), sprouting horns.

And finally….  

 A beautiful White Oleander (Nerium oleander) flower lures you in with her subtle fragrance.
But Beware!  She is deadly if ingested…


I hope you enjoyed the plants in their “costumes”.

Are you or your children dressing up for Halloween this year?  
What as?

Have you ever read a Dr. Seuss book?

It may be hard to find someone who hasn’t.  I had quite a few of his books as a child and “Green Eggs & Ham” was my favorite.  

As a mom, I made sure that Dr. Seuss books had a place on my kid’s bookshelves.

One of the things I love about Dr. Seuss, is his illustrations.  His imaginative drawings of plants, especially.

Earlier this month, my mother and I spent some time at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix.  As I walked along the garden paths, there were times that I felt that I had walked straight into a Dr. Seuss book….

Crawling succulents
  Spiky Yuccas
Sundial made out of cacti.
Doesn’t this look like a brain?
 A towering forest of Cardon cacti.
One word…”ouch!”
 The drooping leaves of a Ponytail Palm.
The strange shapes of Prickly Pear cactus and Agave.
This Boojum tree would fit nicely in a Dr. Seuss book, don’t you think?
 An ‘old’ cactus growing a beard.
 Arching Yuccas lean over the pathway as you leave.
I love spending time at the Desert Botanical Garden.  Of course, in addition to weird and strange plants – they also have beautiful flowering trees, shrubs and perennials.
So, take some time for a visit and see what Dr. Seuss book they remind you of. 

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There is still time to enter the giveaway for one of my favorite new gardening books,
“The Unexpected Houseplant”

Click here for details. 

Agave macroacantha with ‘Firesticks’
 Succulents are some of my favorite types of plants. I especially like the smaller agave species such as Agave parryi, Agave victoria-reginae, and Agave bovicornuta to name a few.

Let’s talk a little about how to care for cacti and succulents. 

Silver Spurge (Gopher Plant)

Agave, cactus, yuccas, as well as other succulent plants, can continue to be planted during this month. Warm soil temperatures are necessary for succulents to grow and they do best when planted during the warm season.

‘Baby Rita’

Contrary to popular opinion, newly planted succulent plants need to be watered in order to become established and grow a healthy root system.

Established cacti appreciate some supplemental water during the summer months, (especially this summer with our non-existent monsoon). I typically water large cacti with a garden hose about once a month in the summer unless we have had a lot of rain.

Lophocereus schottii ‘Monstrose’

Some cacti and agave plants may show signs of yellowing in the summer. This is usually due to high temperatures. Be sure to give them some supplemental water if you notice the yellowing. Usually, the yellow color disappears once temperatures cool down in the fall.