Gardening and Houseplants: Staying Grounded While Making Art

The world around us is abuzz with distractions that take us off our life path….and it can sure send you sideways. How to stay grounded?

Gardening and plants help me. And, in my work as a life coach, it helps my clients. I look out my kitchen window every morning to take stock of the plants in my yard….starting with the one on my windowsill:


I recently cleared out the summer tomatoes and put in winter vegetables: here’s a relaxing survey of seeds getting ready to sprout!

Here are the out-of-control end of season tomatoes and melons:

The last melon:

Below is a composting tub from a re-purposed city recycling container; these are AWESOME for making compost and are available at the Tucson Organic Gardeners, for more info click here.

Here are the seeds and potato starts–those were in my fridge all summer and they are already sprouting. Also, shallots!

Now waiting for seeds to sprout. Will update when I see signs of life.



Parched Plants Holding Up: A View of the Garden

Calling anything a garden in Tucson is a stretch…it’s been 107 degrees for the last week, temps that don’t support a typical garden. The plants in my yard are  holding up, I think most will make it for the 2 weeks it’ll likely take for the rainy season to begin. The hollyhock above seems built for this weather; and luckily these plants go to seed and sprout up again with little effort on my part so I’ll have more of the same next year. There’s a native grass in the background; it’s behind a mesh screen to prevent Bearbear from chomping on it.

Here’s Pam’s Pink Honeysuckle (trying to bloom again), moss verbena and chuparosa, all doing well; and, below, my Wonderful Pomegranate tree/bush from a cutting from the massive tree at the Tucson Botanical Gardens, with lavender–not blooming but not dead–in the foreground:

I’m going to have lots of pomegranates!

Above are clumps of chocolate flower, which bloom like crazy in the morning but look wilted and diminished by the end of the day; and what plant wouldn’t, really, under this relentless sun!

Here’s a view of part of the yard; nasturtiums in the foreground, the honeysuckle arbor, Russian sage in the back and to the right, I’m pleased to observe, my Desert Gold Peach tree is doing well, thanks to weekly watering from an improvised gray water system from my washer (I just hook up a piece of flexible hose to my washer, which is outside, and feed the tree).

Machine Quilting is DONE


Well, it’s all machine quilted! The image probably doesn’t look much different than it has for the past few months on this blog. But, trust me, it is different because every square inch is quilted!  Up close, a lot of it looks like this:

And for the past 4 weeks, my dining room table has looked like this:

And this:

The remote is important for channel surfing while sewing.

The last 5 days have been a real push to get it done. I had to take some time off to tend to the yard; we had a deep freeze (19 degrees F. at my house a couple nights ago) several days ago, and that means covering frost-sensitive plants and picking all the citrus. My tangelo tree was loaded with juicy tangelos, which, if exposed to frost, would make them dry and inedible. So, I picked them all:

Today it felt great to be done quilting (it’s taken me 4 weeks!).  I finally got my dining room table back:

And all my thread is put away:

Now I have to straighten up the piece, put on a binding, make a temporary sleeve and make sure it hangs straight….and then presto, I’ll be done!

New Fig Tree

I should be working on my quilt; but I couldn’t pass up another plant sale at the University of Arizona’s Cooperative Extension this past weekend. There were mission fig trees at great prices; $12 for a 4 ft tall plant.

I dug up a part of my yard….

..and in went the fig tree and a few hardy desert perennials: moss verbena, and a guara-family plant which I believe is native to Texas.

I also planted a couple of blackberry canes I got at the plant sale. You can see them in the photo below. Blackberries are often a huge, pain-in-the-ass bramble in much of the world; without the right gloves, the plant makes for a painful encounter. One doesn’t think “blackberries” in the desert, but there are a couple varieties that supposedly do well in this climate…so I’ll see how those go.

One last photo here: a view of the dogs. Baxter looks like his usual happy self; but Bearbear appears to be on the look-out, for cats most likely. Because Bearbear exists primarily to protect me from one of the greatest dangers out there: the domestic cat.

Last of the Landscaping!

Six months after starting my yard renovation I am pretty much done. I am so relieved. Things look really tidy all the way around, thanks to a final total of 23 tons of decomposed granite!

The last 12 tons of decomposed granite was delivered to my home last Thursday. A very competent and small landscape business here in Tucson–Green Thumb Landscaping–shoveled the first 6 tons, and did some major improvements to my front yard; believe me, I needed the help, my huge backyard has been enough work for me!  I highly recommend their work.

The last 6 tons was shoveled today by my mom and my new friend Mike, whom Bearbear and I met at the wildcat dogpark last year. Mike generously offered his time this morning and helped out: thanks to both to my mom and Mike!I had yummy apricot muffins and fresh coffee to get things going, and we wrapped up well before it hit 100+ degrees.

Here’s my mom and Mike hacking away at the last ton of rock; my back was a bit screwed up this weekend due to a  sacro-illiac joint sprain (just one of many in the past 10 years, I’m sad so say), so I was just so thankful for the help:

Here’s just a small snapshot of one part of my yard after all the work today: it’s great to finally having everything looking great! No mean feat, given it’s the driest, hottest time of year.

Garden View During Heat Advisory Today

When I got up early to watch the French Open today, I could see through my kitchen window that my night blooming cereus was blooming: it’s the first bloom of the summer, and in the photo above you can see a little purplish bud in the lower right-hand corner promising more giant white flowers soon.

I took a few photos during the commercial break. Here are my cukes; beans and canatalope, compost and my beehive in the background, along with too many bales of straw–the soaker hose irrigation seems to be working just fine:

Things look kind of lush for Tucson, given we had a high heat advisory today (now, that is always remarkable around here in June; that means it really is hot). I think it was 107 Fahrenheit today.

Here are my sunflowers, hollyhocks mixed in with more standard desert/xeriscape perrenials like verbena, penstemmon, russian sage, desert milkweed and of course my very big blooming agave:

Hot, hot, hot. I’ve managed to create a bit of a “micro-climate” in my yard, though.

Landscaping With Me Mum

Just a few days ago my driveway was clear of all the gravel and rock I’d ordered earlier this spring:

So to remedy the situation, I ordered 6 tons of really pretty 1/2 inch desert gold decomposed granite; and my mom generously offered to help shovel and spread the stuff in my yard, despite osteoporosis: here she is early yesterday morning:

The gold color looks really nice in contrast to the brown stuff I used to make the pathways:

Here’s the yard (with just the pathway) before we spread the decomposed granite:

And here it is when we were done. Bearbear, as you can see, is poised for action, just in case he happens to see a cat out in the street.

After spreading the fine gravel at a 3 inch depth, I hosed it down and then tamped it by using a cookie sheet that I stood on: this packed down the clay particles in the decomposed granite and creates a very nice firm surface, which, in theory, should repel weeds.

So, this project took us 4 hours. I made a nice lunch (including chocolate chip muffins with cream cheese filling, yum), made sure my mom had a lovely nap outside under the citrus trees, and then home 50 miles south-east she went…but not without a quick self-portrait of us as she went out the front door.  Per bone density tests she has multiple cracked/wedged vertebrae; but, you wouldn’t know it by her shovel-ready-acumen. I should be so lucky when I’m that age! Way to go, mom!

Finally, below, the next project: my hot date with 100 feet of Mr. Drip Soakerhose. This is a clever and easy way to irrigate, by cutting sections of soaker hose and solid tubing and connecting them with the yellow plastic connectors you see below, thus controlling where to soak the garden….and where not to. Once the soaker hose is set in place, I’ll mulch with straw; luckily, it’s been a really mild spring so far, and tonight it’s going down to…..50 degrees! Bizarre for so close to summer; so that I’m a bit late in setting up my irrigation probably isn’t going to hurt much, it’s not scorching hot….yet.

Endless Yardwork

It’s not quite Endless Summer…but at least all this work should make for a more beautiful yard for me this summer. What have I been doing the past few days? It hasn’t been anything art-related. Though last Sunday we had a great Irish house session at my home: 2 fiddlers, 1 piper, 1 flute, 1 guitar, 1 bodhran. It was great. A nice break from all the work.

So, all those plants I got at the plant sale (see the previous post) had to go in the ground, so I dug up the ground adjacent to my perennial bed, which of course has agaves and aloes in it, that’s the kind of perennial border you get around here:

…and I plunked in some of the plants from the sale, including some hollyhocks, we’ll see how they do….

Then, alongside my new path I dug up a narrow strip of ground; my ambitious plans for an annual flower bed. We’ll see how my dreams look in 2 months, when everything will be beaten down by the scorching hot days.

I have no reason to trust all the doves and birds that love to peck at the ground when I’m not nearby…so I covered up my new flowerbed with some chicken wire (now sold as “poultry mesh”!!)  I scattered marigold, globe amaranth, cosmos, nasturtium and anise hyssop seeds; they are heat tolerant and I’ve had some luck with globe amaranth before. We’ll see what happens.

Then next to the flower bed I planted a couple of somewhat aggressive groundcovers, a wedelia (yellow drops) and a creeping lantana; there’s still some bermuda grass in that area that sadly shoots up occasionally and I’d like to give what’s left of it some hefty competition. That plant is a scourge. No, it’s worse than that. It’s a plague. You can’t kill it.

Next to the 2 groundcovers, where the giant hole in the ground used to be, is my new Sweet Pete fig tree, which my mom gave to me Monday.

Here you can see what I did with my cactus pruner; I broke a blade hacking away at this agave, though. I think I got a bit carried away.

My mom gave me some soaker hose she wasn’t using, so I strung it around my fruit trees: apricot–which is just a fledgling–and my more mature tangelo, orange and lemon trees. The hose is partially underground and I heaped lots of mulch on top of it. At a slow low-water-pressure drip, the ground is soaked 3 feet deep in 12 hours.

I still have some chores left to do: install more soaker hoses, install shade cloth on raised beds, paint the work bench where my bee hive will stand, and plant a cactus garden. And then order some more decomposed granite to fill in barren spots. I hope to have all that stuff done in another month. THEN I can get back to sewing and playing music.

More Gravel…

Another day of working in the yard; but my guestimate now is that my 8 tons of river rock and decomposed granite is down to about 3 tons, maybe a bit less.

So, here’s some of what I did today (compare this to the previous post)…

And this is the path as it looks through the undeveloped part of my yard:

This took some time.  I listened to lots of Irish music on my Ipod while shoveling. I was really surprised when I went by the more developed part of my yard, to what I think of as my desert perennial border, and I saw that my agave looks like it’s going to send up it’s shoot this spring! Check this out, here it is close up…

….and from a distance… can just barely see the tender white shoot in the middle….

I just “pruned” this agave with my new cactus pruner; I’ll have to post about this soon. Maybe by cutting back the base, I encouraged it to bloom. I dunno. More on the pruner next time. I’m beat!