Hi there friends and Merry Christmas. A little less merry this year, 2021, and not just because of a never-ending global pandemic.

The reason it’s not as merry is because we lost our beloved Dottie last month. She suffered from renal failure and passed peacefully in her sleep, with no pain. She was 95 years old.

I apologize for the delay in letting you know. Every time I’ve sat down to write about her, I’ve just cried instead. It’s still hard now. You already know how wonderful she was, how loved, how she dedicated her entire adult life to making the world a better place, how charming she was, and how kind and compassionate. Those of you who have followed this blog for awhile know that she was an expert in life, and that we cherished her as a National Treasure.

For now, because the tears are welling up again, I’ll let these photos speak as a reminder of a life well lived.

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Dottie and me, Good To Grow, Liza's photos
Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Dottie and me
Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Dottie and Me
Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Experts in life
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We miss you so much, Dottie!

I thought you’d get a kick out of seeing some photos from Dottie’s birthday party.

We’ll start with the amazing scenery, near Sedona, Arizona:

It was a beautiful day. Big fluffy white clouds drifting aimlessly across a pretty blue sky. Arizona is nothing if not beautiful.

The real fun was at Cindy’s house. Cindy is one of Dottie’s daughters, and they live together. There were only a handful of us, and we were very mindful of the pandemic – each of us is fully vaccinated and had a negative covid test before the party. If the world were different and Dottie was allowed to invite all of her friends, I’m sure the gathering would’ve been quite the raucous affair! We had to keep it small for everyone’s safety, but particularly Dottie’s. Obviously.

Here’s the party girl herself:

If I had an image in my mind of what age 95 looks like, it wasn’t this!

Here’s a closer look at the cake, which is a photo of Dottie when she was around 30 years old (she had six kids at the time of the photo):

What a looker! And I’m not talking about the cake!

Here she is on Saturday with daughter Cindy:

I love that photo!

And with me:

I know you’re dying to know. Her shirt says, “I’m an August woman, I was born with my heart on my sleeve, a fire in my soul, and a mouth I can’t control!” Haha, it’s perfect!

We had lots of laughs, good food, and great conversations. Dottie attracts wonderful people, so it was a lovely day in honor of an amazing woman.

Happy birthday Dottie! I love you!

“Why would you want to live in the desert? It’s so brown!”

“There’s no color in the desert.”

“Nothing blooms in the summer in Phoenix – it’s too hot!”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, what a bunch of baloney! The Sonoran Desert is alive with color all summer long, despite temps that can reach above 115 degrees. All sorts of trees, shrubs and cactus have showy flowers throughout June, July and August.

That’s true of any summer in Phoenix. But this summer, the summer of 2021, we’ve had the healthiest monsoon season in years. Awesome amounts of rain all through July and so far through August as well. Shrubs that have been sparse in their flowering (for example, ones that are not on irrigation), have exploded with fresh color.

I thought those of you in other parts of the country (and world) would get a kick out of seeing what a desert city in bloom looks like, so I’ve been snapping pics for the past few weeks. Some of the cactus bloomed right before the rains first started, but the rest of the plants had the benefits of the monsoons. You’ll see flowering cactus, annuals, perennials, and shrubs in the photos below. If you have specific questions about what a certain plant is, just let me know and I’ll ID it for ya.

I hope you enjoy this photo journey of rain-happy flowers in Phoenix.

Here we are at the “look at that purple shrub!” section of the post. These fall under the umbrella of the generic term “sage,” but they’re not Salvias – these are Leucophyllums. And they have been spectacular!

The sages loooove monsoon rains. For a few weeks, everywhere you looked around the city there were pops of purple, or rows of royalty, haha! Definitely a nice addition to any landscape.

The monsoons cleared out temporarily as of last night. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when we have a few days of sunshine again. I’ll be keeping an eye out for what’s blooming and take pics whenever I can.


On an unrelated note, there is a certain one of our very own Experts, a lady of charm and distinction, with superior intelligence and unmatched compassion, known far and wide as a National Treasure, aka Dottie Correll, who is turning a whopping 95 years old on Saturday. 95! She’s doing great. If you’d like to wish her a happy birthday, please do so in the comments and I’ll happily pass them along for you.

Luffa. Loofa. Loofah. However you spell it, it amazes me that I’ve lived all these years without realizing that a luffa comes from a luffa PLANT! I thought they came from the ocean. They’re a gourd! I never knew.

This past summer, I began volunteering in our little neighborhood garden (Coronado neighborhood, in downtown Phoenix) and was delighted to learn that they were growing luffas. Back then, I thought it would never be time to harvest them – they wouldn’t be ready for months – but that day has finally arrived.

I snapped some photos:

The inside of each luffa is filled with seeds. I gently tapped the luffa and they spilled out (there are still lots more inside in the above photo).

I’m excited to plant them in the spring!

Pretty neat, isn’t it? I think they are so much fun.

This past summer has been brutal in Phoenix! It shows in my patio garden. Here are a few photos of the carnage:

What a mess! Overgrown yellow bells. Almost dead Morning Glories. Summer annuals limping along.

I could gloss over the ugly garden and pretend like it doesn’t exist. But this isn’t Instagram. I think it’s important for people to know that no matter what your skill level is, gardens sometimes look like this. Especially at the end of a very hot, very dry summer. There’s no shame in that.

Still, it’s time to clean it up and plant for the new season. The weather is finally beginning to cool down. I can be outside for more than two minutes without being overcome by the oppressive heat. In the evenings, it’s lovely! My first task was to clear out the summer growth to make room for my fall plantings.

I cleared away the remains of the Morning Glories, and cut the Tecoma bells way back. Then I added a layer of soil to the bed.

I also cleared the summer annuals:

(I left the sunflower because I want to collect the seeds.)

Once the beds were cleared, the plan shifted to veggies. I decided to dedicate the big bed on the patio to only vegetables, with the side ones having both herbs and flowers. In a few weeks, I’ll add new annuals to my containers in front of the house.

For now, it’s beets, carrots and radishes, all from seeds. I’m also trying red onions, which may not have time to mature before it gets cold, but I’m giving it a shot.

I like to use string to help me “stay in the lines.” It’s not an exact science, haha! Besides the seeds, I also added one small tomato plant, an early ripening variety, and a strawberry plant.

It’s not much, but this garden makes me very happy.

What about you? Have you planted a fall/winter garden yet?

Look who turned 94 yesterday!

Our very own Expert Dottie! (Such a cute photo, thanks to her daughter Cindy for sharing it with me!)

Dottie’s doing well, living in Sedona, surrounded by tons of friends, charming everyone she encounters, as usual. She is staying as safe as she can during these crazy times (as are her friends). She’s receiving great care from folks who take safety very seriously. And of course, she has the support of her loving family as well.

I hope everyone will join me in wishing her another happy year around the sun. Leave your messages in the comments section, and I’ll be sure to pass them along to her.

I also hope all of you are staying safe out there!

 

Who remembers The Great Chayote Growing Experiment of 2012? 2013? 2014? 2016? What about 2017? No? Don’t remember any of them?

Perhaps that’s because they all FAILED! I’ve tried to grow chayotes almost 10 times and have not once been successful. In 2017, I wrote, “I’ll never quit you, chayotes,” and then not long after, I quit them. Because all that rejection gets a person down!

But now they’re back. I saw one at the grocery store at the beginning of February and bought it on impulse. For the uninitiated, chayote is commonly called Mexican squash, and they’re loaded with vitamins and flavor. You can’t grow them from seed – they only germinate from within. My germination rate is great – they open their ugly mugs and spit out sprouts no problem. It’s after they get in the ground that I tend to lose them. Even though they should grow practically effortlessly here in the desert.

I figure we could all use a good distraction from Covid-19, so here for your viewing pleasure is a photo journey of the windowsill life of my chayote. Prepare to be mesmerized!

Please note, to get the full effect, it helps to scroll really, really fast.

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Fasten your seat belts – he’s really going to get growing now!

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayoteGood To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayoteGood To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Ok, I possibly oversold that a tad.

But I’ll bet for the last 20 seconds you didn’t think about the virus once! And therein lies the power of growing experiments. Chayotes don’t give a shit about Covid-19.

I put the ugly little guy in the ground a couple of weeks ago. It’ll either be the beginning of his new happy life in my garden, or his death spiral. As with everything else, we’ll have to wait and see. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for him.

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, chayote

Heyyyyyy, look who it is!

This is Dottie and me on her 93rd birthday last August. She looks amazing, doesn’t she?

Today, she’s doing ok but not great. She’s been in and out of the hospital the last few months. She’s struggling to keep her body in shape – it’s hard to make it cooperate at her age. Her mind is still sharp as a chef’s knife, and her sense of humor is unrivaled. But dang, that old body of hers is giving her fits.

I thought now would be a great opportunity for you to send her well wishes and hellos. Leave a comment for her, and I’ll pass it along. I’m sure she would appreciate knowing what she’s meant to you.

Let’s review a few key aspects: She volunteered for the Red Cross Disaster Services for 50 years. 50 years! They don’t even have a pin for that, because no one has ever served that long. She grew victory gardens during WW2, and learned to weld to make up for the shortage of available men during that time. She worked her whole adult life. She gave birth to six children. She’s proudly Irish and unmistakably charismatic. She makes people laugh so hard that they almost pee their pants. She’s smart, and has been taking classes her whole life to be even smarter. And she’s kind. She told me that everyone deserves respect, and she’s absolutely correct about that. She also served as one of our favorite Experts in my “Ask the Experts” column on this blog every Friday for years.

This lady is one of a kind. Let’s let her know how much we love her. She’ll say thanks back, so I’ll say it now for her: Thank you!

I love you, Dottie!

Helloooooo! My goodness, I suppose it’s been awhile since I posted anything! I didn’t mean to let so much time pass between posts…I put the blog on the back burner, then over time, it got moved to the back 40 burner, haha.

How are you? Doing well, I hope.

I’m fine, thanks for asking. Life in Phoenix is ok. Although we’re supposed to hit triple digits later this week and it’s only April. That has me concerned. But otherwise, things are good!

I’ve driven through the mountains east of Phoenix twice in the last six weeks, and each time I didn’t have my camera with me. Which was a shame, as the wildflowers looked gorgeous in the foothills. So yesterday I packed up my camera and took off in search of color in the desert.

I found lots! Look at all the beauties I found blooming, like these Desert Marigolds:

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

Such cuties!

I love, love, love the color of Globe Mallow:

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

Even the Prickly Pears were blooming:

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

I saw lots of cactus flowers that were hot pink but I couldn’t get close to them with my camera. (Translation – if they weren’t by the side of the road, they weren’t photographed, haha – I wasn’t going to go trekking through the dirt!)

I think this is Thistle, but I have no idea what kind. The bees and I love it though:

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

I don’t know what these purple pretties are but I’m a big fan:

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

On one of my drives, I saw some pink flowers that I think were Penstemons. I didn’t see any yesterday – I think they were at a higher elevation than I was willing to go on a Sunday drive.

Besides the wildflowers, the mountains were home to a Saguaro Cactus forest:

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

None of my photos do the mountains any justice – they are so beautiful!

Desert Marigolds, Liza's photos, Good To Grow blog

Happy Earth Day everyone!

I have much affection for this container at work:

Good To Grow, Portulaca, Liza's photos

I took this photo this morning. The blanca portulaca is so pretty.

It hasn’t minded Phoenix’s triple-digit temperatures. The container gets unrelenting full sun against that hot wall.

That’s amazing, isn’t it?

 

 

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About Me

Hi! My name is Liza. Welcome to my blog and thanks for visiting! I'm a Midwestern gal now living in Arizona, after many years of living in and owning a plant care business in New Mexico.

Plants are living, breathing creatures, and if they're indoor plants, they are 100% dependent on human care. They cannot water themselves.

I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

Please let me know if you have questions or if you would like help with your plants or garden. You can reach me at lizatheplantlady (at) gmail (dot) com or follow me on Twitter, Lizawheeler7.

All photos are mine unless otherwise noted. All content is also entirely my hard work. If you'd like to use any content or photos, all you have to do is ask. If you take without asking, you are a thief. And thieves suck. So don't suck. We have a deal? Good.

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