I talk about my back yard so much that I end up neglecting the front. Granted, there’s not a lot going on in the front. I live in an apartment, so it’s not like I have a front yard or anything.

But what I did have was a big empty pot that was there when I moved in last year.

For a couple of months, I thought about what, if anything, to plant in it. The main obstacle was that the place where it sat got absolutely zero sunshine. Originally, it was sitting on the rocks next to a north-facing sidewalk (no sun). I wanted to move it next to my front door, where it would be underneath an awning and still facing north (no sun).

In Albuquerque, I never had any shade, so I was only interested in plants that thrived in full sun. I didn’t know anything about shade plants. I was in over my head.

So I headed out to my new favorite plant nursery, Whitfill Nursery, with questions. (By the way, I don’t just love them because they have birds and goats on the property – although, that helps a lot.)

It turns out, their employees are super knowledgeable about plants that do well in Phoenix. It took only a few minutes before I had some solid recommendations.

Fast forward to several weeks later, and I am thrilled with the results:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, front door container garden

Pretty, right? I love how it looks.

The colored plants are of course Coleus – the employee told me they have to be in shade here because otherwise their leaves will burn. (In Abq, they are full-sun plants.) I love that they’re flowering. I was going to cut the flowers off so the plants could produce more leaves, but I’m letting them stick around for a bit.

What you can’t see in the photo are the sweet potato vines on the other side of the container. They are beginning to spill over the side of the pot.

And the plant in the middle is Dianella, or commonly known as Flax Lily. It’s got big funky flower stalks with itty bitty blueish flowers. I’m kindof in love with this plant at the moment. It just chugs away, day after day, all low key and easy. I’d never even heard of it before, so when the Whitfill employee recommended it, I decided to take her advice. I’m glad I did.

What about you? Do you have any favorite plants for shady spots?


Over the weekend, I decided to make some changes in the garden. I needed to replace some plants that had died, and some that never matured.

Here’s the before photo of the garden:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, changes in the garden

As you can see, the tomatoes are thriving. The oregano and parsley are also doing well. But on the left side, the peppers and cucumbers aren’t as happy as they should be.

(The Zinnias at the base of the planters are starting to take off after being planted from seed.)


In between the cucumbers (far left) and the peppers are several tiny beet sprouts. They’ve remained sprouts like that for the last couple of months. Which means I planted them way too late – they prefer cooler weather.

It was time for them to be replaced by vegetables that like the heat. Like this little cutie:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, changes in the garden

And more of these little guys:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, changes in the garden

Muuuuuch better. They may be a little crowded, but I like to think of them as one big happy family, haha!

Now the garden looks like this:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, changes in the garden

(By the way, that container in front of the garden has the chayote sprouts – they are slowly growing, hanging in there.)


A couple of months ago, I carved out an area of the back yard for a flower garden, and planted lots of seeds, mostly different varieties of Zinnias. I carefully planted one little portion with Cosmos seeds only.

I waited a couple weeks, and nada. No sprouts.

So then I pulled out all the seeds I’d collected the last couple of years in Albuquerque – my Penstemon, Agastache, Gaillardia and Hollyhock seeds, and more. I threw them all into the bed together willy nilly.

A couple of weeks later, still nothing. (Except for the Cosmos portion of the bed – lots of encouraging sprouts there.)

Then I decided to pick up a few seed packets – Portulaca, more Zinnias, some wildflower mixes. Planted ’em all with no thought to straight rows or neat little bunches of flowers. I stood over the main portion of the bed and scattered them with wild abandonment like I had beforehand. I felt like the wind. Or a flock of birds.

A couple of weeks later, the Cosmos portion was thriving, but the rest of the bed was disappointing. A handful of sprouts that I could identify as Zinnias, a stray Cosmos sprout or two. But pretty much nothing else.

Then last week, it rained – poured – for nearly two days in a row. I should mention, the bed isn’t on drip irrigation, but I was very good about keeping it moist so the seeds could germinate.

But I had nothing on the rain.

Suddenly, I had dots of green galore. Yay!

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, flower sprouts galore

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, flower sprouts galore

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, flower sprouts galore

My takeaway here isn’t that I should’ve been more diligent about planting in an orderly fashion. It wasn’t that I’m going to need to thin those when they get a little bigger. And it wasn’t that perhaps I should’ve exercised more patience from the beginning.

Nope. None of the above.

My takeaway from this is that I love rain in the desert.

One thing I don’t like about the desert? The spring winds. I thought I’d escaped the ones that hit New Mexico by living in the low valley of Arizona. But I was wrong. A few days after the rain, we had 45-50 mph gusts of wind for a whole weekend.

Which brings me to another first in the garden: First major cleanup of spring.

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, backyard cleanup

(I know, this doesn’t look too bad, but it’s only the tiny area by my back door. The entire back yard is littered with leaves and trash. Also, to my amusement, the welcome mat by the front door somehow ended up in the back yard. Not sure if it flew over the apartment or went through a series of turns and flights.)


First cucumber flower:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, first cucumber flower

First and second cucumber flowers:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, first cucumber flower

Third and fourth cucumber flowers:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, first cucumber flower

That’s a lot of flowers for such a little guy! Only one of the plants is flowering, but I sure like his enthusiasm.

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, first vine

Now that the Thunbergia is starting to vine out, hopefully flowers will soon follow. I’ve got two different kinds in the pot – the Black-eyed Susan variety, as well as one that’s labeled as Spanish Eyes, which look very colorful.

Thunbergia is one of my favorite flowers. I love how easily and enthusiastically they grow.

Eeeeeeee! These make me so happy!!!!!

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, first tomatoes

(Beefsteak tomatoes)

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, first tomatoes

(Yellow pear tomatoes)

(Not pictured – cherry tomatoes, abundant but not yet ripe.)

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Cosmos flowers

In Albuquerque, these don’t flower until August or September. I’m wowed by how early they bloom in Phoenix. Is that normal? Or is my garden made up of weirdos?

Hello everyone! I hope all is well with you. This week I’m going to be picking up my blogging game a bit, as there is much to discuss – namely, firsts in the garden.

It’s hard for me to believe that while people in other parts of the country are still grappling with snow and sleet, here in Phoenix my vegetable garden is thriving. I’ll be harvesting when most of you are just beginning to plant. Crazy!

Before I get to my garden firsts (first flower, first tomatoes, first lemon), I thought I’d share some photos from a few weeks ago, when Expert Lewis and his wife Siri graced us with their presence, and prompted an experts reunion of sorts. (For new readers, for years I hosted an Ask the Experts panel every Friday on this blog – Lewis and Dottie were two of my esteemed experts, they are experts in life.)

Lewis and Siri were in the state for an American Red Cross conference, and decided to swing by Sedona to meet up with Dottie and myself. A good time was had by all!

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Experts in life

(Dottie, Lewis, Siri)


(Dottie, Lewis, Myself)

Sedona sure is a beautiful place:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Experts in life

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Osteospermum charmers

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Desert Botanical Gardens

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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 the beautiful Land of Enchantment, Albuquerque, New Mexico. I have a plant care business here in town called Good To Grow. I can beautify your home, office, or patio with plants and flowers. I have 13 years of experience growing plants, and friendships.

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

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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