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I can’t help but showcase her AGAIN. She’s so pretty!

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Lemon tree blooming in my foyer

I’m completely smitten.

I suppose I should name her, eh? Hmmm…a very active, down-to-earth, productive, perfumey, social, efficient, giving, amicable, adorable, joyful lemon tree. Sydney? Jenny? Betty?

Anyway.

Someone’s working on that whole transmitting scents through the interwebz thing, right?

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Lemon tree blooming in my foyer

I nominate the scent of a citrus blossom to go first!

And look! More baby lemons!

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Lemon tree blooming in my foyer

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Lemon tree blooming in my foyer

Can you see the round green tomato in the background on the photo above?

Here’s not necessarily a good photo, but still a better look at it:

Good To Grow, Liza's photos, Lemon tree blooming in my foyer

Darn fool tomato plant acting like it’s summer!

Yeah, so no new news to report, from the foyer plants anyway. Stay tuned to find out if there’s breaking news in other gardens.¹

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¹ Don’t like, literally stay tuned. Breaking news in the plant world isn’t the same as on Channel 2. It’s slower and more accurate because they fact check – oooh, burn! Juuuust kidding.

That’s all now!

Hello sugarskulls, and happy Monday!

Yesterday afternoon was the Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) parade in Albuquerque’s South Valley. It’s also known as the Marigold parade, because in Mexico, Marigolds are known as Flor de Muerto, or flower of the dead. The flowers are thought to attract the souls of the dead to the offerings or comments that the living have left for them. Facilitators, those Marigolds.

I’d never been to the parade, despite years of hearing how awesome it was. I brought my camera along, because I thought you’d like to see a little flavor of New Mexico (and regular Mexico).

One quick housekeeping note, these photos are not in strict chronological order (although I tried to keep the sunset ones together so it wouldn’t be jarring to your senses), they are in my personal aesthetics order.

If there was ever a parade that screamed “community love,” it was this one. The vibe was so friendly and warm, despite the scary makeup and death theme. Here, take a look:

One aspect of the parade that surprised me was that it was very political. Albuquerque style politics. I’m not sure why it surprised me, since everyone was just looking out for their families and neighbors, but it did. I grouped the messages together (they were more spread out along the parade route):

You won’t see a scene like that in New York. It felt like a privilege to witness all these folks walking together with a purpose.

There aren’t a lot of one percenters living in the South Valley:

I have to admit, I got a little teary eyed at seeing all the families and community activists. It was so heartwarming.

It was great to see so many people coming together for their community. Even the animals were in on the fun:

Mommies and babies, too!

Hey, it’s Rose (and her son) and Mary! You ladies looked great!

The stroller float was a collection of tricked-out strollers. Adorable!

This was easily the most colorful parade I’d ever seen.

It wouldn’t be Albuquerque without the hot rods:

Everyone was showing off, it was very funny.

Yes we are!

Such a great event. I hope the photos gave those of you who live elsewhere a sense of what this community is like.

I took many messages from the event, but I think one of the most important ones is that life itself should be a celebration. It’s terrible to lose a loved one, but how lucky are we that we got to know that person at all? That we got to love that person. That we get to continue loving people. Life is precious, life is fleeting. Yesterday’s parade was an exercise in living in the moment, and it was glorious.

I’ll be back manana, hope to see you here.

I don’t really have anything against trends.

If a bunch of people want to race out and get the exact same pair of designer jeans because they’re “in,” good for them.

If certain celebrities are “trending” on Twitter, good for them.

If boys want to wear their pants around their thighs instead of their waist because it’s trendy, it may confuse me, but good for them.

It’s not really my style to follow many trends – you do not want me to attempt the Macarena at your wedding, I will not buy jeans with holes already in them. But most trends don’t hurt anybody, so they don’t bother me.

Trends usually begin as bursts of creativity…a new idea, a new passion, a new look. I’m a big fan of that aspect. Humans need to make stuff, to do stuff, it feeds our soul. That’s why an idea can become the “latest craze” – we’re starved for creativity in our modern time-crunched lives.

One fault I do have with trends is that they can create sloppiness. A good idea is born, it grows, then becomes popular and people everywhere race to participate in it, to recreate it, to propagate it, to cash in on it. In that race, the art is lost, the creativity squandered. (Are you listening, facebook?)

Vertical gardening is a fast-growing trend. I love the creativity of gardening up or across or in any exciting new way.

But I don’t like everything about what I’m seeing so far with this trend. It’s already sloppy, and it’s barely begun.

Because plants are living, breathing creatures, building a garden, be it vertical or otherwise, cannot be rushed, cannot be packaged into neat little bundles and cannot be done without careful execution and thoughtfulness.

In the case of some of these big vertical gardens, a little sloppiness can have quite troublesome consequences. I’d like to use an example of a garden that was born bad, right here in Albuquerque.

This vertical garden is located in a newer building downtown. It looks pretty cool, eh? Sure does. From a distance. Up close, not so much.

I’ve visited this vertical garden twice now, first in October 2010 and again in May 2011. The photos above are from the October visit, not long after the wall was installed.

I’d made an appointment to visit the wall and talk with the CEO of the company. The appointment was not necessary – they’d received lots and lots of visitors eager to see and talk about the new wall so they were used to people just showing up to gawk. People came from all over to see it, so in that way, the vertical garden was a success.

I was pretty in awe when I first arrived. The wall, located in the lobby, is two stories tall and to the casual glance, looked great.

A closer inspection revealed a different story.

That’s what I was doing – inspecting closer – when the CEO found me. After he cheerfully said hello and shook my hand, we started chatting about the wall. Right away, he told me he hated it. He effin’ hated it, actually.

“Because of the mealy bugs?” I asked. I’d noticed that mealy bugs covered most of the plants. Ew.

He said yes, because of the bugs and the fungus gnats, but also the fishy smell the whole building takes on if he doesn’t flush the system every two days (the water that runs through the wall and waters the plants also heats and cools the building). He also didn’t like that he had to pay an extra $10,000 after the wall was built to buy a mechanical lift because no one had thought about how to reach that high to maintain the plants.

In short, the wall was poorly planned.

Here’s what I think happened: New buildings in Albuquerque can strive to achieve LEED certification. That’s a “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” ratings system, which guides builders toward building with greener practices. They get incentives to build green, the environment is a little better off, it’s a win-win for everyone.

Except for the people who have to work in these buildings.

This particular building achieved LEED certification, and the living wall was a big part of the design. The landscape architect was not local – he flew in, did the project, then went home.

He chose plants based on a list that NASA published of plants that have been “proven to clean the air.” He may also have based them on availability, because I’m not sure if all the plants he chose are on the actual list. I haven’t seen Scheffleras mentioned but he used a lot of them on this wall, as well as Crotons, Philodendrons and Pothos (the latter two I have seen on the list).

That’s great that those plants are proven winners. One problem they all have in common? They’re all super susceptible to pests, especially mealy bugs and scale, two of the hardest pests to control.

Can you imagine two stories of plants infected with mealy bugs?

You don’t have to imagine it, you can see it. So gross!

A landscape architect told me that insects are a vital part of an ecosystem and that we have to find a way to live in harmony with them. I agreed with him as long as we’re talking about outside. But indoors, in offices, no way – I’m not going to allow pests to co-mingle with my clients’ employees.

In my company Good To Grow, we don’t tolerate fungus gnats flying around the faces of employees. I’m not going to let mealy bugs gum up the plants in a lobby where people come and go.

If the designer had been more thoughtful about the plants, he would’ve planned for pest problems in advance of building the wall.

He would’ve also had a plan for what to do when plants die and leave big barren spots:

The regular maintenance of the wall was awarded to a company, who as far as I know, had no involvement with the planning or development of the wall. They inherited a nightmare.

It was easy for the designer to waltz in, build something pretty, then leave. He didn’t need to concern himself with petty details like maintaining the wall. Pffft! Leave that for lowly workers, he must’ve thought.

The photo above was taken in May. I asked the receptionist if they still had problems with mealy bugs and her response was “We always have some sort of bug problem.”

If that was my client, I’d be horrified. You don’t want your CEO telling anyone who will listen that his wall sucks. You don’t want your receptionist telling visitors about bug problems.

Six months is not that long in “plant years,” but it’s long enough to deal with a pest outbreak. It’s also long enough to make sure barren spots are filled:

A friend of mine asked if I would submit a bid to take over the maintenance of this wall and fix it. I just laughed. Even if all those mealy bugs are dead, you still have to manually remove them by wiping each individual leaf and stem. No thanks!

I’ve got better things to do. I’ve appreciated seeing other people’s mistakes, because that’s helped me learn what not to do. The trend of vertical gardening is in its experimental stage – that’s the time to watch the failures as well as the successes.

So while I appreciate what I’ve learned, I’m too busy building my own living wall panels to fix other people’s mistakes. I teamed up with a grower in the South Valley (Kathi, of Rio Valley Greenhouses) and we’ve been planting panels that are not only beautiful, but bug resistant. They’re perfect as pieces of living art for the home or office.

Because Kathi and I actually love plants, we work with designers and building owners to create living walls and decide how to care for them afterward. The maintenance isn’t an afterthought – it’s a critical part of the evolution of each piece of living art. As the plants grow, we’ll be there.

If you’re considering a green wall or living art project for your home, office, or restaurant, think local and shoot us an email. We can plant small vertical gardens for your patio, a vertical herb garden for your restaurant, a living art wall for your office lobby. We can even grow your company logo in plants. All the plants are New Mexico grown, you’ll be giving back to your own community.

We’re not sloppy with our work, and we won’t be with yours.

Hello chickpeas, and happy Wednesday!

Happyish, anyway. The content of today’s post is well, sad. The Mom-n-Pop wholesale greenhouse, Corrales Road Greenhouse, that I love here in Albuquerque is done. Gone. Finito. Lights out.

I actually don’t know if that’s true. I haven’t been able to bring myself to visit for the last few weeks. Ann, the empress of green, told me the last time I saw her that if they hadn’t found a buyer, they were shutting their doors September 1st. Next week.

It’s not a huge surprise that they’re closing. I’ve written about the decline of the wholesale plant business here in Albuquerque before, many times. They just can’t compete with Lowe’s and Home Depot.

I reread what I’d written about the local nursery vs. big box store fight, and I sound so naive. I still feel naive. I’ve never worked for a local nursery – I just buy from them.

In my small business, Good To Grow, I have access to wholesalers, which is how I came to love Corrales Road Greenhouse. A few years ago, this was a bustling, thriving business.

Prettiest flowers in town, best Poinsettias [shudders with dislike]. And of course, the nicest people. Super knowledgeable, too.

I still remember the very first time I went there. They had speakers in every greenhouse playing classical music for the plants. I thought that was magically sweet of them.

Since that day, I’ve left the radio on for my plants. I think they like listening to the community station.

Do I know exactly how the business went from thriving to closed? No. I know it had to do with hurricanes in Florida, rising fuel costs and competition from bigger suppliers. I remember when it first became difficult for them to get trucks to drive from Florida to New Mexico – it got too expensive for them.

The industry appears to be in a mess these days. Certain growers have deals with the big box stores, and the local guys are getting squeezed out. It’s sad, that’s all I can say.

I wish I had the power to change the industry, to urge Americans to think like their grandparents and do everything locally. But I know that’s not realistic.

It’s easier to buy houseplants from Home Depot and Lowe’s, and frankly, there are a lot of lazy Americans out there. Ok, maybe lazy is harsh. More like, unaware. Obtuse. Self-absorbed. Introverted. Blind. Hmmm, still too harsh?

Well, I’m not going to apologize, it’s true and we all know it. There are also shit tons of creative, intelligent, motivated and wonderful Americans out there.

Most of the smart ones about us are already shopping at growers’ markets or local nurseries. But we still go to Home Depot and Lowe’s because they are convenient and inexpensive, and some of might feel sorry for the plants there and rescue them.

But then we bring those plants home and they turn out to be infected with bugs – because they always are unless its a particularly resilient plant.

And we realize if we’d just gone to our local nursery, we could’ve gotten a higher quality plant for only a little bit more money.

Remember that guy I told you about a few months ago? He walks by my house every day with his dog, who’s not on a leash so he terrorizes the dog next door. One day he came walking down the sidewalk while I was out working in the garden. It was Spring, and my Delphiniums were tall and bright green. He sees me, stops, looks at the plants, and asks me, “Is this a plant?”

It was such a hard moment for me. I thought, really? You don’t know what a plant is? Do you know what a tree is?

I smiled and told him yes, and that in a few months it would be covered with purple flowers. I have no idea if he knows what flowers are.

No one taught him any better. No one instilled a love of Nature into him. It’s shameful.

See? I told you this was a sad post. I’ll be back manana with something more cheerful.

Hi yellow tomatoes, and happy Tuesday!

It was a dark darkish and stormy night afternoon, and there was a princess, regular gal, fabulous gal, who had a love of fashion and vegetables and so she grew her garden and she looked great doing it, oh, lookie, there she is now!

No, I’m not writing a terrible novel.¹ I’m introducing you to Miss Lori Hedrick. Lori invited me over to see her garden and her cool outfits:

I can see why she wanted to show it off – for one, it’s her FIRST GARDEN EVER! Also, look how smart she was – with that huge barren back yard, it would’ve been understandable if she’d taken on too much at once, maybe tried to plant a big chunk of it. But instead, she made a small raised bed and took really good care of it.

The tomatoes aren’t ripe yet, but I’d say that was one healthy plant.

And look at those shoes! She wrote about her love affair with them here, on her fashion and beauty blog, Lolo Dahling.

Everything seems to be thriving under her care. The mint was happily blooming away and multiplying.

Jerusalem Artichoke sunflowers seem to appreciate her lovin’ touch.

Lori and her boyfriend recently moved to Albuquerque from Philadelphia. They’re renting this house (as if the neglected yard doesn’t scream “rental”). In Philly, she always lived in apartments, so that’s why this is her first foray into gardening.

I love squash blossoms, don’t you?

More of the sunflowers. Rainstorms danced all around us, but none of them fell on us.

Teeny tiny cucumbers. And ornament-laden hands.

I’m not surprised she was dressed fabulously, even to play in the garden. She’s an artist – she likes pretty things. I get that.

And she likes delicious things, like these beans. Girl has a green thumb.

Here she is goofing around with the tomatoes:

Haha!

If she wasn’t wearing those clogs, the tomatoes would be taller than she is!

Now I want a pair of fabulous shoes for my garden! Oh wait, I don’t really have a garden. A few herbs don’t count, do they? Hmm, I’ll have to find another way to justify new shoes. It’s Tuesday, right? Ok, good enough for me!

Here are some sweet flowers she planted in some concrete blocks – a very good use of space:

I hope everyone enjoyed getting a little glimpse into someone else’s garden. I love that she and her boyfriend are going to have fresh vegetables from a tiny space that was otherwise wasted space. Good job, Lori! And thanks for having me over. Your vegetable garden is beautiful, and so are you!

I’ll be back manana with another Wednesday edition of The Plant Lady Chronicles. See you then!

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¹ Because it’s just so hard to resist!

Hi Watermelon slices, and happy Monday.

I’ve lived in the desert for 11 years now, and I’ve found that it’s a land of extremes. Either it’s too dry and hot, or it’s too rainy and hot, or it’s too cold (Albuquerque sits at 5,000 feet – we definitely get winter) or it’s too windy and dusty. Don’t get me wrong – this city is my favorite of every place I’ve lived. I’m just sayin’ that as a resident of the desert Southwest, you spend a good deal of time trying to find a balance. Trying to create a balanced life in the throes of extreme weather. It’s not easy.

I think that’s why I’ve been drawn to medians lately.

That’s right. I said medians. The slices between the streets. The slivers that separate the drivers.

Medians are the center. They should have, well, curb appeal.

Medians are a hot topic in Albuquerque lately. I mean, not among my friends or people I talk with, but someone is talking about them, because newly planted ones are popping up all over town.

Really gorgeous ones like the ones in Nob Hill. They’ve gotten prettier every year I’ve lived here.

This is how most medians around town used to look – the city has a ways to go.

There was some flap a few years back (maybe it’s still flapping, I don’t know) about the grassy medians in the heights using too much water.

So the city has been redoing them into xeric gardens. I’m looking forward to seeing what this stretch of Academy becomes – I drive this road all the time. I like the view of the volcanoes in the distance.

Sunport Boulevard has the best medians of all. They really outdid themselves. Beautifully landscaped with funky desert plants.

The whole boulevard is decorated with cool pots like this one, which I think doubles as a rain barrel to help irrigate the plants. I’m not entirely sure, but I’m working on finding out if that’s true. It would fit right in line with their sustainability goals.

I remember an article in the newspaper about what visitors to Phoenix see when they step off a plane versus what people in Albuquerque see at the airport. There was a photo of a beautifully landscaped Phoenix airport next to a photo of a mattress up against a barbed wire fence here in Albuquerque. Made me laugh, but I think it might’ve pissed off the mayor, because now the airport looks gorgeous.

I did not even see the “Keep off the median” sign until I downloaded the photos. Haha, oops!

There was another article in the paper recently about the landscaping projects causing some controversy. There’s a guy named Ben who’s been taking care of the median outside his house, which is just down the street from Isotopes Park. He’s been adding plants and sculptures over the years. City workers said they were going to remove his work and landscape their own way. He cried foul. Now they are working with him. I think the plan is to take his sculptures out, plant around what’s already there, add irrigation, then put his sculptures back in place. I read that Ben’s not the only one who’s taken ownership of his median – lots of people have, so the city is proceeding carefully as to not upset these folks. Which I think is sweet.

So do you think I’m a big weirdo for being drawn to the middle? I see a space between the roads like this one, and my imagination races. What will be planted there, how will it look 11 years from now?

Yeah, that probably makes me pretty weird. I’m ok with that.

I’ll be back tomorrow. Until then, happy gardening!

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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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