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Now this is embarrassing. It’s America’s birthday, and here I am without a gift for her! Rude!

What do you get the country that has everything? A gift card to Target? Concert tickets? A cake the size of Texas?

There’s a Mom-n-Pop greenhouse here in town that’s going to be closing its doors soon, having lost the fight to the big box stores. The other day while I was there, I picked up a gallon container of sedum. When I got it home, I discovered a little friend in tow – a small Praying Mantis.

I’ve heard it’s good luck to find a Praying Mantis. I don’t know if that’s true but it’s a sweet thought. And of course, I’m inclined to believe it since I found one. That said, he hasn’t brought much luck to the plant nursery where he used to live.

If it is good luck, then that’s what I would offer America for her birthday gift. Granted, a bug isn’t the best gift ever, but if it is a symbol of good fortune, then I’m ok with that. We could use some good news these days.

Here’s what the birthday card would say, “Happy Birthday America! I hope this is your best year yet. I love you, thank you for all you do. Love, Liza.”

Hello sparklers, and happy Friday! Welcome to our special Fourth of July edition of Ask the Experts.

I thought about making a new graphic with holiday colors or maybe a flag in the background. But I wasn’t feeling that fancy.

Because it’s a holiday weekend, we’re going to make this edition short and sweet so we can all get to the pool! (And by we, of course, I mean me!)

Let’s meet the experts. Hi experts!

“Hiiiiiiiiii Liza!”

You guys are adorable! Thanks for being here. That’s Tina Quintana, Tim “Thack” Thackaberry, “EZ” Ed Johnson, Dottie Correll and Lewis Casey.

They’re experts because I call them that, not because they’re really experts on plants, funny, funny, blah, blah, if you’d like to know more about them, please click here.

Welcome back, experts. Let’s get right to this week’s question.

Q. Is there a plant that strikes you as particularly patriotic here in America, like amber waves of grain or maybe one that’s colored red, white and blue?

Hahaha, that’s a fairly ridiculous question, I realize that. But who cares – it’s a holiday weekend. You’re probably reading this blog with a Roman candle in one hand and a Bud Light in the other. Who are we kidding here?

Yes, the answer to your unspoken question is yes. I do crack myself up, nearly all the time. But especially on Fridays.

Up first is Expert Tina. Tina, what say you?

A. “Hi, you have reached Total Plant Management. We are away from the phone right now, but if you leave your name and number after the beep, someone will get back to you. Thanks for calling. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeep.”

Drat. Tina’s unavailable this week. Too bad, so sad. We look forward to your return, girl!

Moving on, here’s the question to you, Thack:

Q. Is there a plant that strikes you as particularly patriotic here in America, like amber waves of grain or maybe one that’s colored red, white and blue?

A. For some reason, the yucca plant strikes me as deeply American, maybe something to do with the Westward movement of American life and the “conquering” of the frontier and all that stuff. On the other hand, America to me is like 4 or 5 different countries all tacked together into one big one, with a different plant symbolizing each region. I’m not smart enough, however, to produce that list.

Sticking with the regional theme, the plant that most evokes a sense of patriotism for me is a flower that grows all over the place where I grew up, in East Texas: the bluebonnet. They’re beautiful wildflowers that grow absolutely everywhere in the Spring down there, and that’s the one that reminds me most of where I come from, which is (narrowly, I guess) the basis for a sense of patriotism. No plant strikes me as inherently as my own, than does the bluebonnet.

Happy Fourth of July!

Aw, now, I see that as sweet. I think national pride begins at the local level, so remembering blue bonnets from your home state is awesome. They are beautiful, and I’m heartened that they remind you of your childhood. That’s when the magic of flowers really captivates. As we age, many of us forget the power of a meadow full of wildflowers, the smell of Peonies, or how charming Daffodils are.

I’m glad you mentioned Yuccas, as well. They are blooming all over town, and I’m fascinated by them. Each plant seems to have a bloom all of its own, different from the Yucca sitting right next to it. I’ve been taking pictures and plan to show you in an upcoming post how gloriously individual, but connected they all are. Just like Thack said about America as striking him as several countries rolled into one, Yuccas are diverse, yet the same. I love them!

Thanks, Thack (try saying that 10 times fast – good times!), for being here.

Up next is EZ Ed Johnson. Here’s the question to you, EZ.

Q. Is there a plant that strikes you as particularly patriotic here in America, like amber waves of grain or maybe one that’s colored red, white and blue?

A. Red raspberries. They remind me of 4th of July picnics when we would wander off and fill paper cups with the sweet berries. Also, strangely enough, cat tails, which struck me as a kid as being giant sparklers.

Wait, what? You grew up in the northern New Mexico mountains – and there were cat tails around? Do you mean cat tails like these:

That grow in wet areas? Or cat tails like this one:

(Both images courtesy of flickr)

Of the feline variety?

My guess is that you meant the former, which means cat tails must’ve grown in the Jemez river. I didn’t notice them when I lived there. Maybe I was too busy soaking in the hot springs to notice cat tails. Or staring at the red mountains.

Anyway, I like that they remind you of the holiday. Great answer, thanks EZ!

Up next is Expert Dottie. Dottie, here’s the question to you, sweet lady.

Q. Is there a plant that strikes you as particularly patriotic here in America, like amber waves of grain or maybe one that’s colored red, white and blue?

A. “Hi, this is Dottie. Please leave a message after the beep. Beeeeeeeep”

Ouch. Again! That’s right folks, Dottie is unavailable this week. I know, it stings. It’ll pass. Dottie’s one of the busiest retired people I know (but not the only one, Schulzes – I’m talking to youz!). We welcome her back with open arms when she gets settled. It may be a few weeks. If you think I’m taking down her sunflower head in the meantime, you are crazy.

Ok, Expert Lewis, dazzle us! Here’s the question to you:

Q. Is there a plant that strikes you as particularly patriotic here in America, like amber waves of grain or maybe one that’s colored red, white and blue?

A. A native plant that is unique to the United States of America is the majestic, beautiful, enchanted giant SEQUOIA RED WOODS. These glorious trees are a living treasure that shows the diversity, beauty and splender of the Earth Mother. Imagine these tree spirits can be 2,500 year to 3,500 years old and the tallest is 379 ft. 3 inch tall. Do you realize that this tree is taller then the tallest building in Albuquerque 351 ft. Albuquerque Plaza Office Tower?

What fools we were to have cut so many of these majestic treasure down to make railroad ties, fences, docks and other BS during the last century. Thanks for the wiser mind & spirits that prevailed in saving these gentle giants. John Muir was one of these great Americans with the foresight and gumption to help establish the Sequoia National Park. But greedy eyes still lust after the dollars that could line their pockets if they could ravage these treasures so we must never let our guard down or the forces of evil will in a moment finish the rape and plunder of America’s natural resources. Like the current lust for oil and look at what a disaster and tragedy that is turning into.

Can you image the history that these glorious giants have lived through, they were already ancient when our Nation was founded. They were old when Columbus stumbled upon this continent. The Native Americans realized that these were spirits possessing vast knowledge, strength and were blessed with the grace of the Earth Mother. So if you want to honor our Nation, be grateful for the treasures that still stand upon this great land and if you should ever be fortunate enough to stand in the shade of these  stately and imposing creatures, stand quietly and feel blessed for being in the presence of such greatness.

Firework are pretty and fun to watch, but be careful many children and adults are injured and blinded by careless use of fireworks. Closely Supervise your kids while they are using fireworks, don’t sit on your porch drinking a beer and tell Billy Bob “Light another one and hold it over your head this time.” No one should get hurt or burn down the neighbors house while enjoying the show. So be safe Billy Bob to live another day.

Trees across the nation are cheering for you right now, Lewis. If only we understood their language, I’m sure they’d be saying things like, “Right on, dude,” and “Tree Power, Tree Power!” Haha! Or not, who knows? They certainly appreciate anyone who sticks up for them, I believe that, anyway.

As our resident “safety guy,” I’m glad you brought up safety issues concerning fireworks and festivities. It’s terrifying in New Mexico during the Fourth of July holiday (and New Year’s). Certain people here think it’s totally normal and ok to shoot guns into the air as part of the celebration. What? Dumbasses! The newspaper is always heartbreaking in the days following the holidays because some toddler gets killed by the bullets that are showered down upon him. Whoever these dumbass guys are, they shoot guns into the air without any thought of what happens when those bullets come back down. Why don’t they understand the obvious – what goes up, must come down? I don’t know if they’re just drunk or what, but they shoot their guns and people die. It’s awful. It’s not the way to celebrate the nation’s birthday. Not my way, anyway. I’m watching fireworks from inside a very tall building that is hopefully quite safe from the madness on the streets below – great views with none of the terror! That’s the hope, anyway.

No matter where you live, be safe out there. It’s supposed to be a celebration, not an invitation to injury. Ok? Ok.

Let’s get to the plant puzzler.

Name that Plant Problem!

Last week, I asked what was wrong with this plant:

There were multiple answers I would’ve accepted, because this plant has lots of things wrong with it. I was trying to steer you toward the yellow, crunchy lower leaves. The plant is a Dracaena marginata, a Dragon tree.

On most houseplants, when lower, older leaves turn yellow, then brown and crunchy, it’s normal. Dragon trees like this one shed their older leaves periodically, it’s nothing worrisome. That said, when the lower leaves get crunchy, it could also indicate that the plant is thirsty.

It’s not foolproof, but a general rule of thumb is that if a leaf turns fully yellow, then brown and crunchy, the plant is thirsty. If the leaf is spotty, damaged-looking, splotchy, partially green, marked along the edges, or generally weird looking, it’s more likely that the plant has had too much water. Again, that’s a very general rule of thumb.

This Dragon tree did get thirsty a few weeks ago, and hence the lower leaves turned yellow. The tree also has a few other problems – the brown tips indicate, mostly, a lack of humidity. I need to mist it more often than I have been. It would also love a sunnier location (right now, it’s in the lobby of a mortgage company up on Paseo del Norte). I should move it to an office that gets direct sunlight, but so far I haven’t, because despite its flaws, it looks really nice in the lobby.

Strangely enough, no one won. All the weeks we’ve been playing plant puzzlers, and all the times I’ve tried to stump you by tricking you, it’s never worked. Until this week.

I should be thrilled, right? Hmm. Well, the reason no one won is that no one guessed. James said he wasn’t going to touch it, and Martha left a comment, but I suspect the reason no one tried isn’t because the puzzler was so exquisitely fine-crafted. No, I think everyone’s on vacation. It is July, afterall.

Speaking of July, since it’s a holiday weekend, there’s no plant puzzler this week. I know, too bad, so sad. If you ever have a hankering to submit a plant puzzler of your own making, I would welcome your input. Send me an email at or leave a comment for me.

That does it for this holiday edition of Good To Grow’s Ask the Experts. I’ll be back on Tuesday, July 6th. Until then, Happy Birthday America!

Hi pepperoni slices, and happy Wednesday.

Just for the fun of it, I recently planted an empty planter at Billy’s Long Bar with red, white and blue flowers.

It’s cute, isn’t it? I think so. The Fourth of July holiday is this weekend. That definitely inspired the color choice, but it wasn’t the only consideration.¹

These flowers will be here growing and thriving until around October or November. Will people still want to see red, white and blue in November, I wondered to myself. Then I thought, of course they will. They’re still planted in America no matter what time of year it is.

I keep hearing about how we are a divided America. Segregated like these plants in the back of my van, seemingly unable to see the value in each others’ being.

I understand, yes, there are lots of differing opinions out there, and lots of people like to shout their opinions in your face, lots of people are jerks, lots of people are incendiary. But that doesn’t automatically translate to a divided nation. Most reasonable people are able to have different opinions than the people in their lives, be it coworkers, family, friends, and still get along. That’s not the same as divided.

I can’t stop thinking of all the things we do together. Like ignore the World Cup (haha, I’m watching!). And worry over our oceans and lands. And wonder what life will be like for our grandchildren.

We’re a nation that likes music and the arts, gardening, and drinking on patios. Minor league baseball games (Go Isotopes!), movies, cars, animals, tweets and dinner parties. We love to laugh and dance, we’re not afraid of hard work. We can be smart, we can be smart-asses, we can be asses. We cling to hope to see us through each day.

It’d be cool if we had some sort of holiday where we could come together as a nation and stop calling ourselves divided before we actually become divided. Maybe celebrate by, I don’t know, blowing things up and eating hot dogs by the pool?

I think the best way to express national pride is by having local pride. I want customers to look at those flowers and think, “Hey, that’s nice.” Gardeners do this with their gardens. Businesses do it with their services. Restaurants do it with their cuisine.

It’s all about having pride, nationally and locally. Pride in our values, pride in our careers, pride in our neighborhoods. And changing aspects of our lives we don’t like. It’s our choice, individually, yet collectively, too.

It’s almost our birthday. I wonder, will this be the year we grow up a little and stop doing things to harm ourselves? The year we gain forward momentum rather being mired in the past? The year we discover the value and the pitfalls of personal freedom, and how that impacts our collective freedom?

If I were the one blowing out the birthday candles on America’s cake, I would wish for action. By that I mean individuals and businesses taking responsibility for their screw-ups, and fixing them instead of hoping that positive thinking will solve all the world’s problems. Action, meaning working toward solutions rather than bickering about the problems. Action, doing what’s right for all of us, rather than what’s easy or good for only some.

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


¹ Including the plant selection. I would’ve chosen more Petunias, maybe even thrown in some purple ones, but there was not much selection at Corrales Road greenhouse. They will be shutting down the business on September 1st. They are giving up – the big box stores have worn them out. It’s currently for sale in case, you know, you have some extra money and you were thinking of buying a plant nursery anyway. I’m gonna miss this greenhouse, and it’s great people including Ann, Chris and Mike. I’m planning on helping them out as much as I can between now and then, finding new homes for the plants.

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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.