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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!

“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.

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!

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?

 

 

Hey, look who’s alive and kicking, and definitely hasn’t croaked yet, haha. It’s our beloved National Treasure, Dottie.

Dottie and me, Good To Grow, Liza's photos

92. Can you believe it? She barely can! Still wearing purple, because it’s an awesome color.

We both live in Arizona, and during her birthday party yesterday (her birthday was Tuesday), we learned that Arizona Senator John McCain passed.

I didn’t agree politically with McCain on most subjects. But he was an honorable man in the sense that he was American first and foremost.  A veteran, a war hero, a father, a brother, a Patriot, he fought for our freedom. He mentored newcomers in Washington despite differences of opinions. He could agree to disagree with people without hating them. He seems to be the last of that breed, and that is heartbreaking to me.

I’ve been very upset about the divisiveness in America. It’s frustrating. It’s not helpful. It’s distracting from the genuine problems we face as a country and as humans.

We’re Americans. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard than everyone else. McCain did that. Dottie continues to do that. It’s all about doing what’s right.

What’s right? Making sure everyone has clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. Clean oceans to enjoy. National parks to marvel. Not treating women as property. A living wage, food on the table. A fulfilling job. An honest wage for an honest day’s work. Not going bankrupt because of medical costs. Not being homeless. Kindness. Compassion. Family. Friends. Fun and playfulness. Appreciation and awe for Nature and this planet. Love of animals and birds and the stars and sky. Sunrises and sunsets.

We are so lucky!

But sometimes it’s hard to feel lucky. When we’re stressed, when we’re depressed, when we’re emotional. When we’re pushed down again and again. When we’re human. When we work so hard for seemingly nothing.

And when we have people addicted to power trying to strip all of those qualities from us to pad their own wallets and egos. I’m sick of it.

You folks, my friends, my dear people, I want to reach out to every single one of you and ask, what do we do to fix these problems we face? I personally have no idea. It’s complex and befuddling. I’m just one person, a white girl from Indiana – what can I possibly do to make the world a better place?

I think the answer is to showcase people like Dottie and others who are much smarter than I am.

Dottie has dedicated her entire life to making the world a better place. I want to be just like her.

There are others on the same mission. It’s Sunday. Football day. And there will be controversies. Here is one man’s response to a valid concern that many Americans have about black athletes taking a knee during the National Anthem.

This is Beto O’Rourke of Texas:

Sorry for the ads, I don’t know how to avoid them.

He is thoughtful and considerate. I respect that.

I’m privileged by being born in America with the correct color skin. Many of my friends don’t understand the plight of everyone else, or care, or think about it. Some of them do care and they are as frustrated as I am.

One man cannot solve these complex problems. It’s going to take all of us, voicing our opinions without fear of hatred and death threats.

Don’t believe the hype, don’t believe the lies. We are Americans. And we are good. There is no need to make America great again. We’re already great.

We can do better and we will. I believe that.

Thank you.

 

For Nancy, in particular. The flowers are doing great!

Portulaca, Good To Grow, Liza's photos

The Portulaca have sailed beautifully through this Phoenix summer, which has been brutal. Triple digit temperatures for all of July and so far in August, including plenty of humidity (so you can throw that “it’s a dry heat” saying in the trash – it’s bunk during monsoon season).

My beloved Portulaca flowers have been shining stars all along. They are in containers at work that I water every other day. Unceremoniously, I might add, haha, with water in a bucket because the hose doesn’t reach.

Portulaca, Good To Grow, Liza's photos

All that color! Swoon!

The new Lemon Twist Portulaca have also done well, although the stripes aren’t quite as distinct as they were.

Portulaca, Good To Grow, Liza's photos

They’re still adorable!

 

 

Ah, June. Probably my least favorite month in Phoenix. 106 degrees today, 110 all next week. Last year, it got up to 120 degrees in June. On my thermometer outside, I remember that the red went all the way to the top and looked like it wanted to explode!

Haha, still wouldn’t trade it for humidity.

I spend every day thinking about what will grow in this type of heat. Everyone knows Vincas, of course, and sweet potato vines. But lots of plants can take the heat.

My current favorite? Portulaca. (In my head, it’s a little song, Port-u-la-CA, Port-u-la-CA.) Known as moss rose, or desert rose.

I’ve loved Portulaca for many years. Traditionally, you would have a mix, so pink flowers and yellow flowers and orange flowers – all on one plant. Lately, I’ve been using a lot of white Portulaca for borders and for spillers in certain containers. Whether it’s multi-colored or single-colored, Portulaca rarely disappoints.

So I already loved the plant, right? Then some breeders went out and made me fall in love with it all over again!!!

Look at this!

Portulaca lemon twist

How stinkin’ adorable is that flower? White with yellow stripes. I can hardly stand it!

It’s Colorblast Lemon Twist Portulaca. I ordered some 4″ plants from Armstrong Growers. It looks like BloomIQ.com patented it (maybe?).

The tag says, “Full sun. Features: Vibrant flowers bloom on ground-hugging plants with thick, succulent foliage. Tolerates heat and dry soils. Uses: Excellent as a seasonal ground cover, in rock gardens, or in containers.”

Portulaca Lemon Twist

“Grows best in full sun. Grows 4-12″ (10-30 cm) tall, space 8-10″ (20-25 cm) apart, water weekly during dry spells.”

Grows best in full sun? In Phoenix? Yes, please! I’ll take a thousand!

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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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