Casa Azul at Tucson Botanical Garden

The Tucson Botanical Garden (TBG) is a green oasis in central Tucson. Spring is a wonderful time to visit, the aloe alley is in bloom, the barrio garden bright with spring color, the world class cactus collection is flowering and the blue and white garden is flush with the new growth of herbs.

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Fantastic Flowers by Susan Stockdale

Fantastic Flowers, Written & Illustrated by Susan Stockdale Children’s nonfiction/nature, Ages 4-94    222.peachtree-online.com

Learning to see involves looking closely and learning the language to describe what is right before our eyes.  Fantastic Flowers is a perfect introduction for budding gardeners to explore the blooms in the flower beds of the world.  Susan Stockdale’s beautiful illustration of the shapes of flowers that look like upside down pants, prim ballerinas, or wild baboons introduces early readers to an imaginative view of nature.  A flower is not just a flower but can be compared to the shapes of other known objects. A hybrid Osteospermum spirals out in the shape of spoons, the hybrid Calceolaria represents a purse with a flap.  Teaching children to name what they see helps them remember and will spark their curiosity to look more closely at the beauty of the world.

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Most Memorable Garden Moments 2016

During 2016 Rich, my husband, driver, and photographer, and I, flower fanatic, writer, and gardener, visited 134 new gardens. We traveled in the west to Seattle, San Francisco, Cheyenne, Boulder, and Ft. Collins. We did a tour through Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and a small area of northern Florida. We traveled seven weeks in New Zealand visiting 102 gardens. Viewing the world through the lens of a garden has given us a further education in history, geography, sociology, botany, art, and cultures, especially horticulture and agriculture.

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Peace Flame Garden, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Botanic Garden,  NZ

In the capital of New Zealand, Wellington Botanic Garden is a remarkable public space. The beautiful grounds include a significant collection of plants and trees. A small Peace Flame Garden is found just inside the entrance. I found this space emotionally touching. A bronze plaque tells the story, “This Peace Flame is the preserved fire from the atomic holocaust of Hiroshima, 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, 9 August 1945. The Flame calls attention to the indiscriminate and uncontainable nature of nuclear weapons which kill beyond borders and generations. It implores us to honor the Principles espoused in the United Nations Charter of settling all disputes by peaceful means.”

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Plant, Exploring The Botanical World

Plant  Exploring The Botanical World  Phaidon Editors, C 2016

My Christmas gift to myself is this glorious compilation of botanical art, all 350 pages of brilliant renderings of the plants of the world. I judged this book by its cover, it was so beautiful I wanted it for the art piece alone.  The idea to pull together the oldest of illustrations of plant life to the newest technology renderings from artists, photographers, illustrators and scientists all in one volume was bold. The enormity of the work to select and arrange these is inspiring.

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Not Natives Only!

I’m not gardening with all native plants! Life is too short to limit one’s garden to plants that are “indigenous to a given area in geologic time.”  Sure there are lots of benefits for that approach in gardens but I’m diversifying.  Every garden travel adventure introduces me to new plants.  The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Tropico’s plant database reports “Botanists have published more than 1.2 million plant names since 1753,” so there is no way I will ever see all the genus, species, and hybrids. Just thinking of all the possibilities for my little piece of earth makes me do a happy dance. When I find a Bat flower (Tacca chantrieri) blooming in the shape of a flying bat or the African turtle plant, (Dioscorea elephantipes) that grows a big woody base resembling the shell of a turtle, I get curious, I get excited, I want to see if I could grow it in my garden.

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Broadfield Gardens, Christchurch, NZS

In a country where everything grows, a garden showcases native NZ plants.

I’ve just returned from visiting gardens in New Zealand. There are so many shades of green, so many plants it seems everything grows in this country of passionate gardeners. It is a country with a long history of influence by English gardeners, a land of rich soil and favorable climate. There are many wonderful gardens to visit in NZ. The Kiwis (NZ residents) have long embraced importing plants from all over the world though more recent environmental practices have both restricted imports and placed a greater emphasis on native plants in gardens country wide. Broadfields Garden is a garden of NZ plants and a garden of international significance.  Some twenty years ago one man, David Hobbs, decided he wanted to make a garden.  He acquired flat land used as paddocks (pasture)  drew up plans and set to work. Today his ideas and plants have grown into an 8.5 acre garden of NZ plants. His goal is the use of native plants supplemented with only nonnatives hybridized and grown in NZ.

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The Bold Dry Garden

Lessons From the Ruth Bancroft Garden, Johanna Silver, Photographs by Marion Brenner, Published by Timber Press  2016

Today’s gardeners digging succulents and arid plants will immediately be attracted to the beautiful cover of The Bold Dry Garden.  The surprise in opening the book is that before you learn about arid plants you get a story of Ruth, a curious gardener who loves plants and design. Johanna Silver has written this important story of Ruth Bancroft and her Bold Dry Garden documenting her place in American garden history. Ruth’s succulent and cactus garden in Walnut Creek, CA has been growing since 1972. For over 40 years this garden filled with succulents, cactus, shrubs, and trees from arid lands around the world has been inspiring visitors.This was long before drought conditions introduced gardeners to such interesting plants as Aeonium, Agaves, Aloes, Euphorbias, Sedums and Yuccas.

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A Passion for Purple

The Parnell Rose Garden overlooks Mechanics Bay in Auckland, NZ.  Arriving here on a rainy day it seems repetitive to visit another rose garden. Yet here it overlooks the bay, there are sailboats out on the water and a Golden Retriever is sitting on a bench under a tree.  The roses are flowering, slightly beaten down by the rain and the first rose I see is purple.  A true purple floribunda, not a wine color red, nor the lavender rose I’ve seen before.  There wasn’t a label for the color but the deep color petals were purple.  I was quite intrigued by the shade.  But then I’m fond of purple and as I walked about the garden I found more purples to enjoy.

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