Sunday, November 28, 2010

Madera Canyon

A random road trip 45 minutes south of Tucson led us to the magical park of Madera Canyon.  Christmas music playing in the background during a cloudy and cold day made this Sunday feel like the holiday season. Here are some pics to show off our "fall color" during the holiday season:)
I love this park for the branch structure.  It's a truly unique place to find some really different kinds of trees.

Several bed and breakfast are located along the road.

For more information, click:

Happy Holiday!!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Cat Naps

A video on why we create gardens.......

Ever wish you had time to take one of these?  Filmed in Agua Caliente Park, Tucson. 

Friday, November 26, 2010


Roses bloom before the cold evenings hit.

There are several months out of the year that I like to call perfection....November, April, and half of May in Tucson.  It's not too hot nor too's perfection.  The plants seem to glow from not having to stress from the heat or worry about the frosty nights.  Here are some images from around town that caught my attention.

Tucson Botanical Garden

Can you see how the plants kind of "glow"?  It's hard to get a pic from this, but the leaves look brighter as the sun hits them which creates a brilliant green effect all around you.

Bug pictures are difficult to's amazing how hard it is to get a good shot of a "slow" bee.  They never want to stay in one spot for too long:) Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Jabuticaba – The Tree that Fruits on its' Trunk
Today while at work, a friend sent me an email about an unusual plant. I have never heard of this plant ever and none of these pics are my own nor is the information. It is a plant oddity and I thought I'd share this little surprise with all of you. Perhaps you have heard of this plant? It's called the jabuticaba. And it's real. I thought at first that the email was a hoax, but after some research, I discovered it does indeed exist. Here is what I've has nothing to do with Tucson or my garden or my adventures and themes or really anything that is found in the gardens.....just a curiosity that made me think.  It seems this week has been full of exotic fruit reporting:) Kumquat, persimmons, and now this......however I have NO experience with this plant whatsoever but it does state that it will grow in zone 9b and it has been known to be sold at Lowe's.....hmmmmm......where could I put such a plant?:)
The email went like this.....
"No, this is not a belated April Fool’s prank. They look as if they may have been pinned there by an overenthusiastic gardener to impress the neighbors, but the fruit of the Jabuticaba really does grow off the trunk of the tree. "

"Otherwise known as the Brazilian Grape Tree, this plant is native to South America, notably Paraguay , Argentina and (obviously from its name) mostly from Brazil . The fruit, a succulent looking purple color, can be plucked and eaten straight from the tree."

"It is also a popular ingredient in jellies and is also juiced to make a refreshing summer drink.  What is more, it can be fermented and made into wine and strong liquor.  After three days off the tree the fermentation will begin, so sometimes, there is no choice; honestly"

"If you want one of these in your garden, then you have to be patient The tree takes an age to grow, but once it reaches maturity it is worth it. However, it has proven to be very adaptable and, although it prefers moist and slightly acid soils, it will even grow well in an alkaline type soil. "
"The flowers themselves appear on the tree at most twice a year – naturally. They look like some strange alien creature that has deposited itself on the trunk and branches. The habit of flowers doing this makes them cauliflorous. Instead of growing new shoots, these plants flower direct from the woody trunk or stem."
"You might ask why it is this way. The simple answer is that it has evolved in this manner so that animals that cannot climb very high can reach it, eat it and then expel the seeds away from the parent tree to further propagate the species."

"If the tree is well irrigated then it will flower and fruit all the year round.  The fruit itself is about four centimeters in diameter and has up to four large seeds.  As well as being used as food, the skins can be dried out and used to treat asthma and diarrhea. If your tonsils are swollen you can also use it to try and alleviate the inflammation. It is also hoped that the tree will be useful in the fight against cancer, as several anti-cancer compounds have been found in the fruit." End of email message from unknown person.  All I can say is that it has been on my mind for the past couple of days.......and I'm wondering, where could I put it in my garden?:)
When do they fruit?  So many questions on this alien and mysterious plant.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Persimmon Mystery Comes to an End...A Vlog

Today marks the end of the persimmon mystery.  If you've been following this blog, I've written 2 parts previous to this one.  I suppose it's kinda like a consumer's report of the persimmon tree.  It has been quite the surprise in the garden as it makes an attractive compact tree. I've never tried the fruit...I'll do that on the facial reactions are a lot more descriptive than I'm sure my writing would be. The plant over the course of the year has produced beautiful white flowers and a tomato like fruit that has turned, only recently, orange.  It has also added a beautiful fall element in the garden as the leaves turn a yellow/fire red color before they drop from the tree. 

The experiment from the garden!

The adventure began back in January when I saw these plants in the nursery.  They were not cheap at all.  I found two varieties....the Fuyu and the Hachiya. It was a puzzle to me as I had never heard of this fruit before.  I purchased the fuyu variety as an experiment and as I write this, I am becoming excited about trying this fruit tonight!  I tasted a fruit in the Amazon several years ago that looked like a tomato but it was sweet and juicy.....they told me it wasn't a tomato....and so I wonder is this what I ate?  Have I tried this before? This year I found the fruit at Trader Joe's and the reason why I don't think we've heard about this fruit as much is because its' shelf life is quite short.  I was standing in line and I asked a customer with the persimmon in her hand if it was worth the 59 cents to purchase.  She got excited and told me that she adores the persimmon and that I should try it.  I asked her what it tasted like and she wouldn't tell me, but smiled and told me, "I'll let you figure that out yourself." Okay...I hope it's not nasty and it better not taste like chicken!!! Without ever having had the fruit, I would say the tree itself is really a neat thing to have in the garden.  In a current book that I am reading, they mention that persimmon is served with poultry.....what an appropriate time to have not only a persimmon ready itself to be eaten but also in time for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I have put a recipe on this post for your enjoyment from friends who have highly recommended this wonderful fruit. Recipe below.....

On a personal side note, this is my first VLOG.  It's bizarre and I hate watching myself on video, but I thought it would be fun to do.  My facial expressions are a trait of my family.....and we can never lie because the face gives us away first.  I also thought I'd share a picture of fall in the garden....besides the persimmons changing color so is the crepe myrtle.  Happy Gardening!!

Persimmon Pudding Recipe
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups persimmon pulp
2 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
2 1/2 cups milk
4 tablespoons melted butter


1.Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Butter one 9x13 inch baking pan.

2.In a mixing bowl, combine persimmon pulp, baking soda, sugar and eggs. Mix well.

3.Add flour, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, salt, milk and melted butter. Stir to combine.

4.Pour into baking pan and bake for 55 minutes. The pudding will rise but will fall when removed from oven.

Nutritional Information
Amount Per Serving Calories: 539
Total Fat: 9g
Cholesterol: 75mg

Kumquat Varieties

As of late, it has been extremely difficult to keep up with my posts. Yesterday, I officially became a docent and I didn't realize how cool it would feel after getting a name badge and certificate.  It's just paper, but it was so much fun learning about things I like to do. I was forced to take courses my whole life in crap I didn't care about so education for me, even though I am a teacher, was not fun nor has it ever been....however, I enjoyed my Spanish coursework when I was allowed to focus on it.  This was a different experience and one that I want to continue in a Master Gardening program.  Anyhow, I am working on the final part of the persimmons mystery which will be a vlog, the descanso roses after my hard cut, diagram drawings on using the bubble technique, plant identifications, and some historical information on ethnobotany here in the desert southwest. There is a lot of info that is just sitting here waiting for me to decipher and dissect. However there just isn't any time to write!!  Today I am going to write about an easier topic.....kumquat varieties here in Tucson.  Kumquat are one of my most favorite fruits and it makes me so happy that we can grow these wonderful small tree/bushes here in the desert.  Here's the skinny on how to grow this wonderful citrus. 

Fukushu Kumquat

In Phoenix, these plants do well as long as they are protected from direct direct sun....meaning they get afternoon shade.  In Tucson, the sun is fine, but the frosty nights we have in the winter are deadly.  I have two varieties growing on the property.....fukushu and nagami.  Most locals recommend putting them in pots as I have done so as well.  They make an attractive small tree in pots.  I have planted one in the ground just to see what it will far it looks great and there has been growth on it.  The best part about shopping for kumquats is sampling the fruit on the trees.  One of them accidentally exploded on my shirt and I was given away as being that "guy" eating his way through the nursery.  Hey, I had to make sure I got the best ones!!  They can be expensive.  I'll go into the differences in just a moment.

The Fukushu Kumquat.  It performs well in all citrus regions.  It is extremely cold hardy(that's one reason I purchased this variety) and perfect for areas too cold for most citrus.  It is the first kumquat variety to ripen and bears an abundance of fruit mid-November through March. The small round fruit is larger than other kumquat varieties and has a thin soft rind that is sweet and edible to eat.  Kumquats are great because you can just pop the whole thing in your mouth.  This variety has a rounded-leaf shape and a vigorous compact growth habit.  It's listed as an ornamental plant for the landscape and recommended for container gardening.  The fruit is recommended for eating straight off the tree and/or used for sauces, candies, and marmalades.  The fruit is delicious and that's all I am going to say. 

The Fukushu Kumquat

The Nagami Kumquat.  The Nagami Kumquat is oval in shape, 3/4" to 1" in diameter and between 1" to 2"long. The tartness of the fruit makes them great for use in cooking and/or for marmalades and jellies.
The tree is shrub like and is similar to an orange tree in appearance. It is a prolific bearer and very decorative because of the dark green leaves and brilliant orange fruit. The fruit lasts for several months on the tree in warm winter climates.
The Nagami Kumquat

The trees do very well when planted in the yard or in larger pots. They can withstand temperatures as low as 28 degrees and require about the same care as other citrus.  The kumquat tree is highly resistant and possibly immune to citrus canker.  Until next time, happy gardening and Thanksgiving!! Kumquat is a wonderful addition to container gardening!


Sunday, November 14, 2010


The wonderful part about blogging is that there is always something going on in the garden.  There are so many things to learn about as I am designing and reconstructing our property.  And of course, they should have a class on how to blog.  When I first started this journey earlier this year, I hadn't a clue on how to set up a posting.  Since then, I purchased a top notch camera, break down the posts into one central idea, and bring my equipment with me wherever I go.  In fact, I think we all have so many ideas that go through our heads that when we walk outside into our own gardens, we sometimes forget that there is a lot going on.....and I'm proof of that. On my blogging options, I'll create a list of topics for me to write about and then when I get to it, I'll post.  Sometimes I'll have a bunch of them done and release one a day or sometimes, when I'm busy, I'll go back and look at my list to see what it is that I am needing to report.

We easily get sidetracked and forget what our "mission" was for the day.  For example, today I am adding more bark mulch around an area, checking a water line, planting a guava, and adding more soil in a pot to my fatsia plant.  That doesn't sound like much until you weigh in how much time it takes to dig a hole in our desert soil.....caliche sucks. So to prep that hole digging experience... you need water and a strong metal rod to stab into the soil. Loosen. Take shovel and dig. Repeat the first steps over again until hole is established.  For people living in the desert southwest, you do need to know this.....caliche is great soil and once you have your plant in that section and water over it, the caliche will break down and disappear from that area.  I don't think a lot of people know that....but with repeated watering that stone layer in our soil will disappear.

The Crape Myrtle on the right is the one in question...behind the nandina or heavenly bamboo.
So the last post was about editing, this post is about replacement.  As the garden is getting bigger and the oak trees are extending their canopy further over the courtyard, several sun loving plants are now not doing so well. Several homeowners have suggested that I get rid of this crepe myrtle as it is not getting enough of our sun.  But here's the problem....there is another crepe myrtle on the opposite side of this particular garden growing quite well.  To remove one would also take away the balance that they both have mirroring each you can see my issue.  There is no doubt in my mind that this plant must be taken out of the looks terrible.  Those of you familiar with crepe murder(posted on an earlier blog titled "crape murder") will understand the pictures better once you see them.  They were butchered and on top of that get nothing but shade so they look spindly and ugly. Part of me thinks I should just cut them to the ground and let them grow again and another part thinks that there is a better plant to put in that spot.  I am at a crossroads with this issue.  I was able to ignore it for a long time as other parts of the garden distracted me from dealing with it, but now my focus is on that section of the gardens.  The garden that is opposite of it is shown below.  As you can see, one is lush while the other is sparse and one side looks "heavier" than the other.  Editing and replacement.....both difficult, but I do know that something must be done.  Recommendations?  You guys give lots of great advice.  Thanks:)
Opposite Side

Friday, November 12, 2010

What's a rain chain?

In class the other day, someone brought up some different ideas for collecting rain water.  The word "rain chain" came up and I didn't know what they were talking about so here is what I've found....Pics are not my own on this post and are taken from the rain chains website.

"Rain Chains are a beautiful and functional alternative to traditional closed metal or plastic downspouts. They break the fall of the water, guiding it visibly downward to the ground, into a basin or even a rain barrel for storage. Rain chains sound great!"

Basically they make sound as the water flows down them.  They are kind of like the windchimes of rain:)
I'm trying to figure out where I could put one of these guys down the road.   It's a pretty cool concept and one that is worth the try. Happy gardening!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Editing Plants From Your Garden

Morning Glory twining amongst the Ficus
One of the most difficult things to do in the garden is removing a healthy and happy plant.  Last week during one of our gardening meets, I chatted with a fellow gardener who had mentioned that she had to remove several very healthy plants to open more space for her other plants.  We also spoke of the survival rate of plants we put into our ground here in Tucson.  Both of us came to the conclusion that about half to 75 percents of the plants survived while with some species, the survival rate was under fifty percent.  Those percentages equate to money lost and invested into our landscapes so one can only imagine how difficult it is to take out an older or extremely healthy plant from our garden.
The example I will share today is about our little Christmas tree that I put into the ground in 2008.  When I began taking over the grounds, I didn't have a lot of money to invest into plants so if people offered me a plant, I would take it and try it out.  A neighbor gave me her living Christmas tree and I thought....what the heck, let's try it.  Not only did it grow but it was very drought resistant.  I tried everything in my power to let it die on its' own.....and it wouldn't.  I then took the stance that the tree earned the right to keep that spot, but as the garden started forming in its' shape and size, the pine tree didn't fit at all with everything around it.  It stuck out like a sore thumb.  It was competing with a mulberry and fig tree which both were of healthy sizes.  If all three grew super large in the future, there would be conflict for space and root rights.  Today I had to make that tough decision and edit for the second time this year. If I pull a plant from the garden, I pot it and put it in my "nursery" until it recovers, but this pine was too large to pot.  It no longer is alive.
I have deduced that this "editing" is common practice for gardeners through our discussions together. If you felt sad just reading that part, join the party.  It's not easy to let a plant go....especially when it has been around for awhile. However, it is necessary to do....perhaps a "necessary" evil to keep the balance proper on your own grounds.   As things grow, we don't always know what form they will take....we can imagine what they will look like, but they don't always work out that way:) Purchasing plants is expensive and when they die, we figure...darn, but let's try the plant in this spot.  But when a plant is thriving and doing well, why on Earth would you touch it? And that question doesn't have a right or wrong answer so please share what you would do in your own garden space:)

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Finale of the Parade Part 2

The finale to the parade was spectacular. What you will see in this video is the burning of letters and poetry from the living for family and friends who have passed away.  The spirits descend to reconnect with the living world for a brief moment and during this time, both living and dead are reunited.

Day of the Dead Parade 2010 Part 1

Here are some highlights from last night's event. Part one shows the parade and part 2 covers the end of the won't want to miss this! I love the new window's movie stuff.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

El Día De Los Muertos

An incredible day to celebrate, Day of the Dead is one of the most beloved holidays in Guatemala, Mexico, and the Southern US.  It  is celebrated in other countries, but it originated from the state of Michoacan, Mexico.  Specifically, it is celebrated on an island called Janitzio in the middle of a lake....I like to call it the Dead Lake.  It's a burial ground and the native americans of the time, the Purepechas, believed that this place was a gateway to heaven. This post has taken about 3 weeks to put together so I hope you enjoy all the fun.


You may have noticed that I haven't been writing as much as of late due to my job.  I'm a Spanish teacher and during this time of year, things get crazy with this busy holiday.....Day of the Dead.  It's a wonderful time of year when people get together and remember all the ones who have passed in our lives.  Tucson is a wonderful place to live for so many reasons.  As you may or may not know, we have a large hispanic population here and I believe it makes up over half the people here in Pima county.  A lot of Mexican traditions have stayed in the city and have been passed onto others.
Taken in Tlaxcala, Mexico

Notice marigolds

It is traditional on November 2nd and 3rd to go to the cemetary and dress up the tombs with an altar full of flowers.  The marigold is the official flower of the dead.....and one of my favorites from back home:)  In fact, one of my students brought in a live marigold for their altar in class and they were going to leave it there without water.  It's now on my desk about to bloom:).  I want to repeat how special this day is for thousands of people and I will take you step by step showing you the various things you will see around Tucson and in Mexico. On the altar, the deceased person's favorite food and drink is offered so that the spirit may partake in the dinner with the living.

Sugar skulls or calaveras are made to put on the altar with the deceased person's name on it.  Some kids eat them and they are fun to make with your own children.  All you need....merengue powder, sugar, a mold, and a touch of water.  Frosting is also used....add dye and merengue for color in either the sugar or frosting.
Taken in Rocky Point, Sonora, Mexico

Paper Mache!!!  What a mess!  But oh so fun:)
Calacas, or skeletons are made in a happy or light mood to celebrate death and not mourn it.  My kids put together several paper mache calacas and have them displayed in our library.

Pan de muertos...or dead bread, comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and flavors.  Generally it is dry with anise in it....good with coffee or for breakfast.  High school kids don't like the flavor so much so I get the sweeter  stuff with very little anise from our local bakery, La Estrella.  Not a crumb is left after the end of each period. PS.  If you are a mother or creative soul, leftover dead bread makes great French toast.  Just saying:)

Our parade.  Every year Tucson, puts on a show that attracts thousands of people to the parade.  It starts at 6 PM and goes until about 8 or 9 PM....and later if you are older:) Again this is a time of celebration as people bring pictures of their loved ones and celebrate their lives.  It is tradition to write their name and a poem dedicated to them on a sheet of paper.  At the very end of the parade, the paper is offered to the heavens and burned at the altar.  People are laughing and dancing and just living life.  During this time, I remember my grandparents who have passed and all those who have lost their lives in the war.  Recently, one of my students just found out her father was killed 2 nights ago in Afghanistan.  Another two friends of mine lost their mothers just recently and I have to say that it has been a year of loss for so many people.  And so people go to this parade to celebrate their life..... they go out and eat dinner in honor of their loved ones....usually at their favorite restaurant or at their graves.   They carry pictures to remember them during their walk.   Their legacy lives within you and for one night, you can reconnect with them along with thousands of other people as you celebrate, dance, sing, eat, and dress up for this very important celebration. Never forget those who have made an impact on your own life.