Category Archives: Gardening tips

Brand New Little Boy Card Making Kit


This brand new kit is perfect to make for an invitation to a Baby Shower for a little boy!  All you have to do is add your invitation information inside the card.  This card can also be made up as a Welcome card for a new baby, a Mother’s day card or an encouragement card for a tired, young mother you might know.  The saying on the front is “Oh so true,” isn’t it?

I’m always on the lookout for quick, easy and different ideas to make card crafting kits for my customers.  This week I was searching my voluminous hard drives for something else and I stumbled on a large line of these designs I created years ago.

It occurred to me that they would make awesome cards and I am excited to start getting them to you!  There will be lots more of them coming soon.

Each card kit comes with a 3 3/4″ x 9 1/8″ card in two version.  With the text as shown and blank for your own text.  These cards fit a standard US Business size #10 envelope, so if you’re in a hurry you can make just the card or you can decorate a pre-made envelope with the included sticker set.  It also comes with a matching envelope you can print and assemble for yourself.  There are also two 3D bookmarks, one with text and one blank.  All of this comes for $5.98, which is just a little more than the price of a single store bought card and you can use them over and over again.

Let me know if there are any occasions or relationships you would be especially interested in and I’ll work on those first.  Now back to that hard drive to see which one I’ll do next, LOL!

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CHA Show Pictures

Okay, my daughter downloaded all my pictures for me so now I can start sharing some of the great ideas.  By the way, if you click on the pictures they will enlarge for you.

These pictures came from K & Company’s booth.  I could see this done as a centerpiece for everything from a baby or bridal shower to a Valentine’s Day Party etc.  You could make the top an actual box top and use them for gift packaging as well.   Without a pattern, I would simply cut cardboard for the bottom “cake plate” and use chip board or something similar to create the boxes with and then cover them with purchased scrapbook papers or print your own papers and piece them to cover the form.  They’ve used layers and layers of borders, and have used K&C Grand Adhesions dimensional tags, but you could also create your own out of any graphics set you want to use.  Just print multiples of the item and cut out the pieces to layer with foam tape!

I love these whimsical crowns as well.  You could actually make these at a little girl’s birthday party by pre-printing the items that they could use to decorate their own crowns with.  Of course, you must have lots of glitter and jewels to make them truly special!  K & C used lots of pearls, ribbons and layers and layers of their really wonderful dimensional tags.  I believe that all of these paper collections are Brenda Walton’s, but I’m not positive.  I should have kept a notebook for reference on the pictures and well… my memory is MY MEMORY!!!  Which means it’s not very dependable.

The final item for tonight is another Brenda Walton designed paper collection turned into a bird house.  I’m not able to find this collection online yet, it was Raspberry something.  I really MUST take better notes next time, sorry! The collection was absolutely fabulous!!!

This bird house would be very easily created with foam core, cut to size.  Just draw the front panel on graph paper, tape it to your foam core and cut two pieces.  Trace around a round object for your opening and using an exacto knife, carefully cut it out.

Measure the side of your front panel to get the height of the side panels and draw your template for how long you want the birdhouse to be, this was a square but you could make it a rectange as well.  Cut two.  Assemble temporarily with scotch tape on the inside and measure for the roof panels.  Cut two and cut a base one inch larger than the footprint of the birdhouse.

Cover each of the pieces with the papers you would like to use.  If you use Brenda Walton’s papers you could also decorate it with her matching Grand Adhesions Tags.  Assemble with hot glue and decorate to your taste!

I wish I could credit the creators of these wonderful crafts.  Unfortunately no design credit was given.  Each of them did fabulous work.  More tomorrow.

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The Rest of the Story… the Rest of the Garden…

We are daily impacted by images of perfection.  Perfect runway models, perfect "Martha Stewartesque" homes, perfectly prepared and presented meals in magazines, perfect gardens, perfect, perfect, perfect… All contrasted with the realities of OUR bodies, OUR homes, OUR meals and OUR gardens.  Our hearts long for perfection, but we feel like such failures because no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot attain it. 

In fact, the bible tells us that God created us with a heart, body, soul and spirit that was perfect in the beginning, until we sinned and fell from grace.   I think that one of the most powerful evidences for the existence of originally perfect creation, is how passionately all of us long to return to it!  Watch any two year old child attempt a task for the first time.  He knows what perfection should look like and he gets furious because he can not attain it. 

the good the bad and the ugly! 

So what does this have to do with my garden?  I have learned a valuable lesson in life that I want to share with you… "Perfection isn't attainable, but excellence is."  I wanted to let you see my imperfections, so that you can become more comfortable sharing yours with those around you. 

 The images shown are the left and right sides of the same walkways.  I've had to pick places to work on and places to let go.  In a perfect world it would all look meticulously maintained… in my world, I just have to choose to look to the one side and look past the other!  But isn't that really how we all have to go through life?

I'm doing my best to live an honest, truthful and transparent life, which to me means revealing the "real" me to the people I share my life with.  Sometimes she's pretty crazy (my planting annuals in my bathrobe with my hair dye on story immediately comes to mind!)  Sometimes she's overwhelmed by the responsibilities and commitments this art licensing world places on her shoulders.   Some days she loves the world and others…. well, she wants to hide from it.  But all the time she seeks to bring joy to others and enjoy life herself.    


Living joyfully is learning to embrace that which is imperfect and yet delightful — to strive for excellence with every fiber of your being and be satisfied when you've done the best you can, with the time and resources you have.  This is my philosophy for every area of my life, and especially for my garden.

I only have  little bit of time available to tend to the garden, so I work to take charge of small areas at a time and confine my efforts to where I can make the biggest difference rather than trying to do everything at once.  I work on the areas closest to the house where I can enjoy them the most.  I work on the gardens with the best soil and growing conditions, so I get the most return on my effort.  And every so often my garden rewards me with a beautiful blossom like the spectacular Peony above, that I'll treasure forever because I get to paint it and share it with you.

Remember, perfection isn't achievable… excellence is!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts.

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The Rest of the Story….

Okay, I've gotten incredibly wonderful feedback on my garden and hummingbird photos and lots of comments about "How can I do all of the art, design work and gardening?"  So, to show you that I DON'T GET IT ALL DONE and for all of you that don't believe I really am a lazy gardener, I have a post planned for later in the week called "The Rest of the Story… The Rest of the Garden!"  Watch for great photos of my weeds, undone patches, and left side of path versus right side of path shots!

I believe in transparent honesty in all areas of my life, including my garden.  So stay tuned!!!!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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The Lazy Gardener’s Tips!

I keep telling you, I'm not a great gardener, I'm a lazy gardener that loves a beautiful garden.  So I'm going to share some of my favorite easy tips for a spectacular garden.dianthus

Pick flowers that bloom a long time with little attention!  Dianthus are some of my favorite for this.  They can live in full sun all the way into heavy shade, and literally bloom all year around where I live.  It's not at all unusual to see some blossoms with snow on them.  You can deadhead them for more blossoms, but I generally wait until they're pretty bloomed out and then give them a good overall "haircut."  In another month to six weeks they'll be blooming again.  They grow quite thick and can be divided every couple of years to fill out your garden.

 wild strawberries

 Use ground covers to keep down the weeds.  This second picture is of my wild mountain strawberries that are the ground cover in my fountain garden.  They were volunteers that got started about when I moved here and have now crowded out most of the weeds in this garden.  They have hot pink flowers and the tiniest, tastiest berries.  I choose ground covers that grow easily, bloom (if you don't flower you have no place in my garden!!!) and aren't overly invasive.  Be careful not to select something like vinca for a garden, as it will take over, climbing over the top of your other plants.



Layered bulbs

Plant layers of bulbs that bloom at different times.  This third picture is of one of my front raised beds.  There are bulbs that bloom from the very first of spring all the way into the summer planted here.  The first are the tulips and anenomes (almost bloomed out now) then the blue japanese iris, followed now by the yellow japanese iris and then there are miniature gladiolas that bloom for a couple of months finished up by the "naked ladies" or "magic lilies" that will appear in the heat of the summer.  You have to be careful to remember where the bulbs are when planting your summer perrenials in the same space.  Once they begin to spread and naturalize, if you dig into a cluster of bulbs or corms, just replant them and they'll grow just fine!  I just bought some Astilbe and some other summer bulbs to plant in this garden for middle to late summer color when this particular bed is pretty bloomed out.

Spend your money on perrenials that will come back year after year rather than annuals that last only one season.  Pay attention to perrenials that self-sow or grow quickly and can be divided such as day lilies or purple or white cone flower.  When you have an acre in gardens, these plants are the only way you can afford to be lush!



old fashioned roses

Roses aren't as hard to grow as you think.  I love old-fashioned roses with lots of fragrance and full blooms.  Two Mother's Days ago, my husband bought me 7 David Austin roses, the four you see in my front fountain garden and 3 in the back.  They are disease resistant, have lush foliage when they aren't blooming and have magnificent blossoms that are great for cutting and giving away!  The easiest way to grow roses is to buy a timed release fertilizer so you don't forget to feed them.  They're heavy feeders if you want great blooms.  Water them deeply (don't sprinkle from the top).  Cut off the spent blooms just above a 5 leaf cluster and then cut them back 1/3 at the appropriate time for your region. 

Gather seeds where ever you go and give them a try in your garden.  I carry snack sized ziploc bags and a sharpie marker in my purse and when I see something I like that has gone to seed I gather some of them, mark the flower name on the bag and take them home to give them a try.  Be sure and ask permission if you're gathering from someone's garden, but most gardener's love to share!  My Nanny used to say "Stolen cuttings grow best!" and would march right up into someone's yard whip out her scissors and take a cutting while I stood mortified watching her!

If you have a bad habit of leaving your water on too long, like I do, I found a wonderful new gadget that stops that from ever happening again.  I bought a water shut off timer valve that simply screws on to the faucet bib and you turn the timer for how long you want to water and walk away.  $15.88 at Home Depot will save me a lot more than that in the eletricity to run my well! 

Lastly, I had to share this picture I took of the hummingbirds taking a bath in my fountain this morning.  The one hummingbird that is bathing in the top of the fountain was there for a long time and the second hummingbird was getting irritated at having to stand in line! 

Hummingbird shower 










Have a great day in the garden! 

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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More Hummingbird Photos

My hummingbirds continue to arrive. I'm going to have to buy another feeder this summer I think. I currently have 2 on my patio and one outside of my studio window next to my fountain in the front.  On my back patio the birds will actually congregate more, the more feeders there are as the bully(s) end up running themselves ragged trying to defend against 18 feeding slots!

Hummingbirds at feeder






















Hummingbirds only feed until dark, but I wanted to get some flash shots so I was able to shoot these at dusk.  There were about 25 hummingbirds in the area and 5 or 6 or more were on this feeder at a time.  There was another layer of birds hovering 3-4 feet outside of my viewfinder.  The one little bird directly in the front stayed there and fed the entire 10 minutes that I was taking photos.  I was afraid he wouldn't be able to fly when he was done!

If you've never seen hummingbirds in person, they make a humming sound when they fly, so I'm assuming that's how they got their name.  They also squeak and high-pitched chirp at each other, they're quite noisy little guys.  They are also fearless, they'll dive bomb a human if they're in the mood.  They won't actually hit you, but will try to scare you off.

The more birds that come in, the easier it is to get close-up shots.  They pay more attention to each other and I will actually be able to stand 2 feet away and get very close, close-ups.  I really like the flash shots so I'll try getting some even closer shots as the summer goes by.  Maybe I'll get lucky and catch the Rufous Hummingbird when he/she comes to feed one day.

Nancy's Kitchen readers, if you're looking for the Hummingbird nectar recipe it's 5 posts down.  Thanks for visiting.  My Aunt's the best isn't she?!  She's my special person who's as dear as a mother, aren't I blessed?!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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My Hummingbirds are Back Full Force

Where we live, the hummingbirds come to spend the summer and we generally have 50 or more feeding at a time.  Right now we have about 2 dozen vying for spots at the feeders.  I spent a little time yesterday trying to capture them feeding together.  The more that arrive the more wild and crazy it gets out there!

four hummingbirds at feederThis year I have one special hummingbird that follows me around the yard everytime I water my pots.  He hovers about 3 feet away from me and darts around then comes back.  It's quite fun and entertaining.  At first I thought I was getting too close to the nest and he was going to attack me (hummingbirds are totally unafraid of size differences!) but then he just hovered and watched me at work.  Would you think me strange if I told you I talk to him?!  Don't answer that question!!!!

I get questions often on feeding hummingbirds, here's the recipe for the solution that I use, I pulled it from

"Here is an article by Penny Elliston, a licensed hummingbird rehabilitator, about the dangers of relying too heavily on commercial mixes.

Please, do not put honey, Jell-O, brown sugar, fruit, or red food coloring in your feeder! Honey ferments rapidly when diluted with water and can kill hummingbirds. The effects of red dye have not been not scientifically tested, and it is not necessary to color the water to attract birds to your feeder. Further, there are unverified reports that red dye can cause tumors in hummingbirds; this may or may not be true, but why take the chance?

Here's the recipe for artificial nectar (syrup):

  • Use one part ordinary white cane sugar to four parts water.


  • It's not necessary to boil the water. The microorganisms that cause fermentation don't come from the water; they are transported to the feeder on hummingbird bills.


  • Store unused syrup in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

This mixture approximates the average sucrose content (about 21%) of the flowers favored by North American hummingbirds, without being so sweet it attracts too many insects.

Distilled water may be used instead of tapwater. However, some researchers are concerned that distilled water lacks minerals that hummingbirds need, and believe it would be prudent to add a pinch of sodium-free salt, which contain potassium chloride, to feeder solutions made with distilled or demineralized water. This should help bring the salt content of artificial nectar back in line with that of natural nectar and help prevent electrolyte deficiencies. Do not use table salt (sodium chloride). Adding salt is not necessary if well or tap water is used.

Any syrup solution will spoil rapidly in warm weather and especially in direct sunlight, so strict maintenance is required (see below). (Article continues on the site for more information)"

When Jacqui gets home from college, she has a digital camera that takes video, so I'll try to figure out how to post a video clip of the chaos of feeding time, you'll get a kick out of it!

Mentioning Jacqui, my pilot girl has finished her semester at school and is moving out of the dorm today, but has 8 flight activities left to secure her private pilot's license before she heads home.  I would appreciate it if you would pray for her to remember everything for her final check ride with the FAA!  She's studying hard and when she comes home she's going to rent a plane locally, maybe she'll take her Mama up for a tour?!  I can't wait for her to be home annoying me and kicking me out of my art studio (her bedroom!)

Have a great day!


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Spring’s Full Glory

Oh my!  I can't begin to show you how beautiful this spring is here in the mountains.  I've been spending as much time as I can spare away from my computer and art desk to work out in the yard (to beautify the surroundings and to help minimize my waistline!)  I've never been much for exercise videos and routines, I like my exercise to produce dual results!  My thigh muscles are absolutely aching from bending over and pulling weeds and I won't even go into the shoulder muscles!!

my gardenThe clematis is blooming for the very first time after planting it I think 2 years ago.  There's another clematis that is climbing up the trunk of the ginko tree in the picture to the right of it.  It's going to be so fun to watch it bloom.  Being a warm country girl all my life, I could never grow clematis, peonies or tulips (my peony is going to bloom in about a week or two, yippee!!!) 

If only I could capture the heavenly fragrances.  My rose arbor has miniature roses that smell incredibly lemony and you can smell them all the way up to the house.  I think that the roses really love getting a harder freeze.  They haven't looked this spectacular in the three years we've been here.

I'm a lazy gardener, Martha Stewart is quite safe from me… my goal is to enjoy my garden, not to spend endless hours in it.  I have a couple of lazy gardener's tips to share today.  If there is a task that you can find a way to do once in a season, do it.  There are wonderful timed released fertilizers now that work for an entire season and perfectly release the right amount of fertilizer as it's needed.  I used to think that they were more expensive until I realized that they were actually less expensive!  They cost slightly more than their counterparts, but you only use them once so they end up being nearly 1/2 as expensive overall not counting the time you invest putting them down.

The same goes for treating paths for weeds.  If you can use a once a year weed killer, it costs just a little more initially but significantly less overall.  Just be careful to read the directions and warnings.  You can't use a yearly weed killer directly under trees or in the drip lines of bushes etc. 

For any of you that don't have a garden, buy some beautiful plant pots and add them to your patio or front porch.  There's something that just lifts our spirits about enjoying the beauty of flowers.

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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My Hummingbirds Are Arriving

I stood still for half an hour today with my camera, just waiting to try to capture some photos of the newly arrived hummingbirds, but they were just not cooperating!  Finally, as I turned to give up, one came to feed.  My digital camera is just not high enough quality to give you really great shots (when Jacqui returns from college at the end of the month I'll give her that assignment).  But I did capture a few shots of him feeding.  Later in the summer we'll feed 50+ a day!  We fill three of these containers, twice a day.  And if I don't keep them filled, my birds come after me… seriously!  They'll come tap on the window to let me know that the feeders are dry.

I want to design a hummingbird feeder one day that has the text "Can't we just all get along?!" wrapped around it!  They are the craziest little bullies.  If they spent half the energy they spend on fighting for position on just simply feeding and getting along they'd all be fat, dumb and happy.

hummingbird at feeder

As for the rest of the garden shots, I'm finally starting to see blooms everywhere.  My roses are putting out buds and I might even have some as early as later this week.

My miniature climbing rose on the porch swing arbor will be spectacular in about a month.

The yellow flowers in the window box are a new variety of snapdragon that I planted this year, I think they were called "Fairy Snapdragons" but I'm not sure.  They are absolutely marvelous.  They are covered in blooms and have grown very quickly.  They are a miniature variety, perhaps 10-12" tall at their peak.  Perfect for pots and window boxes.

I don't know what the purple ground cover is called, but I planted it last summer and these blossoms are 6-8" tall and the deepest, blue purple color.  They just vibrate with color in the shade of my California Redwood trees.

April 1st garden shotsThere is something so marvelously cheerful about pansies.  I love their little "faces" smiling at me in my windows.  These are the ones I planted before the last big snowstorm… they're no worse for the wear.

I hope that some of you northerners are getting to go outside in your gardens and soak up some sun.  If not, I trust you will be soon.

I'd love nothing more than to be out playing in my garden today, but I'm going to be a good girl and keep resting up so I don't relapse and end up back in bed.

Have a marvelous day!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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Daffodils, Hyacinth & crocus’ in my Garden

These are the areas I worked in today in my garden.  You can see in several of the shots if you look closely that I still have to pull out the dead material from the winter, but spring is managing to break through nonetheless.  I dusted off my large sized bottle of Aleve and made use of it as I of course over did it my first day out!

In less than two months the garden fountain will be almost buried by the perrenials that will come up around it.  There will be day lilies, antique English roses, lavendar, various daisies and several flowering ground covers including native mountain strawberries with cute little hot pink flowers.

We were going to attack putting away Jacqui's things from the hallway (we still will work on them tonight) but it was just sooooo beautiful out today that we went down a few "rabbit trails" along the way to putting furniture into the container.  Here's a complilation of garden shots.  The annuals in the window boxes are hanging from our deck railing and were planted just prior to our last snow storm 2 weeks ago.  They obviously were no worse for the weather. 

early spring in my garden

























Oh yeah… I discovered a cute grey plastic mushroom that is designed to be a toad house.  It obvious works since it was filled with our little frogs.  I found it buried under the vinca and never knew it was there.  The previous owner had all kinds of cute little adornments in her garden most of which she left for me… I'm expecting to find a gnome buried around here one of these days 

My garden discovery of the day… it is possible to leave a garden wagon (with solid plastic bottom) full of piled up dead materials out all winter long, and have 3" of incredible compost when you find it in the spring.  Yeah!  I did that this winter.  It's probably not super good for the equipment though… my poor wonderful husband spends all his time maintaining the garden equipment I destroy Blush or leave out.

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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To Simplify Life… if you Add, you Must Subtract

My husband and I used to participate in a huge crafting circuit on the West Coast called "The Harvest Festivals."  We had a 24' Winnebago Class C motorhome and a 25' trailer that we hauled 5,000 lbs. of equipment and product from city to city for 10 weeks every fall.  That experience taught us some very important truths for leading a simpler life.

Anyone who knows that particular style of motorhome also knows it isn't exactly a storage-rich environment.  Besides the lack of physical space, the weight that could be carried without exceeding the saftey levels was pretty minimal.  We learned to exist with much less and surprisingly to enjoy it much more! 

We started to ask ourselves this question when we would consider a new purchase or adding anything else to the motorhome.  "What am I willing to give up if I add this in?"  The new item had to add more to our life than the old one and we had to let go of something we already treasured in order to have a new treasure.  It's a pretty powerful formula for a simpler life if you can grasp hold of it.

Eliminating "stuff" is pretty easy if you work at it, eliminating activites and obilgations is much harder.  Most of us seem to think our time is or should be endless… we add activity to activity, commitment to commitment and responsibility to responsibility and then wonder why our "chassis breaks down".  We have weight carrying limits too, we just can't find them written down anywhere in our "owner's manual!"

In working on the book this series is leading towards ("Finding Peace… a 31 day journey to simplifying your life,) I did some pretty interesting exercises.  Over the course of several weeks' time I kept a simple log of all my activities and the approximate amount of time they took out of my schedule.  I was staggered at the load I was carrying and began to see why I was always wiped out at the end of the day. 

Like fitting a too-large wardrobe into the motorhome's 18" hanging space, I realized that everything I was doing wasn't going to be able to be carried forward into the new life I was aiming for.  The first things I eliminated were those tasks that really were optional.  For example, we lived on a 5 acre property of which an acre was landscaped and 4 acres were orange grove.  It was my responsibility to care for the garden and my husband's the grove. 

I don't really love to garden, so much as I love having a beautiful garden.  I realized that my garden was taking 8-10 hours a week of my time and yet was still only being semi-maintained!  Since hiring a gardener wasn't an option financially (but would have been a great solution could I have done so) I realized my expectations needed to be changed.  I looked at how my choices impacted my time commitment.  I chose to mow the 1/2 acre lawn twice a week because I liked the freshly clipped look, I chose to blow the oak leaves off our large brick patio twice a week for the same reason.  Only when I reduced my expectations and allowed myself to look past the leaves until Friday, did I begin to relax in and actually enjoy my garden more.

Here's just a few of the ways I simplified my gardening chores in order to simplify my life:  

  • I eliminated fussy plants that required constant deadheading to bloom. 
  • I removed plants that required too much spraying for pests or pruning to hold their shape. 
  • I eliminated plants that weren't strong enough to grow without a lot of assistance. 
  • I planted things that didn't require staking. 
  • I planned new beds that made use of plants such as calla lilies that bloomed almost all year around but required little or no care. 
  • I took whole areas that I had been working hard to maintain as flower beds and allowed them to simply return to lawn. 

Every decision, large and small, was made with the consideration of how valuable my time was. Would this decision cost me time or save me time?  After a while it became easier and more natural to do.  Next segment I'll talk about how the choices you make inside your home can save you time as well. 

Now, I have to go help my husband with our project day!  We're packing up the rest of my daughter's belongings to store in our container while she's away at college (I won't tell you how long they've been piled up in the entryway, but it is March and school started in September!!!!)

Audrey Jeanne Roberts


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Plan Next Year’s Spring Right Now

I'm someone who thinks "plan" is a four-letter word, so it's pretty funny that I'm suggesting that you consider planning next year's Spring garden while you're still waiting anxiously for this one!

In the areas of the country where it gets cold enough, nothing says Spring quite like bulbs do.  That first crocus, or daffodil brings incredible sunshine and hope to our color-starved eyes.  So this spring, while you're enjoying your garden and the gardens all around you, take the time to make some mental notes.  Which bulb displays brought delight to your heart, which color combinations were striking or plant combinations seemed to extend the bloom time the longest?  Were there any of your naturalized bulbs displays that were in need of refreshing?  Are there any areas you can dig up and harvest bulbs to spread into additional plantings?  If you're like me you think you'll remember all the information when it's time to plant in the fall, but chances are you won't.  So take the time to write the notes down on your calendar in the appropriate month for planting during the fall section.  I write in big bold red letters, "JUST DO IT"  because I know myself all too well!Tulips along my walkway

I find that when fall rolls around I've grown a little weary of gardening, and it can be really hard to force myself to attend to planting for the spring.  But a little bit of time spent in October or November can yield fabulous results for months on end in the Springtime.  There is little you can do in a garden where such a small amount of effort can produce such fabulous results.  A favorite Spring display of mine is to layer bulbs in oversized terracotta pots.  You can plant layers of bulbs in the same pot so that you'll have early, mid and late season blooms planted at varying depths.  Then put the pots away in a cool dark garage if you have freeze issues, or leave them outside for the winter if you don't. 

This year I didn't plant my fall annuals and it was such a dreary winter.  My yard could have sparkled with winter color… we can grow pansies, snapdragons, icelandic poppies and primula all winter long, but I didn't do the necessary work in the fall and I'm determined never to do that again! 

Another simple planning suggestion is to create a notebook with 12 monthly sections.  Here's where you will place articles with instructions for tasks you should do at a certain time, a garden checklist with tasks by the season for your particular region, or a garden that was featured in a magazine that you would like to duplicate.  Simply file it under the month when you should actually implement the idea, or the month beforehand if it requires significant planning.  When the time rolls around, flip through your pages and you'll remember ideas you had long forgotten or tasks that you might otherwise overlook.  Also, you can use standard vinyl page protectors to hold well-dried seeds stored in small, snack sized ziploc bags waiting for the appropriate month to plant them.  Make sure that you have at least a generously-sized 2" or 3" notebook that you can have pictures inside the covers to inspire yourself with!  Take pictures of your garden at its peak and store them in each month's section so you can see what worked and what you want to change.  Most of all have fun!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts

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To Garden Successfully, Go With the Flow

I've had several emails and comments this week with a similar theme, "I kill everything I try to grow, but I want to have a garden, help!!!"  I've never met anyone with a truly black thumb, usually just a life that's a little too busy to maintain a complicated garden.  Most often it's a matter of neglect through busyness or abscence. 

My first recommendation for the "green-thumb-challenged" among us, is to start small.  Don't do your entire yard at one time, do one flower bed and maintain it until it becomes second nature to you, then tackle a vegetable garden.  Read a book about what interests you and then do it for a while.  Over doing it has kept more nurseries in business than anything else!  Remember, they make money on those plants you kill and then replace!

The number one need any garden has is to be watered consistently.  If you are the kind of gardener that loves to hand water your plants each day and finds it restful and restorative great, but if you're like the rest of us who forget or get too busy to water consistently I have a recommendation for you.  Before you invest any money in plants, soil amendments, fertilizers or beautiful garden arches, I suggest you invest in a watering system of some kind.  Drip irrigation systems are really easy to install and as totally unhandy as I am, I've managed to do it even without help.  They are also very affordable.  You can run them directly off of a water spigot or have someone come and install a complete irrigation system. It's best to connect them up to a timer that can be set to water in the early morning without your ever having to give it much thought.  Most of my life I watered by hand until I inherited a home with a complete landscaping watering system on timers and it is a life saver (for my plants anyway!) 

Nothing will stunt your flower or vegetable growth more than sporadic watering.  A lack of water will weaken your plants and make them much more susceptible to disease and infestation.  You can spend months making your garden bloom and grow only to lose all of it in a single day in the heat of the summer.

The second recommendation I have is to go with the flow.  If you live in Phoenix, don't try to plant what would be native to London, England!  You'll have a lot of grief and frustration and little good results.  Plant what is native or similar in nature to what grows naturally in your area.  My favorite thing to do is find a local, smaller nursery that can give me guidance and counsel on my specifc area.  The super stores may have better prices, but they don't generally have anyone who LOVES gardening working in their garden departments.

If you live in an arid climate, go with low water requirement plants.  They don't have to be boring —  there are specialty catalogs for every kind of growing environment.  One of my favorites is High Country Gardens ( they specialize in low water, deer resistant plants that are spectacularly beautiful.  They even think through the seasons for you and will sell you complete gardens with plans and instructions to lay them out. 

My final recommendation for today (I'll come back to this topic again later in the week) is to choose your plants with maintenance needs in mind.  If you have 2 bushes to choose from and one will require monthly pruning to look good and the other might require a once a year cleanup, which one will you enjoy more in the long run?  If you want to enjoy a flower garden with minimal fussy tasks, perhaps a formal English garden isn't the direction you should head, but an English Cottage Garden with it's wild and free look would be perfect.

My favorite way to perk up my deck and yard is with window boxes and a patio filled with large pots of flowers.  The benefit of planting in pots are these: I don't have to weed them much, when something dies, I plant something new in its place.  With very little work I can plant them so that I have non-stop color all year around (I can even grow flowers in the winter where I live).  Similar to pots are raised flower beds.  I'll share about them the next time.  Enjoy Spring!

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Planting Annuals Quickly & Easily

I rather impulsively bought out most of my Lowe's gardening department on Sunday afternoon.  I bought 7 six packs (pansies, icelandic poppies & stock) and a half flat of snapdragons to fill out my window boxes and patio planters.  Most of our last snow had melted away, the ground was soft, and I figured I'd get them in the ground some time this week — until a winter storm warning was issued!  We're supposed to get another foot of snow over the next two days.  Now I had to figure out a way to get my baby flowers in the ground quickly before the six packs freeze and damage them.  Once in the ground there should not be a problem as our temps don't drop very low.

The six packs were the newer, deeper versions that encourage strong healthy root systems.  Looking at them, it occurred to me to try using my hand-held bulb planter to create the holes quickly, neatly and easily.  The bulb planter is one of those spring loaded hole corers that bring the soil out and leave a perfect planting hole.  I dug holes about 5" deep and then put about 1/2 of the soil back in nicely loosened up, placed the plant in the center of the hole and gently packed the rest of the soil around it.  The extra width and depth of the hole will give the seedlings good growing room, and yet caused the least amount of disturbance to the surrounding plants.  I was amazed at how quickly it worked.  I planted the entire lot in just over half an hour. 

While out in the garden I noticed that my tulips are almost 6 inches high and my daffodils are probably a week from blooming… snow or not, spring is unfolding all around me and I'm so excited I can't stand it.  Then I ran inside, scrubbed the dirt out from under my fingernails (I hate wearing gloves!) and defrosted my hands with a hot cup of tea.  Now I can't wait to see my window boxes in bloom!

Audrey Jeanne Roberts



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