Wednesday, April 29

Our Casa Encantada April Garden Tour!


Casa Encantada. Ahhhh!! Come on in and see how our garden is doing today…

Above photo taken this morning -- street view.

As it probably has been for a lot of you, this last month has been one of planting here at Casa Encantada! I am one lucky gurl because Ken is not only a mad planter but he is good at it, too – and quick!  And I am thus relieved of the heavier work. Phew!

Ken’s been a-planting trees; I’ve been a-planting pots and beds. Here’s a lookie-loo!

Ken planted 3 new Queen palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana) in the backyard around the pool.  Here’s the tallest, to the right of the existing Yucca tree (Yucca brevifolia):


And here’s the same tree from a different angle:


Another Queen palm over behind the carport:


Another view of the Queen palm by the carport. Kirby had to get into this shot.  What a ham!


The third Queen palm got placed by the outdoor shower --which you can’t quite see here…  It’s tucked in to the far right:


In the front yard, a sweet little Pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelinii):


In the front yard, our giant oleander had been hiding a treasure!  When Ken was renovating the irrigation system last month, he uncovered a 12-foot tall beauty of a palm. I think it’s a Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis).


Last week, we lost half of the Yucca tree by the pool in a windstorm. Ken heard that you could just plants the Yucca heads right in the ground, water ‘em and they would grow. If this works, then we have scored some very lovely specimens for around the yard. The next four photos show where he put them. They look great right now, and we are keeping our fingers crossed that this radical transplant method actually works! 

Here, he put the largest one back by the back gate, near the compost bins:


This one went along the east fence:DSC_0047

These two went near the master bath door:


Same plantings from a different angle:


And here’s our very lovely compost corner, luckily hidden from view by the pool fence! It’s on or list of places “to get to”:


Now, we move on to my handiwork.  Here are a few shots of the semi-wild bed nestled up against the front porch:




(Warning: dawg butt!)



Here’s the front porch with an asparagus fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri') that is sooo happy in this spot that it is about to take over the planet.  Next to it is a large split-leaf philodendron and a colorful pot of annual potato vines, petunias and verbena:


And Tidal Wave Petunias waiting to be planted. I recently learned that Tidal Waves are medium-height climbers and that they form a hedge if they are planted tightly… so I am going to give them a try on the fence back by the pool! I can’t wait to see how they turn out!


And here are a sampling of  pots from the pool are and east courtyard:



Notice the volunteer Wave petunias that have sprouted up from between the bricks! Cool!


The rubber tree plant gets to spend the summer outside:


These were pots that I planted in February:



This pot filled with asparagus fern and petunias survived the winter here just fine and is coming back for quite a show:





And my beautiful and fragrant gardenia getting ready to bloom (isn’t that solar pool cover attractive?!):


And finally, a few beds. Here’s the progress on the Lady Banks climbing roses, sweet peas, Carolina jessamin and bougainvillea that we hope will camouflage this fence very soon! See this post for what it looked like last month. Not a HUGE difference, but some progress, especially the famously fast-growing Lady Banks rose:



The rosemary (in front) LOVES the full blast of the desert sun:


Lantana and bougainvillea:


…with one dark purple Easy Wave petunia throw in for fun contrast:


And we are valiantly trying cosmos again this year.  Last year, we tried cosmos starts two or three times in the bed by the front porch and it never lasted more than a week or two. Silly non-native desert dwellers that we are, we think just because the nursery sells it that it will actually GROW here! So, here, we are trying it in the backyard instead. It does NOT look promising so far.  We’ll keep you posted!


So, that wraps up the late April Casa Encantada Garden Tour!! Thanks for stopping by!!

Tuesday, April 28

Progress on our West Courtyard deck


Affectionately dubbed The West Courtyard, for over a year this area has taken a good-natured backseat to the work we have been doing inside the house, in backyard and in the East Courtyard.  It finally got some much-needed attention this last weekend.  Here’s what we started with, photos taken this past winter:


And here’s a progress pic:


Ken spent the ENTIRE day on Saturday sanding off the remnants of burgundy paint from the previous owners’ efforts. Then on Sunday, he planted trees in the backyard while I stained the deck. Here’s how it turned out:


We decided to use an Australian timber oil stain rather than opaque paint. It’s a blend of linseed oil, tung oil and alkyds. We’ll find out next year whether this was a good decision. Under the intense southern Arizona sun, who knows! The paint certainly didn’t last, so we figured it was worth a try. And even if we need to apply a fresh coat every year, I think the oil application process is quite a bit easier than painting.

We’re really happy with how it turned out. Once it is completely dry, we’ll be able to say for sure. We definitely love the more natural look the oil gives!  Can’t wait for some GREAT seating to turn up on Craig’s List!

Monday, April 27

Quote: What is possible from this life?


"When I am working with someone about his or her relationship to food, I am constantly struck with how little one's food obsession has to do with food. No matter how urgent the eating problem seems -- I've been bingeing for three straight weeks, I've gained thirty pounds in the last ten days, I have diabetes and can't stop eating sugar -- within five minutes of conversation, the issue is no longer about food and almost completely about what he or she believes is possible from this life they are living." 

-Geneen Roth
Author, “When Food is Love”

HarvestHarvest, by MechelleDesigns, Suwanee, Georgia

Monday, April 20

Quote: A sobering conclusion


"I have come to the sobering conclusion that I am the decisive element.  It is my personal approach that creates the climate.  It is my daily mood that makes the weather.  I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.  I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. 

In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a drama is escalated or de-escalated."

circa 1800


Perfect Wave, by Carrie Tasman of Corvallis, Oregon.

Wednesday, April 15

Playing for Change



Oh joy! I came across this wonderful video on Robin’s blog.  An international musical sound mixing marvel, it’s “Stand by Me” performed by musicians all around the world.  I checked out their website, Playing for Change, and found more videos!  Here’s another! 

Tuesday, April 14

More Fabric Auditioning

Back to the quilt shop! Oh, darn. (NOT!)

I am working on a commission for my girlfriend, (see here) and we are in the the all-important fabric selection stage. Oh, and since she lives in Amsterdam, I can technically call this my first “international commission” -- cool!

The size she wants is 96” x 112” -- a bit larger than a California King. And she has requested dark blues and creams. I want to have 5 to 8 fabrics total.

The pattern we have chosen is Radiant Sunshine and Shadow, Helen Frost’s nine-patch variation of the classic Amish Sunshine and Shadow.  What gives the quilt its’ sparkle, or radiance, is the careful choice of fabrics in a gradated range.

Here is my first foray into using this pattern -– a wall-hanging I made for our house (size: 57” x 57”):


In this quilt, each square in the nine-patch blocks measures a mere 3/4” by 3/4”!  I know, I know!  Call me crazy, but the finished effect is so stunning, it’s worth it to work so small!

In the fabric selection, I am hoping to get a smooth value gradation, while not placing two busy prints right next to each other.

It seems I still have not hit on the range of values I am looking for... especially now that I see them in this photo (below). It looks like the fabric second from the left on the bottom is not the right transition between the two adjacent fabrics. Yet without a “blender”, or bridge fabric, I think the leaf print on the far left would fight with the turquoise coral motif print to the right of it. Any thoughts?


Her two favorite-est fabrics are the leaf-print on the lower far left, and the turquoise coral-print second from the left. I think the fabric on top, (the turquoise medallion print), will be a good choice for the backing fabric.

I have been to four quilt shops so far and here are the fabrics that did not pass the current audition (at least I can happily use them in another project!):

DSC_0003 (2)

The good news is that there are two quilt shops here in town that I have yet to descend upon (for this project anyway).  And then there is always  Has anyone had experience with them? I wonder about how big the difference is between how a fabric would look on my monitor versus in my hand.

Monday, April 13

Quote: A progression of states

“Life is a process of becoming, a progression of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death."

-Anais Nin


Orion Nebula, by Kirby Benson of Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Sunday, April 12

Bob & Sandra’s Easter Delights

On our way back into town from a weekend in Las Cruces -- we were visiting Kirby and fellow quilter Judy -- we stopped by our friends’ Bob & Sandra’s for Easter dessert. Three kinds! Strawberry-rhubarb, cherry and coconut cream -- Yum!

I love driving up into the foothills of the Santa Catalina mountains to their gorgeous place overlooking the city.  In the photo above, you can see the Tucson Mountains in the distance to the south.Snapdragon Sandra is an avid gardener and has filled their front courtyard with a riot of color and texture. The northern exposure and the adobe courtyard walls creates a little micro-climate where these tender annuals can thrive in the desert heat.


Just outside the courtyard wall, much of the desert flora is bursting into spring color. Below is the first bloom on a prickly pear cactus.


The prickly pears in our yard are almost done blooming, but Bob and Sandra’s higher elevation mean theirs are just getting started.