January 18, 2018

Dreaming of Sedona Sunshine

rocks 1

If you only have one day or a few hours to explore Sedona, Arizona, it won't be enough. But do it anyway: The memories will warm your soul on a cold winter's day.

rocks 2

Red Rock Country is visually stunning and other-worldy. Apparently the rocks are red because of the area's hematite (iron oxide) that stained the sandstone. The rock formations were formed over millions of years, through water flows, erosion, wind, and other forces, and they're always changing.

Comescu House

There's a story behind this sprawling estate surrounded by picturesque rock formations. Some think it's fabulous, while others consider it an eyesore.

By Matthew P. Del Buono (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Wikimedia Commons contributors, "File:Chapel of the Holy Cross, Sedona, AZ.jpg," Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository,
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.phptitle=File:Chapel_of_the_Holy_Cross,_Sedona,_AZ.jpg&oldid=123792338 (accessed January 14, 2018).

When we were in Sedona, we spent a good portion of the day at the Chapel of the Holy Cross. You can see photos of the inside of the church here. It's on the National Register of Historic Places.

I didn't take any photos of the church, but I snapped several of the surrounding landscape, plants, wildlife, and the more modest features of the property.

angel statue

This little angel statue is part of a garden display, along the trail leading up to the chapel. It's very peaceful.

red yucca

One of the featured plants: a Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora).

St. Francis fountain

I love this St. Francis fountain--a calming presence, surrounded by plants and moving water.


Other fountains and simple structures decorate the area adjacent to the chapel.

potted flowers

Large planters are filled with colorful annuals.

I also noticed other plants in the more naturalized areas of the property:

silverleaf nightshade

Silverleaf Nightshade (Solanum elaeagnifolium) is a North American native--from North Carolina and Florida, through the central Midwest and west to the Pacific states.

opuntias and yuccas

These Opuntias and Yuccas form an attractive border near the parking lot.


Large Opuntia cactuses are common in the Sedona area.


They grow in cracks and crevices with grasses along the ridges and indentations of the rock formations.

little cactus

It's incredible how opportunistic little cactuses can be--putting down roots in very shallow indentations in the rock.

Gambel's quail

A Gambel's quail poses for candids.


Lizards scurry to and fro.

cactus border

The path up to the chapel features an impressive stand of cactuses.

cholla cactus

Cholla cactuses (Cylindropuntia spp.) in flower are dramatic.

Many of the local famous Sedona rock formations are visible from the Chapel of the Holy Cross, but the angles are different than the traditional views more commonly photographed.

bell rock
Bell Rock

chimney 1

You can see the strata of rock along many of the ridges.

chimney 2

These look like chimneys to me.

chimney 3

The color of the rock is striking and changeable, depending on the sun's angle at various points in the day.

cathedral rock
Cathedral Rock

Ah, Sedona, I remember you well. Until we meet again...

December 31, 2017

Twelve of My Favorite Things (2017)

This year flew by so fast! It was challenging for all of us but, as always, there were so many things to be thankful for, and so many things to happily anticipate in the year ahead.

For the past several years, I've created lists of my favorite garden and nature "things" to celebrate as one year passes to the next. They help me appreciate each moment and each season in its time.

Thomas More wisely said, "The soul cannot thrive in the absence of a garden. If you don't want paradise, you are not human; and if you are not human, you don't have a soul." I certainly find an indication of paradise in the garden and in nature. In that spirit, I contemplated simple gardening and nature joys of this year that I look forward to in the months ahead.

1 January

In January, while much of the landscape will be dormant and covered with snow, the mosses will continue to fascinate--especially the ones that grow on the sides of the rock wall.

2 February

The days lengthen in February, and if I'm lucky I'll catch a few stunning sunsets down by the lake and elsewhere.

3 March

The first sturdy spring-flowering bulbs will poke through the leaf mulch sometime in March.

4 April

In April, the crabapple blossoms will explode with heavenly scents and delightful beauty.

5 May

May is the month of the woodland ephemerals, including the tiny pink-pollened Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica).

6 June

Early in June, I'm likely to see the first Monarch butterflies of the season!

7 July

What could be sweeter than a July day filled with Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) and bumblebees?

8 August

Sometime in August, the Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) plants will reach their peak bloom--filling the air with the scent of vanilla and attracting more bees and butterflies.

9 September

In September, the side garden will burst with late-summer blooms.

10 October

October will be bright with blooms and fiery foliage.

11 November

In November, my garden will move indoors, but the little joys will continue as long as there are plants to tend.

12 December

As December ends the year, tiny buds of promise on Clematis 'Nelly Moser' will offer hope for the next season.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

When I think of these simple pleasures, and many more, the year ahead looks brighter. Each month carries its own unique, simple blessings.

My wish for you in the year ahead is that you'll find many "favorite things" and gifts that will bring you much joy.

Happy New Year!

December 22, 2017

Christmas Under Glass at The Domes

Display dome

Recently, I drove over to Milwaukee's Mitchell Park Conservatory, also referred to as "The Domes." I hadn't been there in many years, so I'm glad I devoted an afternoon to exploring the three glass-encased gardens. The Floral Show Dome was all decked out in holiday cheer, with the theme, "Naughty or Nice."

Whimsical scenes of Santa with his elves working hard to prepare toys, check the lists, and plan for travel around the world, were interspersed with lush groupings of Poinsettias, Amaryllises, Mums, and other traditional holiday plants and decorations. The giant Christmas tree near Santa's chair was impressively decorated with snowflakes, ornaments, and the list of good children.

Here are a few highlights, in no particular order. You can click on the photos to enlarge them and see more detail.

Santa stops here

Stacked poinsettias

Christmas tree


Santa's list

Poinsettias and amaryllises

Christmas display

Santa's travels

Bench borders

Letters to Santa

Trailing planters

Fountains and pond

It was a bright day, so the sun and the blue sky surrounding the scenes added to the warmth of the displays.

The "Naughty or Nice" display will continue through Sunday, Jan. 7. The conservatory is open weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It's a great destination if you live nearby or you're traveling in the area, and it's a pleasant setting for a family outing and a warm, lush escape from the winter winds outside. I plan to share highlights from the other two domes in the months ahead.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!