Peony Festiva Maxima The Prudent Homemaker

My first peony! 

I’ve seen Claus Darby’s name on several of the photos I’ve pinned on Pinterest before, but it wasn’t until Friday that I started reading his blog, inspired by the photo I saw on Pinterest of his sunken white garden. The more I read, the more I realize how much my white garden was inspired by his photos of his own white gardens.

Saturday I went to the nursery, inspired by his gardens and other flower pictures on Pinterest. I went searching for double begonias after seeing them on Pinterest, hoping to find them but pretty sure I had seen only single begonias before. Begonias had never captured by eye before, but the double ones were so different than what I had seen before.

Begonia The Prudent Homemaker

The nursery only had single begonias, which looked nothing like the beautiful rose-like flowers that had inspired me to rethink begonias. I bought a six pack of the single begonias anyway (for $2.98)  and planted them (pictured above) in the shady spot by the front door. They are tiny right now.

White Garden April The Prudent Homemaker

Claus had this interesting post about what constitutes a lush garden. In his words, a lush garden is one where you can no longer see the dirt. That, combined with all of the photos of his bench surrounded by flowers (like this one), made a light go off in my head, and I realized what was bothering me in the white garden–all of the bare spots and about to be bare spots, as the greenery of spring bulbs dies back.

We are expecting temperatures in the upper 80ºs this week; it’s time for me to plant summer seeds in the garden.

Iceberg Roses and Snapdragons in the White Garden

He also made me reconsider dahlias. I’ve always thought of dahlias as being a cooler climate flower, but Claus said that dahlias originated from Mexico. A little research on my part and I found that in hot climates, dahlias need what pretty much every plant needs here in the desert: morning sun and afternoon shade. Winco has had some dahlia tubers in the front of the store for a bit and now I am thinking of trying a few, if they have any left! (My plan to not buy any new flowers for the garden this year is being completely erased; it seems that flowers are all I can think about lately, and since my birthday is today, I think flowers it is!) What I don’t know–and I would love to hear from those of you who grow dahlias, is if they make a single flower, flower for a short while, or flower all summer. (Update: They don’t have any more dahlias! Anyone have a preferred online source?)


Star of Bethlehem The Prudent Homemaker

Star of Bethelem

Plans for this week:


1. Remove four non-producing trees from the garden

2. Plant new trees in their places

3. Plant more basil seeds in the white garden

4. Plant zinnia seeds in the white garden

5. Plant vinca seeds in the white garden

5. Remove pea plants from the garden and keep the pea pods for seed to plant next year

6. Replant summer seeds: Armenian cucumbers, red noodle pole beans, and zucchini. With all the wind storms we’ve had lately (49 mph at one point last week) I’ve not been in the garden much this month except to thin my fruit trees and cut flowers to bring in.

7. Pick mulberries from my neighbor’s garden

8. Plant zinnia seeds in the circle in the backyard garden

9. Cut chamomile buds to dry

10. Remove spent plants, including broccoli.

11. Plant butternut squash seeds


Chamomile The Prudent Homemaker



1. Make a new apron for myself



1. Finish folding and putting away all outgrown children’s clothes which are currently in my room

2. Finish organizing the pantry



1. Can mulberries in syrup

2. Freeze mulberries

3. Cook a large pot of black beans in the solar oven



1. Trip to Winco to check out the dahlias  I went; they were all gone!

2. Search online for new dress shoes for Winter



I have several blog posts I’m working on, and another 2-3  more that will go up this week before the Frugal Accomplishments post on Sunday/Monday. Make sure to check back for these.


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  1. Happy birthday Brandy!!!

    I really enjoy seeing the links to your pinterest and knowing some of your inspirations for your gardening. Cant wait to see more!!

  2. Argh y comment got eaten. Happy Birthday!

    Your garden is so lovely, however do you keep your children from digging it up? Sometimes my children help and sometimes it’s more like”help”.

    We were ecstatic to see our cucumbers sprouting yesterday. Today there is a nice rain too! Our tomatoes have a flower, and some strawberries are ripening. I have to go out later and check my slug traps. They love strawberries 🙁 I get more excited harvesting slugs than I do harvesting veggies sometimes. DEATH TO SLUGS!! Anyhow, our flowers are looking nice, the pink tulips should open tomorrow. We planted a variety of flowers to see what did best out front and in the fall are planting more grape hyacinth. We have a lot of violets this year and are going to try and encourage them to grow around the flower bed.

  3. I can well understand the need to order more flowers than you thought you would :).

    We grew dahlias a few years ago in our zone 5b garden in newly turned clay soil. I didn’t expect much, and the summer was very hot, with temperatures often reaching triple digits. I only amended a little with bone meal when I first planted them.

    They performed marvelously – I would estimate that each of the twelve dahlia bulbs we planted (we got ours from Sam’s Club) probably produced at least 4 – 7 flowers. Some are larger than others, but once cut, they lasted quite a long time in bouquets.

    For you, I would imagine that you could even leave them in the soil once the growing season is over. We have to dig ours up and store them because of the cold winters.

    Here is a link to growing information on Dahlias that I found extremely helpful: Happy Birthday!

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience! If they make several flowers each then that will be wonderful, and good to know they last a while in a vase!

    We have triple digits for several months here. I would love to have them still blooming then!

  5. Wishing you a lovely, fun filled birthday, Brandy! I imagine your children would plan a “party” and decorate for you, as you do for them. Please take pictures and share if they do. I would love to see their creative take on a birthday for mom.

    The photograph of your white garden was wonderful to see. It has been interesting to see the changes as it grows through your photographs. Thank you for sharing its marvelous beauty.

    As for my plans this week, I am trying to tie up some loose ends before returning to work. I start back on April 23.

  6. Happy birthday! You have such a beautiful garden!

    Do butternut squash grow well in the summer heat? We’re new to gardening in the desert. This is our first summer. I’ve planted tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, and green peppers. However, our main plot gets sun all day until about 4:30 p.m. I’ve noticed that the plants start to yellow in the afternoon. Any suggestions for shade? I did plant sunflowers, but they’re not tall enough to provide much shade yet.

    How do you dig up your non-producing trees by yourself?

  7. Wishing you a VERY happy birthday – flowers sound like a great choice! You inspire me to go look for some flower seeds as they sales come [it’s not really time here yet! poor short season NY!] I adore Dahlia’s but have never had the nerve to put them here – they have to be pulled up for winter and I know I just won’t . . . good luck with them!

  8. Happy Birthday. I love your blog and look forward to reading it everywhere. There are several kinds of Dahlias. The dinner plate dahlias can grow the size of a dinner plate with several flowers. There are border dahlias that Don t grow bigger than pansies. With the dinner plate size I have to stake them. I found that they are easy to grow.

  9. Happy Birthday to you, Brandy! I so enjoy your blog and website. You are my greatest inspiration for living a full and frugal life. Thank you for all that you share with your readers. Have a lovely day!

  10. Happy Birthday, Brandy! Hope you have a day as beautiful as you are! Thank you for posting the pictures of your lovely garden. My mother loved flowers and she would have enjoyed seeing these pictures, and trying to duplicate such a peaceful space, too. She had a green thumb having worked at a greenhouse/flower shop, and I wish she were still around to help me design a garden…it would have been a fun project for both of us.

  11. I live in zone 7, and the hotter it got, the happier they were. My soil is mostly clay, I dig a little compost in with any new plantings. I did have to keep them watered (usually I let mother nature take care of bulb plants). The smaller head Dahlias (2″ circumfrence) only got about a foot tall but were more shrub like and at least 5 flowering heads at any given moment. The larger flowers – dinner plate dahlias (about 3-4″ circumference) did not produce as many flowers, but I still grow for cuttings. I do have to dig mine up right before the first frost to avoid the bulb becoming a ball of mush. I know you have mentioned you have frost dates, but I am not sure if your ground freezes or not.
    Also, I have a brown thumb dressed in green, and this is one bulb plant that is as easy to grow as daffodils.

  12. “The hotter it go they happier they were” –that phrase makes me so happy! It will be 90ºs again soon (it was at the beginning of this month) and that is good to hear!

    Everything is watered on drip irrigation; we don’t get much rain here and I don’t expect to see any until July.

    The ground never freezes here. We get a couple of weeks where it gets below freezing and plants can freeze then, but the ground is always workable, so I think I can leave them in the ground here.

  13. Happy Birthday, Brandy! Looks like you have found your muse! Chamomile is too invasive around here. I made the mistake of planting it in my herb garden once and spent the next five years digging it out. We even found it growing in the cracks of sidewalks at the end of the street! Around here, dahalia’s must be dug in the fall and the tubers replanted. I think they are a rather short-lived plant, but they might grow better in your area. It’s strange that you can’t find the double ones in your area, around here that’s about all you can find. All the big box stores carry the tubers for window boxes. Seeing the pictures of them, I now know what I’ll be planting in mine. Thanks for the inspiration!

  14. Happy Birthday! I plan on spending more time cleaning out our house to find things to sell at our yard sale. Plus, I need to make up some more dusting spray. I love the last “recipe” I came up with and already need to make some more.

  15. The chamomile blooms and then dies. It just bloomed and already the flowers are done! It will reseed but won’t come back until next spring. It’s basically around for a week of flowers and then it is done! I always leave some to reseed but the plants will be dead within the next week and a half. It is very short-lived here.

    It’s the double begonias I couldn’t find. Begonias like shade and here it is very sunny all the time!

    This is the first time I have EVER seen dahlias for sale here. The nursery doesn’t carry them (which usually means they won’t do well here–so I was excited when I read that they might actually flower here!) The nursery has vincas and lantana now for summer sun. Those both do really well here, and I’ll do vincas (but no lantana again!) Neither of those are cutting flowers, though, and I want something to bring in!

  16. Happy Birthday to you. Hope your special day is wonderful and that sweet family of yours will spoil you for a day. You take such good care of them, I know you enjoy do it, it is in every post you write, but for your special day you deserve to be pampered.

    My goals for this week are simple. Wash clothes and pack. Our first vacation of this year starts Sunday evening. I am going to make enough dog food for our dogs, put it into containers, and freeze a couple. The sweet neighbor girl is going to come feed the dogs for us while we are gone. That way we do not have to spend so much money to board the dogs and she makes some extra spending money.

    I have made 2 doctor appointments for the Friday when we return. NOT fun, but something that needs to be done.

    Making a new lay out plan for the day care. I am going to adjust my load of work and go down on the number of children I care for. I am older now and it is not easy for me to work like I used to.

    I have a gift basket to make for the little girl (client) I am letting go. She is 2 and ready to move up to a day care where they doing more teaching etc. than I do with the littles. I am giving her a doll, bottles, diapers, and clothes. The dolls are so sweet. They are a 12 in. plastic doll and wear premi clothes or the size 0-3 months. I got several outfits at Goodwill and Salvation Army. So she will be all set.

    I look forward to seeing the pictures of the dress you made and bracelets.

  17. Happy Birthday, Brandy! I am so glad to hear about more posts! I so look forward to Frugal Accomplishments.
    I am inspired to start a white garden!

  18. I am trying dahlias for the first time this summer also! My weather is quite different than yours, I am on the coast of California with foggy cool summers. I have read that they produce blooms all summer long. I’ve also read that Zinnias are considered to be a lot simpler than dahlias, so if dahlias are too much work or not a beautiful enough result I will explore Zinnias more. Happy birthday!!

  19. Happy Birthday! I know nothing about dahlias, but I am glad to see that others are sharing their knowledge!

  20. You made me laugh! I have “helpers” too! Years ago I told myself that their “help” from their tiny hands was more valuable than the flowers and veggies they will destroy, and destroy they do!

  21. I just love your white garden. We are renting right now, but once we buy our next house I can’t wait to (frugally) plant a flower garden. I can’t tell you how much money I have spent on flowers to brighten the house.

    My biggest to do this week is to get 3 etsy orders out in the mail. I am a little behind and would like to get ahead so I’m not scrambling so much when I get an order.

  22. Happy Birthday Brandi! Your blog is so inspirational! It is without a doubt my favorite blog. I look forward to Monday mornings because I get to read your latest post. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into your blog.

  23. Have a beautiful birthday, Brandy. Thank you for all you do for this community. This is my favorite blog by far. Much love to you and your family.

  24. Happy Birthday Brandy! I can’t do as much gardening as I used to. So I am really enjoying all of the pictures and stories of yours, especially your white garden. It is so incredibly beautiful!

    You are such a blessing to so many people. So on your special day, I am wishing that God will send many blessings to you and your family.

  25. Happy Birthday. Your blog is inspiring and beautiful. Thank you for being a blessing to me and many other people.

  26. Happy Happy Happiest of Birthdays my sweet friend!~Your garden is simply amazing…It’s exactly the feeling that I’m trying to create here in the abysmally cold, short seasoned, Zone 5 that is Northern Illinois. your white garden is glorious too and your photography…well…I may have swooned a little (or a lot) xxoo

  27. That is the most beautiful peony!!!! What a show your garden has put on for you for your birthday! I hope you enjoy your special day! May God bless you, as much as you bless all of us! Happy Birthday!

  28. Happy Birthday to you!

    No real goals for this week. Everything that was important is suddenly not so much. My little boy had a bit of a health scare this morning and for an agonising, heart-breaking half-hour I thought it was viral meningitis. It’s not, thank goodness. But my only real goal this week is to cuddle my kids and shower them with love.

  29. Happy Birthday Brandi, Hope you had a blessed day. Love your blog and all you do to keep your family happy without spending above your means!

  30. There is a place in Canby, Oregon called Swan Island Dahlias. They would know everything you need to know about dahlias, so it would be worth it to Google their website. My husband works in Canby and the dahlia fields surround the town in many places during the summer. They bloom all summer and into the fall around here and are gorgeous. I know you are supposed to cut off the finished blooms. I don’t know about how they handle heat, but I’m sure Swan Island Dahlias would have advice. The ones I’ve planted next to the garage, in the blazing sun, by the concrete, etc. (hottest flowerbed I have–dry-clay soil) have actually done very well. There is a park–Shore Acres State Park–on the southern Oregon coast that has a huge flower garden and I remember seeing lots of dahlias there as well one time when we visited. I wonder if they might be a really versitile flower!! You sure aren’t out much $ to give it a try, even if the results are not as good as you wished:) You certainly would get your money’s worth in entertainment watching it grow, at least I would.

  31. Love the flowers and your blog. So happy to have found you. I am a big quilter, gardener, food preserver. I suspect I will find lots of wonderful ideas here. Many thanks.

  32. Thanks; that’s the site I was on! I didn’t know they were in Canby! I have read about so many flower growers in Canby!

    My only worry now is that I was reading they like more acidic soil–which explains why they do well in Oregon and Washington. We have very alkaline soil, and plants that like it acidic always end up dying here, no matter how much I add soil sulphur and other acidic nutrients to the ground.

  33. I live in Albuquerque, NM and planted dahlias on the east side of my house several years ago. They get lots of morning sun and afternoon shade. They are my favorite flower in my year – so beautiful!

  34. I second Swan Island dahlias. I live on the desert side of Oregon, very hot/dry summers, and dahlias do amazing here. I think it is worth a try. I have a question, what is the row of plants behind the brick wall but in front of the white roses? And what kind of exposure does it get?

  35. Happy Birthday! May you get everything you wish for as you deserve it! Try to spend the day focused on you and celebration of you! Your guest at this blog would be lost without you!!!
    Thank you for all you do!

  36. Wish you a very happy birthday and many more!

    You have such a lovely garden! My mother had green thumbs; mine are brown! They say you can’t kill mint and guess what? I managed to kill a whole bed of mint! LOL. Plus, with our water restrictions (I’m in So. Calif.), I’ve a rather brown looking garden. But I need to redo the front garden, so, I’m gathering ideas and I am finding a lot of them in your garden pictures.

  37. Mmmm. yes. I keep reminding myself that “help” now will be really helpful when they are a few years older. They slaughtered some tulips in an ecstacy of mud and trucks yesterday. RIP chuch shoes.

  38. Happy Belated Birthday, Brandy! My daughter’s birthday was yesterday! Love the pictures of the white garden. I’ll check our Winco’s too just in case we might have gotten some of those Dahlia’s you were talking about. We are now blessed to have three stores within my vicinity so one of them must have some and it can’t cost that much to ship from Phoenix to Las Vegas. I’ll check it out and let you know!

  39. I think you’re referring to the plants that I’m growing into a hedge. Those are Greenspire euyonomous.

    This garden is in the shade for several months in the winter. As the seasons start to change, below the wall gets sun, and then further over to the left, and eventually most of the way over gets sun for almost all of the day in the hottest months. Closest to the house it is in shade most of the year.

    The neighbor’s wall gives me shade about 45 minutes before sunset in that uppermost planter, but the rest of the garden is getting full sun until sunset.

    Euyonomous can take full sun in our desert heat, but they’ll also grow with just a few hours of sun a day. My hedges in the backyard are also euyonomous.

  40. I have been following the drought news closely. I know some cities in California are limiting people to 50 gallons per person per day, with no outside watering figured in that total. Last month, we used 55 gallons per person, and that included outside watering, including the grass three days a week. I definitely think you could stay within those restrictions and still have fruit trees, flowers, and food. Grass is the biggest water user.

    The front yard is completely watered with drip irrigation. If you don’t already have drip, I highly recommend it. It uses very little water. In the winter, my front yard gets 4 minutes of drip irrigation a week. I only water 2 minutes at a time. Right now I’m up to 3 days a week, 6 minutes a day. I use less water watering all of these plants on drip irrigation than I did for that little patch of grass, the tree, and bushes that were there before. (A noticeable difference was apparent on our water bill after we made the changes). I use the drip line that has holes every 6 inches. It’s about 1/4″ wide.

    Mint is easy to kill in the desert. If you don’t water it for 3 or 4 days it will die. I’ve killed a number of mint plants. For me, they are best planted in the ground with drip irrigation; otherwise, they dry out in a pot.

    Have you checked out my gardening boards on Pinterest? They might give you some ideas.

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