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Head for the latest Nuevo Bazaar Flea Market on Saturday and stick around. There’s tons happening for vintage and art lovers at that end of town.


The latest Nuevo Bazaar Downtown Flea Market this Saturday promises more goodies than ever – a mix of vintage furniture and fabrics, mid-century items, arts and crafts, and tooled leather jewelry.
Expect more than 20 vendors including Riveted, the store whose home is a vintage trailer, featured in these page a couple of weeks ago.
The flea market’s location at 6th Avenue and 7th Street couldn’t be better; the downtown warehouse arts district is on the up and up.
* Stop off for sustenance at the nearby Exo Roast Co, 403 N. 6th Avenue. They’ll be having their own little rummage sale of mugs and stuff out front.
* A few steps away, still on 6th Avenue, there’s craft beer heaven, a.k.a. Tap & Bottle.
* Keep walking north to the corner of 6th Avenue and 6th Street to the new Wood & Pulp store and gallery, selling custom furniture and limited edition art prints. Call in to the opening reception on Saturday, 6 pm to 10 pm, 439 N. 6th Ave.
* Keep walking along 6th Street to the OZMA Atelier clothing boutique for more vintage and designer resale finds. OZMA also houses the Wee Gallery, where on Saturday evening tin artist Rand Carlson opens his new show. More on Rand in next week’s issue.
* A little way past OZMA, still on 6th Street at the Tucson Warehouse and Transfer Studios, Baker + Hesseldenz Design opens its latest show, Portraiture New Contemporary.
What: Nuevo Bazaar Downtown Flea Market
When: 9 am to 5 pm, Saturday February 7th, 2015
Where: 126 E. 7th Street, between 6th Avenue, Tucson

Riveted, the vintage store on wheels.

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: outside trends to look out for in 2015.  Plus: cool new outside looks from Boxhill (above). Photos by Darbi Davis unless otherwise noted.

Looking for a new career? Become a horticulturist.

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

There’s no arguing that getting outdoors is great for the brain and the body, but in our tech-centric world, sometimes we need a little nudge from professionals. Horticulturists are experts who combine science (think soil, insects, and lifecycles) with art (color, texture, line, form) resulting in bountiful floral bouquets, baskets of fresh edibles, or a calming environment in a wayward world. Anyone can do it, but sometimes a little concentrated knowledge can lead to success and eliminate frustration in the garden. The word on the street is that it’s the up and coming career, whether you’re an aspiring urban farmer or determined to decontaminate waterways with pollution-eating plants.

Community and schoolyard gardens are here to stay

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Community gardens aren’t losing any momentum. Growing instead of shopping for food lingers in a state of normalcy. Schoolyard gardens like the one at Tucson’s Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet School continue to sprout and gain support from the surrounding communities. You can’t miss the glorious new schoolyard garden at Cragin Elementary School along Tucson Boulevard, which opened with the 2014/15 school year.  The neighboring church, Northminster Presbyterian, donated plants, time, and professional skills to create this special space complete with raised beds, steel lined pathways, and lush trees. Generations connect as the students glean a bit of sun, science, tasty snacks, and wiggle room with support from neighbors!

Cragin Elementary School Garden

Cragin Elementary School Garden

Furthermore, community gardens are popping up in suburban areas such as shopping malls.  This location is easily accessible, visible, and reaches a diverse audience – quite possibly one that has yet to be exposed to the gardening movement. When overwhelmed by consumerism, glance beyond the madness towards a roofline horizon and there you will find harmony in the form of community-grown food and flowers among the commerce – simply genius. Whisper it, but we hear there’s a suburban garden planned for a chic shopping center here in Tucson.  I’ll be there, while my other half peruses the current trends in stitch patterns.

Pot culture – and we’re not talking containers

Photo by Tomas de Aquino

The inevitable trend of growing marijuana for medical purposes is not a far-off dream with 23 states plus Washington D.C. legalizing the plant for medical use – including Arizona.  As decriminalization evolves and it becomes more accepted, demand for legal supply will become necessary.  “How to Grow” books, along with all necessary supplies for successful crops, seed exchanges, cultivar connoisseurs, garden specialty shops (or at least sections within established garden centers), real estate ventures, and other business opportunities are all part of our near future.

Also look out for…

Clotheslines are making a comeback (read our clothes lines column here). Plus,  I can guarantee you’ll see more of the homies over at Flowers & Bullets. They’re being busy in yards in South Tucson, and they’ve just launched a new website. 



Plant of the Month: Agave Geminiflora or Twin Flowered Agave

Agave geminiflora Plant

Agave geminiflora Plant

Agave Geminiflora Flower

Agave Geminiflora Flower


This lovely agave is dark lime green and takes a nice range of light – full sun to full shade.  Its shape will depend on this range but either way it’s a solid 3′ x 3′.  I happened to find one flowering thanks to a tip off from a longtime local plant geek.  Check out that flower – and the stalk is not less than 18′ high!







* Find landscape designer Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: tis the season for using ordinary desert plants as holiday décor. Plus: cool new outside looks from Boxhill (above). Photos by Darbi Davis.

Scarlet seeds, golden lights, brass ornaments,

Scarlet seeds, golden lights and brass ornaments combine for a natural and unique piece of desert decor.


‘Tis the season for bringing the outside in – and you can bet we’re not talking fresh wreaths, embellished evergreen garlands, or even chili ristras.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

When it comes to using desert plants and seeds as inside décor, there is extraordinary in the very ordinary. So don’t trash that deadhead, seedpod, rolling weed or cactus pad. Bring it inside! Paint it. Hang it. Gild it.

It’s time to hit the streets with your clippers, snipers, grill tongs, and gloves in search of fabulous botanical finds to top your mantel, tabletop, or vintage long-horned cow skull.

Brilliant color

gfoutdoorsin1Whether a traditionalist or modernist, shades of red are likely a part of your spirited holiday palette. Instead of hiking to the local trading post in search of the perfect crimson star, take a stroll through your neighborhood or parking lot in search of the heat-loving, drought tolerant, Texas Mountain Laurel.

This time of year, their seedpods are filled with cherry colored seeds, yearning to tint your clear glass jar, accent your citrus-filled bowls or, if you are crafty and daring, to be strung side by side forming a garland of vermillion. Keep in mind that the seeds of this lovely xeric-tree are poisonous if ingested. However, they must be crushed in order for their hallucinogenic properties to cause effect, and that’s a tough job.


An exotic wreath

Slip on your gloves, grab your BBQ tongs, maybe a pruning saw, and collect a few prickly pear pads. Arrange them in a slightly overlapping pattern along a ring. Hang that lush, mint green living arrangement over your fireplace or your front door. When the season is over, toss it in an empty spot in your yard and watch new pads emerge forming a delightful accent complete with brilliant flowers and edible fruit! If they rot away, don’t worry. “Paint the dried, woody, web remaining to your heart’s content and turn it into a year round decoration,” says Mellow Lund of MAST store in Tucson.

Natural garland


Painted Devil’s Claw.

Devil's Claw gilded in silver with tiny lights.

Devil’s Claw gilded in silver, with tiny lights.

Wondering what to do with all of the Devil’s Claw seedpods that sprung up this summer? Grab a can of silver or gold spray paint and gild them into a brilliant, self-hanging menagerie of desert bliss! These pods have pokey, wooden tendrils curved at the absolute perfect angle, allowing them to dangle in delight – from anything that comes to mind. They can be ornaments for your tree, linked together for a golden garland, or woven into a wreath-like centerpiece.

No snow? No problem

A tumbleweed tumbling along a dusty, barren highway and a pair of spurred cowboy boots are the classic symbols of desert life, and it may not be far from the truth – along with our lack of annual snowfall. Forget Frosty – get rural and gather a few tumbleweeds. Stack them as you please. Adorn with a cowboy hat and some spurred boots. Who needs snow for it to feel like winter is upon us? We like the dusty sunshine here in the borderlands!

Evergreen with a twist

And if you’re more of purist living in the wild, wild, west, there are ways to incorporate a bit of evergreen into your holiday fun as well. Lisa Reeves, a Tucson interior designer and owner of Talents Design Studio, suggests: “Take cuttings from fruit trees or evergreen trees. Incorporate these cuttings into your centerpieces.” Olive, eucalyptus and rosemary provide a range of greens to choose from and are delightfully fragrant.

So this year, freshen up your holidays quite literally. Take a walk with family, grab a branch, start gilding, get creative, and take some of the stress away from this time of year. Cheers!

* Find landscape designer Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


Darbi’s Plant of the Month: Sophora Secundiflora or Texas Mountain Laurel

texas mountain laurel

Photo by Darbi Davis.

This evergreen tree has tan colored seed pods containing scarlet seeds. When in bloom, it has cascading purple flowers that smell like Hubba Bubba Bubble Gum – grape flavored. It is a cold -hardy, heat-tolerant, multi-trunked tree or shrub that is slow growing.  There is also a silver variety that is rather spectacular.

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month we celebrate la flor de la muerte, the marigold. Plus (above): cool product picks from Boxhill.

Marigold Day of the Dead Altar 2

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

This Sunday’s All Souls Procession in Tucson will be packed full of the symbolism that surrounds the Mexican holiday. One of the things you’ll see a lot of during Tucson’s long procession, a surreal and soulful celebration and remembrance of the dead (see our feature, Design de los Muertos), is the radiant “flower of death”, the cempasuchil, or Mexican marigold.

The Plant

Marigold Day of the Dead 1Marigold flowers are brilliant and fluffy with dark green leaves. The cempasuchil is part of the genus Tagetes (not to be confused with Calendula, or pot marigold). They are the color of the sun, and available in multiple species exhibiting varietal flair, from petite and dainty to boldly flamboyant, as in the Tagetes erecta. Only the latter will suffice for Day of the Dead celebrations.

Marigolds are a rough and tough plant – sometimes referred to as a weed. They are native to the Americas, from Argentina to Central Mexico, and even Arizona. In central Mexico they grow wild in abundance, making them an easy flower to cultivate tradition because of their availability.

Their relationship with death is rooted in the subterranean layers of Pre-Columbian culture, fused with Catholic theology. Historically, they endured transcontinental transport only to exhibit resilience and adaptability. Perhaps this is why their relevance remains alive today.

The Tradition

Marigold Day of the Dead Altar 3Marigold’s are pillows of sunshine, with velvety, pungent petals –  expressive qualities perfect for brightening death, a topic typically masked in darkness.

In the Day of the Dead tradition, cemeteries transform into sacred museums exhibiting pointillist paintings comprised of petals. The subjects are symbolic religious themes. The results are gravestones gilded in gold. The artists are alive. Marigold and Skull

Hispanic tradition perceives death as merely a transition of life and, this time of year, they believe the gossamer web separating life and death is penetrable by the souls – but only if they are properly welcomed through food, dance, and of course flowers. Pathways of marigold petals weave through cemeteries providing a rich, vivid, and aromatic visual queue that guides the spirit’s journey home.

Grow Your Own

Marigolds are drought-tolerant, enjoy the sun (maybe filtered a little in Tucson), and do not mind poor soil. That makes Tucson the perfect place for them to thrive, particularly in the fall. They are a great companion plant in an edible garden because of their ability to repel pests below the surface and above.

Tagetes erecta is the seed to collect –  either from the store or a garden. The seeds are large and easy to handle and distribute. They prefer a warm, moist environment to germinate but, once they do, they like to be ignored. If you plant them in your garden, set them in the background because they grow substantially tall. Let them do what they want or give them extra attention to glean a greater bounty. Either way, you won’t regret it.

Ironically, I have one little marigold seedling that popped up out of nowhere in my front yard. It happens to be the large Tagetes erecta. Granted, it looks silly all by itself. But it has buds that look like they will open just in time for the All Souls Procession. Sometimes I can’t help but ponder those wayfaring ancient spirits.

• The All Souls Procession takes place on Sunday November 9th in downtown Tucson. More details here and in our feature, Design de los Muertos

• Find landscape designer Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design. 

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 Clockwise from top left: Vertical planter from City Planter; Modern Raw concrete benchModern Muskoka concrete chair; Modern Cube plant pot.

 Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: how to spot a mid-century yard.  Plus (above): cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Mod-scaped gardens surrounding 1950’s and ’60s homes are dotted throughout the west, and Tucson has a few time capsules not to be missed, some of them in their untouched, over-grown glory. Here’s the low-down on the mid-century yard, and how to spot one:

1. Inside/outside living: The gardens of atomic times were inspired by architectural styles that flowed inside to out. Material continuity, unobstructed views, geometric lines, shifts in elevation, and a connection to the outdoors were aesthetically essential. What was once a fireplace hearth on the interior projected straight out onto the patio and terminated as a planter box.

The architecture, built in planters, plant cut outs, and historical plants.

The architecture, built in planters, plant cut outs, and historical plants.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

A hedge wall and pom pom's lead to the front door.

A hedge wall and pom poms lead to the front door.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

2. Plants as architecture: Plants propelled architectural elements into the garden, forming living walls or partitions. An evergreen shrub was meticulously sculpted and maintained as a voluminous, boxy hedge for suggested privacy, while a large specimen plant made a statement, or became a landmark. Plants were sculpted into pom poms or plates, creating a visual interplay of mass and void and visually dictated direction or movement within the space.

3. Gardens were for the people: The Atomic times called for outdoor spaces that were comfortable and accommodated the average American family living in suburbia. Form and function were integral. Hardscapes consisted of concrete, exposed aggregate or stone arranged in organic and/or angular geometric patters. Coupled with plants, their placement and form directed movement within the space, and established a scale that spoke to the comfort level of both children and adults.

Exposed aggregate pavers are staggered to reflect the angles of the architecture, lead to the front door, and allow for edge plantings.

Exposed aggregate pavers are staggered to reflect the angles of the architecture, lead to the front door, and allow for edge plantings.  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

 4. A limited plant palette: A typical mid-century landscape would be comprised of a few different plant species. In Tucson, trees such as Eucalyptus, Bottlebrush, Cyprus, Pines, Palms, African Sumac, and citrus created the classic vertical forms. Mock Orange, Pineapple Guava, Privet, Xylosma, Heavenly Bamboo, Natal Plum and Myrtle were planted in masses and sculpted into varying heights and shapes as architectural compliments.

Remnants of vintage midcentury landscapes can be spotted across Tucson. Here are a few more of our favorites:

Get the mid-century look now:

Don’t be a purist Many of the historical plants listed above are hardy and have adapted to our harsh climate – some like us too much (ahem, African Sumac) – and some require way too much water to look like they “like” where they live. So use naturally sophisticated natives.  Many of our natives are simply sleek and allude to the vintage aesthetic.

  • These sculptural plants create a vertical element in a Mid-Mod way.  Don't block the arches!

    These sculptural plants create a vertical element in a Mid-Mod way. Don’t block the arches!  Photo by:  Darbi Davis

    Round or Sculpted:  Use a Desert Spoon or one of our native barrel cacti.

  • Specimen or Allee:  Plant a Native Mesquite.  Its lovely canopy looks stunning in an allee or as a multi-trunked specimen.
  • Vertical Element:  Ocotillo and Mexican Fence post can offer a dramatic vertical element, while aloe and agave species can create a sculpted effect, or become the landmark.

The hedge  Similar to the social norms of the 1960’s, our local shrubs allude to a more hedonistic lifestyle.  With the aid of power tools, Creosote, Little Leaf Cordia, and Leucophyllum species can be coaxed into a more streamlined shape or simulated structure.  (Hedging any of these plants can be quite humiliating – to the plant – and I would never recommend it outside of this forum).



Aloysia gratissimaDarbi’s Plant of the Month: Aloysia gratissima, or Fragrant Bee Brush
Bee Brush smells divine and the flowers are adorable. A rough and tough plant has tiny leaves while one well watered has slightly larger ones. Place in a location where it’s easy to get your nose near the flowers!
* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

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boxhill sept 2014 issue

Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: why porches are in full swing again. Plus: cool product picks from Boxhill.


Porches, once the eyes and ears of a neighborhood, are back in full swing. Photo by Darbi Davis

As summer ever…so…slowly…slips into fall, we emerge from our chilled dens and happily dust off our porches – a special place where we can once again embrace the drier, cooler air.  The shift is undeniably subtle, but eagerly embraced by all who call the desert home.

When the fourth Tucson Porchfest hits at the end of this month, it will be a chance for residents to celebrate something that’s back in full swing as a center for community events, learning, coffee and cocktails.

The History


A typical Tucson porch, this one in the city’s Menlo Park area. Photo by Darbi Davis

Historically, front porches served as cool, covered outdoor spaces where life rolled by at a slower pace.  Porches were the eyes and ears of street life happenings.  They were silent, transitional spaces that merged the inside with the outside.  They were confidants of secrets, witnesses to chaos, shelter from the sun, support for tired feet, a breezy space, a meeting place, a musical bodega.  They were places of retreat and rest. A culture of idle ease and nostalgic ambience. A theater of pure Americana.


A porch in Tucson’s Armory Park neighborhood. Photo by Darbi Davis

And then the car whirled into town and air conditioners cooled interiors, making the front porch less appealing on hot summer afternoons.  Emerging architectural styles around the middle of the last century eliminated the front porch. History shifted to the  inside.

It wasn’t until shortly after the turn of the millennium that the trend towards a walkable, less auto-dependent life caught on.

Porchfest is born

In 2007, a group out of Ithaca, New York, decided that their community needed more casual, outdoor, family-friendly events, and Porchfest was born.  Communities across the country took notice and Porchfest Festivals popped up all over – including in Tucson, where it travels to different neighborhoods a couple times a year.

A typical Tucson Porchfest includes musicians playing on porches,  Food Trucks, and kids’ activities.  The streets come to life as everyone strolls around to stop and listen at intermittent porches or grab a bite. All are invited and it’s free to attend.


Barbara and Alan O’Brien, far left and second from left, entertain neighbors on their front porch in Tucson. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Barbara and Alan O’Brien live in the Broadmoor neighborhood of Tucson, host to this month’s Porchfest on September 28th. Their back patio hosted their morning coffee rituals until a few years ago, when they moved to the front porch.  Since then, their lives have been enriched by daily stop-ins from friends and neighbors, and their porch earned the name, ‘Cawffee Tawk” Cafe, after a Saturday Night Live skit. A friend made a sign for them, which is proudly displayed on the front windowsill.

porchobrien1“If you have coffee,  they will come,” says Barbara, a retired librarian. “Most of the regulars, I don’t even serve them any more. They just go in the kitchen and help themselves. This way we get to see the neighborhood and we’ve made so many friends.”

Why porches matter

Full-time Menlo Park resident Deb Dale, partner in Smith & Dale Philanthropic Counsel, doesn’t miss a morning on her porch – even in the sweltering summer. “Sipping coffee, doing morning crossword puzzles, and playing with Stan, the beloved cat” are just a few of her mentioned porch rituals. “We also used [the front porch] as the cupcake decorating locale to wrangle tots during our 4th of July party,” says Deb.

Speaking of tots, porch-for-play is a brilliant modern day use of the space.  Kids thrive in fresh air.  They don’t mind extreme temperatures as long as they are outdoors.  Seasonal shifts, bugs, lizards, carpenter bees, wind, water, sand, and mud provide endless learning opportunities.  If they spill, splat, or dump – no problem. Grab a hose or a broom, or leave it and watch the mess evolve.


The porch at the Khalsa Montessori school is used for school enrichment programs. Photo by Darbi Davis

Khalsa Montessori School, a Tucson elementary school, provides “Porch” as an enrichment program for their students.  Nirvair Khalsa, founder and director of the school, says: “The Camden porch is an outdoor classroom. The teacher is a master gardener, certified Montessori teacher and artist who designs a beautiful space and engaging projects for the students where they can apply their classroom skills in new ways. On the porch they practice reading, writing, science and art as they demonstrate their new knowledge in the books, posters, journals and art objects they create.”

The kids work on the front porch of the schoolhouse cultivating gardens and learning how to dry herbs, which then get transformed into sachets.  Third grader Iliana says: “Porch is so fun because you get to be outside, and learn about animals and work with clay.”

It’s a cherished and inspiring break from indoor school life, and it’s outside time that will certainly inspire a moment of relaxation, regardless of your age.  If you’re a regular backporch sitter, try moving to the front for a different view. And who knows? Maybe you’ll meet a neighbor or two, make new friends, or feel a cooler breeze.

* The next Tucson Porchfest (with food trucks!)  is 4 pm to 7 pm, Sunday September 28th in the Broadmoor-Broadway Village neighborhood in midtown Tucson.


Darbi’s Plant of the Month: Devil’s Claw
plantofmonthsept2014Devil's ClawThis sprawling native annual has light lavender, tubular flowers that mature into long horned-like fruit.  Once dry, the pod splits and forms a woody claw that contains seeds.  Historically, the dried pod is used in Native American basket weaving.  A fun monsoon loving plant!

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

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PrintEvery issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: how to love your bugs. Plus: cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

For desert dwellers, the bloody hell of summer is marked by songs of the cicada and a menagerie of insects ready to devour your monsoon bloomers and arid edibles. While insects are inevitable during this time, powders and potions in the form of pesticides are often unnecessary – and rid the good with the bad from the soil to the stems.

Ignite your inner insectophile by implementing some basic integrated pest management to help battle the pesky buggers. Dr. Paul Bessey, a former professor of horticulture at the University of Arizona and host of a weekly plant clinic at Tucson Botanical Gardens, recommends that you “get to know which bugs are ‘good’ and which are ‘bad’.  Most of the time, a couple of bad bugs aren’t going to destroy your garden.” Similarly, MarciBeth Phillips, director of education and sales manager at Arbico Organics, says: “Don’t kill an insect until you know what it is.”

Thankfully, Tucson is home to the University of Arizona’s Department of Entomology (host of the annual Arizona Insect Festival) and Arbico Organics, a natural pest control company where you can actually buy the good guys to release in your hard. Together they are an excellent resource for bad bug identification and good bug introduction.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Get to you know your bugs, says Dr. Paul Bessey. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Below are three characters that everyone should consider before spritzing that chemical-filled sprayer:

The Chic Bohemian

Photo courtesy of ARBICO Organics

The Green Lacewing. Photo courtesy of ARBICO Organics

The Green Lacewing is a generalist and works wonders in our desert environment. It’s a lovely little winger in a psychedelic shade of lime green. Their eggs are found cantilevered off of a silken thread in an array resembling George Nelson’s Bubble Lamp or infamous Ball Clock. The eggs are stunning and tiny in their natural state, and hardly noticeable in their purchased state. Sprinkle them onto your infested plants and don’t wait for them to hatch. They will settle in your garden if there is enough food to sustain them across their lifecycle. Provide a plethora of pests and nectar (they are pollinators too) and the adults will swoon to the flicker of your patio light after sunset.

The Glutton

Praying Mantis. Photo by Christian Meyn.

Praying Mantis. Photo by Christian Meyn.

The Praying Mantis is a shady green rascal that enjoys the taste of bad garden bugs. However, if left unsatiated it eats the good bugs and tends towards cannibalism at all stages of life. Its eggs are encased in a lofty brown shell resembling a teeny tiny hardened burlap sack – not nearly as chic as the eggs of the Green Lacewing. Once hatched, their voracious appetite drives them to eat a variety of bugs that evolve with their life cycle. As nymphs they eat aphids. As adults they eat beetles. Their survival depends on a copious feast of insects. Anything less and they eat themselves!

The Snowbird

The Ladybird larve

The Ladybird larvae

The Ladybird beetle, also known as the Ladybug, is another beneficial insect. Aphids are their first choice, but they do enjoy other soft-bodied insects. Similar to their pals noted above, they too consume the most during their “infant” stage of life; however, as adults their diet doesn’t shift, they simply eat at a reduced rate. Ladybugs are most useful during their life cycle when they look like a tiny reptile and nothing like the round, spotted, red-winged gems we are accustomed to. The goal is to make them so comfy in your garden that they meticulously lay little yellow eggs in a perfectly straight pattern along a leaf. By the time they reach adulthood and our summer heat sets in, they head for the cool of Mount Lemmon and Madera Canyon, where they play in the pollen for the summer. For this reason, it’s best to release them when our temperatures are moderate.

Says MarciBeth Phillips: “Balance of pests, not eradication, is the key to maintaining healthy plants. Nature favors the breeding of pest insects because without them there would not be any beneficials.”

As for Dr. Bessey, his own garden is completely ‘au naturel’ when it comes to bugs. He refrains from using pesticides or chemicals, and advises using a high-pressure hose if pests get to be too much. His advice? Live with it, and with the casualties. “Frankly, things are going to pretty much come to a balance. The pests are going to get some things,” he says.

* Doctor Bessey will return to Tucson Botanical Gardens in September for a weekly plant clinic on Wednesdays. Find Arbico Organics and their ‘good guy’ bug supply at 10831 N. Mavinee Drive, Suite 185, Oro Valley, AZ. 


Darbi’s Plant of the Month: Rock Hibiscus


Rock Hibiscus. Photo by Darbi Davis

This lovely Tucson native is hardy and likes the sun. It produces tiny lavender flowers in the Spring and with the onset of the monsoons.  The leaves are fuzzy and grayish-green. Rock Hibiscus, or Hibiscus denudatus, is a must-have in any native garden.

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


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boxhill logoEvery issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. In the second of a two-part series on gardening cooperative Flowers & Bullets, she finds a community warming to their mission. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

When Ramon Ramirez approached his grandmother, 84-year-old Nana Aggie Saucedo, with his gardening intentions, she was skeptical. Nana Aggie has lived in her neighborhood in South Tucson for decades and, says Ramon, is set in her ways.

“My grandfather used to grow his own veggies like corn and citrus, and the loquat tree brought when they immigrated from California is still growing,” says Ramon.

Ramon, who lives part-time with his grandmother, negotiated a corner of Nana’s yard (specifically designated by Nana) for his own garden, complete with a much-anticipated lemon tree. He set out to restore an old barbecue made by his grandfather and in need of repair. And he attended an energy-saving workshop, where he learned how to reduce energy costs and received energy-efficient light bulbs for his Nana’s house. (Convincing Nana that the energy efficient light bulbs were better than her regular old light bulbs is a story worthy of its own, however.)

Rosemary the goat, a recent addition to Flowers & Bullets’ urban gardening cooperative. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Ramon and friends helped organize a pot-luck BBQ at Nana Aggie’s house, reuniting her with many of her former students from the now-closed Julia Keen Elementary School, where she worked as a cafeteria cashier for close to three decades. “She connected with the kids and watched them grow. She retired before they shut down the school and witnessed the impact this closure had on the community,” says Ramon, whose work in Nana’s yard came about through his membership of Flowers & Bullets.

Tito (left) and Ramon (right). Photo by Darbi Davis.

Tito (left), one of F&B’s founders, and Ramon (right). Photo by Darbi Davis.

The power of this sort of collaboration, sustainable multi-generational relationships, and edible gardens is what this cooperative grassroots organization is all about. Flowers & Bullets launched with a mission to provide an alternative to the food pantry and processed food that, while accessible and affordable, is ultimately detrimental to the overall health and well-being of a population.

“We get ten of these a day,” says Tito. Photo by Darbi Davis.

The cooperative’s efforts fill a void in the urban agricultural trend; through their grassroots approach they are building up trust with people who tend to lack faith in traditional programs. Through gardening and growing, they hope for community-building through education, collaboration, and skills sharing, and ultimately to shift the paradigm towards healthier habits. And their plan long term is to establish a curriculum relevant to all neighborhoods.

It’s all very well that urban agriculture is the hot new thing, but are all pockets of the population getting to enjoy it? That’s something F&B would like to see addressed. When Dora Martinez, a F&B member, attended her first public meeting on urban agriculture and city code changes, she saw a distinct lack of representation from South Tucson. “The Spanish translator suggested she go home because there were no Spanish speakers present. The population in need of urban agriculture was not present, and those who were present were not food insecure,” says Dora.

Milking Rosemary. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Milking Rosemary. Photo by Darbi Davis.


Greening gardens isn’t all that Flowers & Bullets has on their agenda. This past January they adopted three goats – a mother and two babies – giving the cooperative access to milk. And while laws say it’s not for human consumption, I can tell you it’s the best tasting milk I’ve ever had. The goats are fed on alfalfa and left-over veggies from Tucson restaurant Rocco’s Pizza, ensuring the goat milk is some of the sweetest that cooperative members have tasted. In addition to goat-milking, the cooperative has plans for classes on homemade yogurt, cheese, and soaps.

Filtering the Milk. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Filtering the goats’ milk. Photo by Darbi Davis.

Back at Nana Aggie’s house, Ramon’s next endeavor is a water harvesting project, one using recycled materials that he hopes will also harvest the art and graffiti talents of many of his friends. The garden is eagerly awaiting its first sugar baby watermelon harvest. And Flowers & Bullets can rest assured that communities are warming to its mission.

Read more  about  Flowers & Bullets in part one of the series. 

Photo by Darbi Davis

Photo by Darbi Davis

Darbi’s Plant of the Month: Chaparral Sage

One of the most fragrant plants for any garden and especially loved by butterflies and hummingbirds, Chaparral Sage or salvia clevelandii sends out gorgeous blue-violet flowers.  Give it a bit of space as it can reach 5′ tall by 5′ wide.  You won’t regret it!

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


What’s HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: a touch of the glamour of Old Hollywood.



1. Vibrant Concha Chair

2. Monogram Coaster Set

3. HA/RU Pottery + Stand

4. Greek Key Rug

5. Pebble Table

6. Racquet Club Sofa

Ground Floor

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This issue, two young men mix art, rebellion and preservation in a gardening cooperative in south Tucson. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from Boxhill. (Editor’s note: we recommend you read Darbi’s piece while listening to this song by  Keith Cross.)

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

It’s a mild April morning in the south-side neighborhood of Barrio Centro. This urban backyard is perfectly appointed with bagels and coffee, three goats, a dog, windows covered with anti-SB 2281 signs, and a crop of over-wintered tomato plants ripe with the season’s first pick.

Chairs, tagged – as in the signature of a graffiti artist – surround an old grapefruit tree. Up against the tree is a white erase board with the morning’s agenda and the day’s activities.

Today, students from Prescott College’s Social Justice Education class fill each seat around the tree while the neighborhood’s youth – in the form of seasoned young men and women – speak about Barrio life through gardening, and their multi-faceted cooperative known as Flowers & Bullets.


The Flowers & Bullets collective shares its expertise. Photo by Darbi Davis

Founders Tito Romero and Jacob Robles highlight the history and inspiration of the cooperative while Dora Martinez elaborates on the organizations that helped them (and hindered them) over the last few years. Ramon and Brandon, two more members of the cooperative, are quick to tell stories reflecting the rich history of life in Barrio Centro, as well as show off their own garden plots via smart phone.

The day’s tasks include: goat stand construction, compost, and weeds. Each student is randomly handed a name tag containing a tiny vegetable drawing in the corner that indicates the task to be tackled, and the group breaks out to work.

Struggle, resistance, empowerment and preservation all unfold in this gardening cooperative. Flowers are the art, say its founders. Bullets are the struggle.

OnionsGentrification of their neighborhood – the very neighborhood they grew up and still live in – was the primary catalyst for Tito and Jacob when they started their project. “The city split our neighborhood in half through neighborhood associations [groups of homeowners or business owners living within a specified boundary that advocate for improvements to the area]. As young people who grew up in Barrio Centro we’ve known the boundaries as 22nd Street to the north, Tucson Boulevard to the west, and Alvernon to the east. As a result, the [division] has given power to folks who have little ties to the younger generations or the much, much older generations of families who have lived in the neighborhood for years,” explained Tito.

After the split Tito and Jacob, residents of the eastern division, attempted to work with the Barrio Centro Association, which manages the western divide – Country Club to Tucson Blvd. But they were greeted with opposition and removed from the association’s email list. But Dora, an employee with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and a member of Flowers & Bullets, remained on the list because of her food bank email affiliation. It was later revealed by the Barrio Centro Association president that anyone associated with Flowers & Bullets was removed because they were thought to be gang affiliated.

While the group is not gang affiliated, the simple definition of the word somewhat describes how they operate. “We meet collectively and organize projects within a specific neighborhood,” says Dora. But their organized activities are the antithesis of deviance and a model of creative kindness and compassion.

photo by

Flowers & Bullets installed eight gardens in two months. Photo by Darbi Davis

Tito and Jacob graduated from the now banned Mexican American Studies program – a culturally relevant curriculum offered to any student within Tucson Unified School District, and a program they credit for encouraging them to better their communities and inspire the desire to share personal stories of culture and history with others.

Tito, photo by Darbi Davis

Tito, one of the founders. Photo by Darbi Davis

They credit the Hip-Hop movement for providing them with an artistic outlet to express their message. Flowers & Bullets is based on a combination of principles gleaned from both. “Hip-hop helps us stay grounded and reminds us of where we came from. It helps us relate to the people we want to serve and it’s a powerful tool for young people to deliver a message,” says Tito.

Members of Flowers & Bullets also participate in programs offered by local environmental justice organizations, such as Tierra y Libertad, Green for All, and the Community Food Bank. Tito and Jacob volunteered or interned with many of these organizations and say: “Many of the experiences gave us the knowledge and confidence to do it for ourselves in our neighborhood.” Dora brings a wealth of information to the table – in addition to her work at the Food Bank – having spent several months interning at Sleeping Frog Farms.

As a gardening cooperative, Flowers & Bullets installed eight gardens in two months for residents within the modified boundaries of Barrio Centro – that’s one garden a week. They have a wait list of five additional families ready to participate in a community conversation that includes seed trading, plant starting, and storytelling – all for free and for the sake of their Barrios and their people. The volunteers have accomplished all of this while holding as many as three jobs each – equating to full time work or more.

Soilweb, photo by Darbi Davis

Photo by Darbi Davis

Currently, the cooperative teaches classes on the basic concepts of gardening such as plant care, composting, and the ins and outs of microbial rich soil. The educational component instills confidence in new gardeners leading to a plentiful bounty of homegrown food. In fact, they are often asked to teach outside of their target demographic, which brings us back to that mild April morning around the wise old grapefruit tree in Tito’s backyard.

photo by Darbi Davis

Seed trading, plant starting, story telling: Flowers & Bullets’ work is literally from the ground up. Photo by Darbi Davis

“The students from Prescott were interested in putting in some work and learning what we were about. Although it isn’t the demographic we serve, nor people from the neighborhood, it was really great to see the high school push-outs and the university drop-outs teaching college students how to get dirty,” says Tito.

Next month: We take a look at how Flowers & Bullets got the gardening buzz, meet the goats, and hear a bit of gardening history from the elders of the neighborhood.

* Tucson documentary filmmaker Ricardo Bracamonte, who joins 3 Story as our resident videographer, is following the Flowers & Bullets story. Below he shares a preview of a documentary on the cooperative, due out next summer. Music by Gazzze, a three-piece indie band from Tucson, AZ. For a link to their downloadable EP click here.

Darbi’s Plant of the Month: Olneya Tesota or Ironwood Tree

ironwood treecropped

A flowering Ironwood tree. Photo by Darbi Davis

Native to the Sonoran Desert and currently in bloom around town, it’s gray in color with pink/purple flowers followed by bean-like seed pods.  It’s a slow grower and a bit pokey, but wow is it gorgeous.  See how it contrasts with other natives in the photograph.


What’s HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: some sleek Mexicana style for the summer.



  1. RECTANGLE PLANTER– These little beauties are made for outside, and there’s no worrying about breakables. They come in six different patterns and plates to match.
  2. ITALIAN TERRA COTTA HARTFORD POT–  Nothing beats the real thing. These handmade pieces are timeless and can go in any landscape  or design easily.
  3. NACHO LIBRE PILLOW-  Just because no design is complete without one of these guys to add to your favorite outdoor sofa.
  4. RETRO BULLET PLANTER– Not everyone has time to scout for the original “bullet planter”. These come in 12 different colors and three different sizes. Choose from black, white or stainless bottom.
  5. VIBRANT CHAIR-  These are cool and comfortable, and there are 10 different colors and three base colors to choose from.
  6. BONFIRE-  This firepit doesn’t need to be on fire to look super awesome. It’s a fire by night and a sculpture by day.



Ground Floor

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: making the case for clotheslines. Plus: scroll down for cool product picks from BoxhillCover photo courtesy of Steve Martino.


Photo courtesy of Steve Martino

It used to be a domestic art complete with cultural quirks, abundant conversation, memory making, and a visual record of trends and the passing of time, as clothes changed shape and hemlines rose and fell to reveal the latest fashions.

Darbi Davis. Photo by

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

But clotheslines disappeared with the onset of the dryer, when the convenience of a machine sent the string into extinction.  At the turn of the millennium, dryer usage accounted for 6% of household electricity use in the United States, according to the Department of Energy.  The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that residential dryers consume 445 million therms of natural gas annually, leading to carbon dioxide emissions of 32 million metric tons.

We should be grateful that the sun doesn’t hold grudges, as we scurry to bottle its energy, save money, and reverse what we created. The clothesline seems like an obvious energy-saving device, especially in southern Arizona – a place that has abundant sunshine and heat almost all year round.  Who wouldn’t want to save money, energy, and get outside more often – especially in our funky, arid town? And anyway, there’s nothing easier, or cheaper: some taut rope, two trees, and the sun’s rays.


Photo courtesy of Steve Martino

Sadly, some view the clothesline as a property- value-reducing eyesore.  As a result, the most basic of energy saving concepts is banned in some residential communities and regulated through Homeowner Associations and their CC&R’s (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions) – citing terms such as nuisance and unsightliness. Hence the ‘Right to Dry’ movement and websites such as, where you’ll find maps that indicate where it’s permissible and prohibited, complete with hefty fines, to let it all hang out and a wealth of information on your right to dry.

The good news for us in Tucson is that Solar Access Laws prevent the anti-line-dry laws from being valid in Arizona (and many other states). But still, some communities in our county have banned clothelines.

Tucson resident Hope Reed loves her clothesline which stretches from the ramada to a trellis across the backyard of her barrio abode.  “I love my clothesline.  Crisp sheets are the best, and I feel like a jerk running the dryer when our yard is often like a big oven,” says Hope.

3 Story’s own Gillian Drummond says she can count on one hand the number of times she has used her electric dryer. “It came with the house, otherwise I honestly wouldn’t bother having one. It just doesn’t make sense to me when the washing dries quicker outside than in a dryer. Hanging out my washing takes extra time, but I see it as a chance for some fresh air. I have photos of my kids wrapping themselves in sheets hanging on the line. It’s fun, and I happen to love the look of it – this constantly changing colorful art in your yard.”


Arty things are planned for the clothesline at this Menlo Park property. Photo by Darbi Davis

Wardrobe consultant Monica Negri gets playful with her Tucson clothesline. Photo courtesy of Monica Negri

Wardrobe consultant Monica Negri gets playful with her Tucson clothesline. Photo courtesy of Monica Negri

When Monica Negri, wardrobe consultant and owner of Ten Outfits, first suggested a clothesline to her husband, he scoffed. “Being who I am, I negated his opinion and went out and bought one anyway,” she says.

Five years later, her husband loves it – and so does Monica. “Why use a dryer in the desert when the Arizona sun and heat dry clothes in 15 minutes? Also, I think it is just cool. I love looking at all the clothes lined up.”

The fact is, clotheslines literally can be art – and that bucks the notion that it’s an eyesore. They can also help with passive cooling. For example, an artfully designed clothesline on the west side of a home might shade a west facing wall when used during certain times of the day.  That is exactly what is planned for this Menlo Park property I am currently working on (pictured opposite).  The clothesline will move from the Ramada to the west side where a hefty line will span between two abstract metal sculptures (one is currently functioning as modern outdoor art and the other was found laying helpless behind a shed).  Ironically, the metal sculpture and its not-so-loved partner are classic, rusted, and repurposed clothesline poles from an era when clotheslines were the only option.

Phoenix-based landscape Architect Steve Martino demonstrates how a basic clothesline can inspire a modern look of “a clothesline awning.” It actually shades a window and blocks the view to the neighbor’s roof, says Steve.  And although it’s not used for hanging clothes, the design clearly hints at line-dried nostalgia.  (Take that, HOA’s!)


Phoenix landscape architect Steve Martino was inspired by clothes lines with this yard fixture. Photo courtesy of Steve Martino

National Hanging Out Day is April 19th, which seems like a perfect opportunity to rekindle a clothesline ritual.  Aesthetic options are endless, but keep it simple and the chances of a weekly routine settling in might be greater.  The process, while a bit longer than dumping into a dryer, offers a moment of fresh air, a break from the indoors, and hopefully a feeling that you are doing some good for the planet – and saving money while you’re at it.

Darbi’s Plant of the Month: Trichocereus hybrids


Photo by Darbi Davis

These are from South America but do exceptionally well in our climate. They have the most spectacular display of flowers typically later in the Spring. But, possibly due to our warm winter in Southern Arizona, they are flowering earlier this year. Photographs can hardly capture their beauty.


What’s HOT for your desert yard

Boxhill brings us its product picks each month. This issue: getting in the mood for Spring.

boxhill april 2014