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23 Sep 2014

The Potted Desert Garden: Create Outdoor 'Rooms' With Potted Gardens

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I love potted gardens for so many reasons. They are versatile in their uses, and flexible in their placement and plantings—plus, you don’t have to dig in the ground!

Many yards have no delineated areas. To change that, homeowners will build ramadas, patios, gazebos and even outdoor kitchens. All of these add to the hardscape of your property—and add HEAT!

I came to the realization years ago that pots can give yards structure.

In my first Tucson home, we had a long walkway down the side of the house to the backyard. Because the area was shaded by the neighbor’s oleanders, we created sitting areas down this path and separated it with a trellis, as well as pots with vines that grew up the angled trellis.

In another case: A restaurant client of mine had a patio facing a parking lot. We created side-by-side concrete planters filled with Robellini palms and Mexican lime trees, and then underplanted with cascading flowers and herbs to be used by the chef.

Above, you can see another example of how to enclose a patio area to make a “room” out of it. The door leads out to the outside “dining room,” which is encircled by pots with plenty of walking space to move out into the rest of the patio and backyard.

To the above right is a cool idea for a roundabout driveway that has a drop off if you don’t make the corner. The contractor put up a standard double-railing to warn drivers, but it looked industrial. The planters are 48-inch wire frame hayracks with coco-fiber liners. Then we welded on decorative braces to assist in the planters’ stability.

The two photos below show how screening with plants can be accomplished for other areas of a home. One marks the steps to an above ground spa. The other shows plants masking a wall of the home—where all the electrical components are hanging.

As you can see, there are myriad ways you can use pots. They allow you to work with a smaller budget and provide tremendous flexibility when we change our minds—as many of us tend to do.

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. She has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. Marylee is available for digital consultations, and you can email her with comments and questions at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Follow the Potted Desert at facebook.com/potteddesert.

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