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13 Oct 2015

The Potted Desert Garden: Eliminating Posts on Your Patio

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A common architectural element of our desert dwellings is often an eyesore: The posts on the back patio which hold up the roof are necessary—while often ugly. Posts and pillars interrupt the flow of traffic, block your view and get in the way of your hose. There really is not much you can do—except make them disappear in your mind’s eye.

Patio pots are a perfect solution to this problem. Artfully arranged pots filled with abundant floral displays can detract from the not-so-pretty nature of the posts. Instead, you’ll primarily see the beautiful garden.

When placing pots around a post, you want to think of the viewpoints, i.e., the point from which you will be viewing the pots. You might see them from inside through a window, from the patio at your favorite chair, or farther out in the yard—either from your pool, your outdoor kitchen or a second seating area.

When designing most elements of your home, the rule of three is pretty standard: You can use three pots, or count the post as one element of the three. Your pots must be in proportion to the post. Your main pot, the largest of the three, should be at least 2 feet tall. When you add the plants, it will be 3 to 3 1/2 feet tall—a nice third of the height of the pillar. Don't make this into rocket science with the measurements; these are general guidelines for you to follow. Just avoid small, easy-to-carry, “cute” pots. These are much too small to minimize a post.

In the trio of pictures above, you see a large pillar at the end of the ramada. The group of three pots are only seen from the front of the column, so the grouping, including a trellised vine, faces the rest of the yard. One pot has a golden barrel cactus to remind us that we do live in the desert.

The photo below shows a standard 4-inch post in an upscale home. The concrete planters surround the post, as the potted collection is seen from all sides. With seasonal plantings, the homeowners enjoy the living color rather than a single post 365 days a year.

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’s book, Getting Potted in the Desert, has just been released. Buy it online at potteddesert.com. 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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