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Fri09182020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Consider using your garden for your gift-giving ideas. Plants that you may already have around your yard will make great gifts!

Beyond that: If you are the creative type (and aren’t all gardeners?), you can give gifts that truly come from your heart as well from your garden.

Herb-Infused Vinegar

With the movement toward slow-food and sustainable gardening, making herb-infused vinegar is a wonderful idea that your friends will appreciate, in part because you made it from your own herbs. Below is a simple recipe on how you can accomplish this quickly and easily.

Some herbs that work well include:

  • Basil
  • Bay
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Fennel
  • Garlic
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marjoram
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Savory
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

You can also use edible flowers such as the winter flowers of calendula and nasturtium. Consider adding dried chilies or peppercorns.

Materials:

  • Bottles or jars
  • Lids or corks
  • Vinegar (many recipes use apple-cider vinegar or white-wine vinegar; experiment to see what flavor you enjoy)
  • Your choice of fresh herbs
  • Labels
  • Ribbon, raffia, other decor

Steps:

  • Sterilize your bottles or jars by placing them in a large pot (without the lids) and covering them with water. Bring the water to boiling and boil for 15 minutes. Leave in the water (after turning the heat off) for up to an hour before using. Use when cool to touch. Do not put cold liquids into hot jars. Add the lids to the warm water to clean before using.
  • Pick your herbs early in the morning and dry them thoroughly, making sure both sides of the leaves are dry.
  • Gently crush the leaves with your hands.
  • Stuff the leaves of your chosen mixture of herbs into the sterilized bottles to a third full.
  • Bring vinegar to a boil.
  • Fill the bottles or jars covering the herbs up to a half-inch from the top of the bottle. Cover with its lid or cork.
  • Allow to cool.
  • When cool, place in the refrigerator for one to two weeks. Check by smell after one week to see if you have a fragrance that you think you would enjoy. If it the herbs’ scent is not strong enough, leave in for another week.
  • Once you reach the preferred flavor or scent, strain the vinegar out of the bottle; remove the herbs, and put the vinegar back in. A glass measuring cup with a pour spout works well to accomplish this.
  • Decorate the bottles as you like, and add a ribbon, a label and gift card.
  • The vinegar will last a couple months if stored in the refrigerator.

Cactus Pups

Look around at your succulents and cacti to see if you have volunteers (i.e. plants you didn’t intentionally plant) that have sprung up, or perhaps some off-shoots or “pups” coming up next to the main plant. Each of these can be separated or dug up and placed into an attractive pot to give to a friend as thank-you, thinking-of-you or holiday gift.

You can also propagate succulents such as pencil cacti, euphorbias and many other plants to create new plants. Be sure to let the branch or stem that you have removed from the main plant callous over in the shade before planting it in its new home. Use cactus soil, and add rock or recycled glass to “dress” the top of the soil making an attractive gift.

Floral Bouquet

As a quick, spontaneous gift: If you have a supply of small vases on hand, you can go out to your garden in the morning and pick some flowers and greenery to put in a vase of fresh water to take to a party or on a friendly visit. It doesn’t even need a special occasion to warrant something so simple but hugely appreciated by the recipient. Don't be afraid to add branches from a shrub or even a stem of bougainvillea flowers. It is a good idea to remove any thorns, though!

Shameless Self-Promotion

Last but certainly not least, think of giving my newly published book, Getting Potted in the Desert. Any desert dweller with even a couple pots will appreciate this monthly how-to guide for their desert garden.

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

When it comes to boosting the curb appeal of your midcentury modern home, the rule of “less is more” is key.

Of course, Palm Springs has one of the greatest concentrations of midcentury homes around. These homes lend themselves beautifully to minimalist gardens, with clean lines and room to breathe between each landscape component.

I love large picture windows that look out on front and back yards. With these windows, you are sure to bring the outdoors inside by capitalizing on the view.

When you are designing with pots, replicate the lines of the midcentury home by thinking about the flow from one garden element to another. Use a simple repetition of plantings along with square and round pots with simple lines, and avoid a strong singular focal point. In the concrete planters with pedilanthus shown to the right, a little cleanup of the plants’ wayward branches will give a strong vertical element, as dictated by this period.

Your pot selection can include vase-shaped or cylindrical containers; if desired, add a punch of color.

Plants reminiscent of this time include hybrid tea roses; strong erect grass shapes, accomplished with flax, phormium and cordyline; succulents, including agaves (choose slow growing varieties), giant hesperaloe and pedilanthus; and water plants like the horsetail reed.

Flowers should have large blooms or a structure that creates the appearance of large blooms; pentas, calendula, dahlia, marigolds and geraniums all can be used well. In the picture at the top of this column, even large leafed greens are included—to add to your dinner salads!

Yes, less is truly more. This philosophy will keep both budgets and water consumption low—a plus for anyone who is a believer in sustainability.

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

This evergreen shrub plant with its many varieties is recognized by many name: Boxwood. Box-leaf. Winter creeper.

If you are daring, true gardener, you might simply say euonymus (yoo-on-uh-muhs).

Because of its diversity, the euonymus has many different uses; I love using these plants in containers. The full shrub works well as a stunning specimen plant, in a combination planting or an as attractive living screen.

In the landscape, it is often used as a hedge. Most euonymus plants grow well in either full sun or shady conditions; however, the variegated evergreen forms generally need more sun to develop and maintain their best color. They prefer moist, well-drained soil, especially when planted in pots.

Shopping for Euonymus

Varieties I have successfully used in pots are the following (in order of my favorites):

  • Golden euonymus, or “aureo-marginata,” has bright golden foliage (shown above).
  • “Silver king” has green leaves with silvery white edges (shown below).
  • “Silver queen” has green leaves with creamy white edges.
  • “Goldspot euonymus or “aureo-variegata” has leaves with yellow blotches and green edges.
  • Box-leaf euonymus, or “microphylla,” is a small-leafed, compact shrub, usually trimmed as a hedge. In pots, it can be trimmed into a nicely shaped topiary.

Growth, Care and Feeding

The euonymus is slow-growing. If you choose a variety with variegated leaves, it will add more to your garden than simply green. It will take the full sun, and is very hardy during our mild winters. Since it does grow slowly, you can keep the plant in the same pot for several years without a problem. I do suggest that you start the larger varieties in 22-to-24-inch (or bigger) pots. The smaller-leaved box-leaf can do well in a slightly smaller pot.

When the shrub becomes root-bound in its container, you do not have to up-size the pot. You can gently remove the plant from the pot and cut back the roots by up to one-third. Then re-pot the plant with fresh potting soil and some time-release fertilizer; water thoroughl,y and you are good to go. I would do this in the early fall or spring.

Each of these euonymus varieties can be trimmed to shape. You can surround them with flowers to make a beautiful, full-potted garden. As you fertilize your flowers bi-weekly with a water-soluble fertilizer, the shrub will be getting the added food it needs to thrive.

In more hot and humid climates, gardeners often complain of the propensity for the plant to attract scale insects. If you keep the plant from getting too compact with its strong branches by pruning out some of the center branches, and you blast the with water with your hose nozzle set to the “jet” setting, you will keep the plant healthy so it can resist a scale attack.

If you are lucky enough to find a young plant with a strong center stem, the euonymus will shape nicely into a small tree. Remember, though, that it is slow-growing, so you will need to exercise patience to gain substantial height of the topiary. It will max out around 3 to 4 feet. Starting with a five-gallon plant from the nursery will give you a good start!

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

The holidays are coming quickly: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s are all looming in the not-so-distant future. If you handle things properly now, your desert garden containers will be in illustrious bloom—and off your long holiday-prep to-do list—well before the festivities begin.

Think about your color scheme for your home and how you will add to it for the holidays. Do you go all-out in reds and glitter? Are you more subtle with whites, or do you enjoy delving into the romantic blues? Or are you all about color, with a desire to bedeck the halls with rainbows and bling?

Do the backbone planting now, and add fall colors into the pots temporarily with chrysanthemums. When those flowers are spent in late November, add your winter colors so they are in full bloom by mid-December. Thanks to our gentle early winter temperatures, your plants will grow and bloom quickly with appropriate water and fertilizer, making the rest of your job easy.

Holiday reds and whites are easily gained with geraniums in part sun, and cyclamens in full shade. Red flowers for full sun include dianthus and petunias. These two choices are available in white, too.

If you want a little blue in your holiday decor, look at pansies and violas. Blue is readily accessible in these flowers, but not in many of our other winter standbys, such as Petunias, calendula, stock and snap dragons. Petunias do have a deep purple available, which offers a nice contrast to the soft blue of the other flowers.

Dusty miller is a nice plant to mix in with any of these colors, as its sultry, powdery grey color will have the other shades popping. There are a couple of varieties to choose from that provide different leaf structures and surface areas. One of the most popular types of dusty miller is the “silver dust” (Senecio cineraria) variety. Another popular option is “silver lace,” which has a finer, fern-like leaf with the same silver color. There is another plant called “silver brocade,” which looks like a dusty miller but is actually a perennial in the Artemesia family. Its broad, flatter leaf provides a less complex texture to your floral arrangement.

Edge your pots with white alyssum, and not only will you have delicate white flowers trailing down your pot; the rich perfumed air will complement your entire patio or home’s entry.

Another trailing option for your shade pots is bacopa. This deep, green-leafed plant with small white flowers is great for early morning sun in your desert garden or shade areas. The variety “giant snowflake” is a wonderful choice because of its larger flowers. Check your local nursery to see if they carry it or can find it for you.

It’s a good idea to get to know your local resources. If you develop a relationship with the people who work at local nurseries, they will let you know what growers they are bringing in, and when certain plants will be available. Bring them pictures of the gardens you have created with your purchases, too!

Your November To-Do List

1. Plant to your heart’s content.

2. Deadhead weekly.

3. Use a water-soluble fertilizer bi-weekly.

4. Water daily early in the morning.

5. if night temps sink below 50 degrees, bring in tropicals and tender succulents.

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.

 

Published in Potted Desert Garden

The desert heat is finally subsiding a bit, so it is time to listen to the call of your backyard—and go out to smell the flowers.

Clean off that bench, and make sure it is positioned in a shady spot so you actually will go out and sit. Take out your coffee, tea, wine or cocktail, as well as a favorite book, to just sit and be.

The main goal is to make your bench more than utilitarian. If your bench is hanging out there with nothing to keep it in your focus as a place to stop for a while, add a large pot to each side to “bookend” it as a full vignette. Fill those pots with colorful fragrant flowers—and you won’t be able to stay away.

Some flowers that meet the requisites of color and fragrance that do well in our warm winters include:

  • Alyssum
  • Dianthus
  • Nasturtiums
  • Stock
  • Sweet peas

You can find additional winter plants listed in my newly published book, Getting Potted in the Desert.

If your bench is colorful as the one in the picture to the right, use a simpler planting such as the yellow bells shrub and coral fountain perennial.

You can also repeat the colors of your bench’s cushions in the flowers as pictured below, with the red crepe myrtle trees and red cushions of this iron bench.

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.

 

Published in Potted Desert Garden

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Anyone can throw a couple of pots together—but with some planning and a little open-mindedness, you can create a work of art with pot combinations and plantings.

The first thing I suggest you do is go out and get a sense of what’s available. Nurseries, pottery stores, home-furnishing establishments and botanical gardens all should have pots. See what colors and styles strike your fancy, and check prices to see what fits in your budget. Keep the decorating style and colors of your home in mind, especially the rooms that will have the focal points of your pots as you look out to your patio and yard. Remember, when it comes to pots here in the desert, bigger is better—larger than 18 inches, for sure. Actually, you will have much better success if you go for 22 inches and up! The bigger, the better.

In the photo above, you can see a grouping that’s definitely suited more to homes in the mid-century modern style. Of course, primary colors, as shown in the picture to the right, also work well in most mid-century modern homes. Bright and cheerful combinations will stand out in your yard and can bring a smile to your face each time you see them. The yellow pot pictured here holds a young bouquet of flowers, including profusion zinnias and pentas. This pot will need daily water during most of our year in the desert. However, the succulent planting next to it, in the orange 20-inch pot, requires only weekly water during our hottest months, and water every three to four weeks during the winter. The lady slipper (pedilanthus) is a great upright succulent which will flower with orange “lady slippers” that attract hummingbirds. The pot is “dressed” with Mexican river rock, which is used to retain moisture, keep water away from the base stem of the plant, and finish the look of the combination.

A more traditional-style home would be a perfect place for the combination shown in the first photo below, of burgundy and cream pots, with complementary color plants. Look carefully to see how the pot colors move from one to the other, starting with the 24-inch belly pot in Chinese red. This pot provides the foundation of the grouping. The taller cream-colored pot supports the tall burgundy plant (phormium) which will do well in the winter. The third pot ties it all together by uniting the red and cream of the larger pots with a coppery sheen that brings in the burgundy and the cream color.

Finally, the outdoor shower setting shown in the second photo below offers a perfect demonstration of matching colors. We were fortunate to find this trio of pots that united the shades of the shower, the side wall and even the honey-colored door. With the square vase-shaped lines of the pots, the contemporary theme holds true—and the simple low-water plantings will help keep the floor free of water buildup. A Texas mountain laurel tree is in the back pot. This slow-growing tree is perfect for pots, as it will not outgrow the pot for years. The low front pot includes a gopher plant, which in this partially shaded area will bloom in the spring. Succulents, including a health-conscious aloe, round out the plantings without a lot of fuss.

I mentioned open-mindedness at the beginning of this column. I say that, because you never know what pots and plants you will find when you go shopping. You might think you want a specific look, but the pots available might not fit your original vision. With an open mind, you may find something surprising that will totally satisfy you. Just have fun!

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Let’s go for succulents and cactus! They’re easy-care, low-water and beautiful for any landscape. Plus, succulents and their sub-families are wonderful in pots. When you are frustrated with the struggles of Palm Springs’ constant heat, it can be a relief to have a strong plant to count on in your garden.

The three pots above demonstrate a sun-and-shade combination. The tall euphorbia in the back requires shade with no reflected light and heat. The two plants in the front lower pots—ponytail palm and firesticks—can take the sun, but will do better with afternoon shade in the summer. All of these plants are frost-tender, but that is a rare concern here, as long as the plants are placed on a somewhat covered patio.

If you still are longing for some added color throughout the heat, the two black pots in the first photo below offer one example of a low-water solution. The coordinated golden color of the golden variegated yucca marginata and golden barrels are set off by the bright blue recycled glass. The glass, instead of landscape rock, is a nice alternative.

The Spanish dagger, in the second picture below, is a show-stopper in a pot with a strong presence on its own. In green or, as shown, in the variegated variety, the dagger will have guests asking you what is it—and where did you get it? The gracefully bending fronds give your home a tropical feel without the water needs of true tropical plants.

A little extra care that will ensure the overall health of the plant:

• Place the plant in a mostly shady area with good air circulation.

• At least once a week, jet-spray the leaves, being sure to get into the cups that are formed where the leaves originate from the stem. This is a safe-haven for pesky bugs—unless you insist on their discomfort.

As we approach the heat relief of October, now is the perfect time to plant some succulents in pots. Planting now will give your plants plenty of time to acclimate to their new location and prepare for next summer. But let’s not talk about that yet! Let’s enjoy our beautiful weather all winter long!

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

There is not a clear-cut answer to any question regarding gardening—or budgeting! Therefore, you know that when you’re making a budget for a garden, there are all sorts of possibilities.

However, one thing is clear cut: You do have control over how much you spend on a potted garden.

The biggest benefit of gardening in the desert is that your largest expense—pots—will not freeze, so you do not have to worry about replacing them during a hard winter. In fact, if you spend money on really good pots, you should never have to replace them.

I am going to lay this out as if you are shopping at a local nursery, as there, I know your money is being well spent. However, at discount stores, consignment shops and yard sales, you might find real bargains that will cut this budget significantly.

  • Pots: For each grouping of three pots (18”, 22”, 24” interior diameter)—$475
  • Potting soil: Three or four 2-cubic-foot bags—$120
  • Specialty plants for largest pot—$45
  • Flowers and perennials: 32 4-inch plants—$75
  • Fertilizer (time-release fertilizer)—$20
  • Total: $735 plus tax

More larger pots will increase the price proportionately. Be sure to never short-change the soil or fertilizer. Also, be sure the plants you buy are appropriate for our desert climate.

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Raised garden beds and planters offer another way to “contain” your desert gardens. They can provide a larger space to grow veggies and flowers.

One reason why I like raised planters is that, like pots, they are much easier on your back. If the raised planter is designed well, you can sit on the edge of the bed while planting and caring for your plants. The downside is you can’t move around a raised bed like you can pots.

To prepare a raised bed for planting, fill it with a quality potting soil. If the bed is large, this may be too expensive, and you may need to instead pick up a quality garden soil at the nursery. You want something that is sterile and smells earthy—there should be no hint of a manure smell.

As you add the soil to the bed, stop every 12 to 18 inches, and compress the soil with your hands to pack it down. Without packing the soil down, air pockets will cause the water to flow through, dropping the top soil level. However, take care not to pack the soil so intensely that there will not be any air left in the soil.

In the desert, I recommend you plant more gallon containers than 4-inch plants. To prepare for these gallon containers, fill the bed to the point approximately 10 inches below the top of the walls. Place your plants where you want them, about 8 inches apart (for gallon containers). Be sure to open the root ball before going on to the next step.

Add soil up the root balls, coming up about two inches short of the top of the plants’ soil line. Then add time-release fertilizer to the soil. Follow the directions on the container. Distribute the fertilizer throughout the top 2 inches of soil. You do not need to worry about mixing it in beyond this, as ongoing watering will continue to deliver the food down throughout the root structure.

Now you can add your 4-inch plants, opening the roots and adding soil up to the top of all of the plants’ root balls. Press down on each plant to seat it into its new home, and press down all soil areas.

Water all of the plants and soil with the shower setting on your hose nozzle, making sure the soil is wet all the way down through the root balls. To test it, use a metal rod or stick to push into the soil. It should consistently come out damp or with soil adhering to the stick. You will average about one minute of water for every square foot of space.

This same planting method can be used for containers or pots—everything above the ground.

Want more detail? Check out my new book.

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.

Published in Potted Desert Garden