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Fri09252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Why do we tend to design things in odd numbers? It has to do with our brain: We like to pair things up.

When we look at several items, we rationally try to put them together in groups of two. When we create a group of three, the eye is trying to find a pair, so it keeps moving—and that’s a good thing. In a garden, where our “art” is living and breathing, we want to enhance that movement—and having groups of odd numbers does the trick!

However, for a more formal or contemporary look, design in a more symmetrical fashion. Even numbers, arranged as pairs, will form a pattern that attracts the eye’s focus. Two pots placed on opposite sides of a front gate or entryway, for example, will help guests focus on the entrance rather than passing it by.

How else does an odd number of pots help in our desert landscape design? Long walls and square pots add to the linear look of a backyard wall. Look at the photo above: These two pots just do not seem right against this wall: They stop us dead in our tracks, for some reason. By adding a third pot—round in shape—and twisting the squares to change the angles, the result is much more appealing. Now you see the garden rather than the wall!

When you are ready to redesign and are thinking about adding some pots, place some large objects where you may want to position the pots. (Trash cans, propane tanks and buckets will serve you well without breaking your back.) Once you think you have your design ready, go pot-shopping with my mantra in mind: Bigger is better! If your pots are going to be in the full summer sun, choose pots that are at least 22 inches in diameter.

And as always while gardening, remember: 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 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 on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Ahhh—another fifth week!

Typically, there are no meetings and few events in the fifth week. If we organize our recurring to-do lists by the first and third week, or by the second and fourth (which I highly recommend), we should not have much on our lists this week, either!

So, what do we do with this week of freedom? I highly recommend giving yourself permission to get out and enjoy your garden!

That’s it! STOP reading this and GO OUTSIDE, before it gets too hot! Get!

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.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

It’s not only about the plants: Your pots can add a lot of interest and color to your surroundings—with or without plants!

We talked earlier this month about using succulents for your front gate pots. However, let’s face it: Succulents can sometimes be a little boring in color, as greens and grays echo the desert landscape.

However, you can plant them in pots that have colors that complement your home’s décor. For example, going back to the front gate, you can always make a first-time visitor feel welcome with turquoise pots.

When you combine colors, keep in mind the style you use inside your home. Keep color families together, and make sure the collection complements each other. When appropriate, relate the outside colors to the first colors people see when they enter your home.

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.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Approaching an entrance for the first time can be intimidating. Do we have the right house? Is this the right door? If you couple this with a prickly “attack” cactus, that can only to your visitors’ apprehension!

We do need low-water plants in pots near our entryways. It can be hard to run irrigation to these pots; we do not want to have water runoff there; and the potential for stains around the pots is troublesome. Therefore, cactuses or succulents make sense.

However, we have a choice when it comes to these plantings. There are many succulents that can grace a front entry or courtyard gate without an unwelcoming prickly persona!

The following list includes some of my favorite plants that do well all year long in the desert. Those that prefer afternoon shade are marked with an asterisk. A double asterisk demands full shade. Note that some succulents put off a white milky sap that may be irritating to the skin and can be dangerous if ingested. Please handle these and other cactuses/succilents with gloves and caution.

  • Totem Pole Cactus Lophocereus schottii monstrose
  • Toothless Desert Spoon Dasylirion quadrangulatum
  • Spineless Pricky Pear Cactus Opuntia cochenillifera 
  • Red Yucca Hesperaloe and Giant Hesperaloe
  • Moroccan Mound Euphorbia resinifera
  • Lady Slipper Pedilanthus macrocarpus
  • Pencil Cactus or Firesticks Euphorbia tirucalli (pictured below; beware of toxic sap)
  • Elephant’s Food* Portulacaria afra
  • Spanish Dagger* (variegated or green) Yucca gloriosa
  • Jade** Crassula ovata

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.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Many of us have gates at the front of our desert homes. They are nice to have, as they can keep the critters out while also creating a beautiful courtyard that serves as the first entry to our home.

An adorned gate, of course, crafts a welcoming message to your guests as they approach your home. Beyond that, however, you may not think of this area as a space that needs added décor; after all, we don’t live out there.

Often, a sidewalk or driveway leads right up to the entry way, limiting choices on what can be placed at the wall or gate. A container garden at the front gate can offer a living welcome to all who come to your home—including yourself, every day!

Consider the case of this home, where the gate and entryway were essentially a blank slate. To the left of the gate is the driveway, leading to the garage. There is landscaping to the right of the gate on a downhill slope. This situation was perfect for a trio of pots, which added color and curb appeal to the entry.

Planted in these winter pots are Euryops, Snapdragons, Dusty Miller and an Artemesia. The tall pot on the right has similar plantings, along with a Pyracantha in full bloom.

Our next picture shows the summer story of this gate. The Euryops and Artemisia are still growing after a winter pruning. Because these pots are western-facing, a Lantana variety has been added, for low water usage and to deter critters. You can see the Pyracantha is just about ready for a pruning that will guide it up toward the arch of the gate.

Unfortunately, the homeowner started having a serious battle with various animals—who are coming down into residential areas more due to the drought—that thought of the plants as possible food. At first, the homeowner they added fencing to the pots, but that became an eyesore real fast.

Because of the fencing issues and the water/calcium stains that were developing on the aggregate concrete, we finally decided to switch the previous pots out with colorful blue pots that were rectangular in shape, to hug the entry walls. We added Red Yucca and Golden Barrels, enhancing the front gate with an easy-care invitation to enter.

Welcoming, isn’t it? See the pics below.

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. She 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.. You can also follow The Potted Desert at facebook.com/PottedDesert. The Potted Desert Garden appears every Tuesday morning at CVIndependent.com.

Three pots filled with winter plants added a lot to the entryway.

During the summer, a mix of plants both remaining and new created a nice look.

When animals started treating the plants as food, fencing helped—but was rather unsightly.

The final, lovely solution: Rectangular blue pots with Red Yucca and Golden Barrels.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

With so many new varieties and hybrids of flowers being introduced each year, we can have great fun putting unique combinations together. When you discover something unique, don’t hide it among many other plants, colors and textures. Let it take center stage!

Color can be affected by many factors in our landscape. Reflections from surroundings can change or enhance colors, as you can see above. Flowers with complementary colors will appear stronger or brighter when placed together. (Remember that complementary colors are across the color wheel from each other.)

Plants in the shade will appear darker in color. The weather, clouds and sun will change the color of plants as well. Therefore, when we consider color in our planting designs, we need to think about not only the combination of different plants/flowers, but also the effect of the surroundings on the plants. For instance, a dark green wall behind green plants will all blend into nothingness.

Add our intense sun and heat to fuchsia bougainvillea, and they will blind you with brilliance in the spring, and become much more subdued in the summer heat. In the picture above, the true color of the flowers (bracts) is what you will see in the summer heat, while the color reflected in the water is the color during cooler times.

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.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Many of us justifiably take great pride in our desert homes. We have invested a lot of time and money to get that perfect look.

I am often asked about styles of containers and materials that are appropriate for planting in the desert. I never recommend plastic pots, as they do not have a suitably thick wall to help insulate the soil in the desert’s intense sun.

But just as important: Plastic pots do not represent our homes with the richness that we deserve!

At any given moment, how do your potted plants look? Are they healthy and inviting to both you and your guests? I have always had a rule: Better dirt than dead. I would rather take the dead or almost-dead plants out of pots and groom the soil until I can pick up some new plants; it’s much better than leaving sad plants in place until you “get around to it.”

Anything we do around our homes is a reflection on us. This applies to businesses, too. How many times have you gone into a restaurant or office and seen sickly or dead plants at the entrance. Even if we don’t have a conscious thought about it, our subconscious mind says: If they cannot take care of a couple pots, how are they going to take care of me?

Don’t wait until you “get around to it!” Go out and get some plants to replace those dead ones, like that poor tree below. Do it today!

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.; and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

The Coachella Valley is running about five degrees warmer than normal—so you can go ahead and start removing your spent winter flowers, and moving toward summer plants.

Here are some other March tasks for the “Honey Do” list, for the Honey in your household:

  • Check the location of all pots and furnishings to make sure they’re out of wind tunnels.
  • If you have not fertilized your citrus, get it done this week!
  • Check your irrigation system. Be prepared to increase the watering frequency as temperatures continue to warm up.
  • Clean up all ground debris—especially from leaf loss and cactus demise.
  • Apply a pre-emergent if you have not already done so. Presuming the weather remains dry, follow the directions for watering this in. This will help prevent weeds from popping up. Do not use where you are planting seeds or growing vegetables and herbs!
  • If you somehow avoided the rainstorm a couple of weeks ago, water your potted cactus. For a softer, contemporary look, plant a few slipper plants (see below) in a series of pots or in a raised planter bed to create an easy-care border.

It's also time to start your potted rose fertilization schedule. Be sure to water well the night before each step. Important: If you have newly planted roses, DO NOT fertilize until after their first bloom!

  • For the first week, use an organic fertilizer; scratch it into the earth and then water.
  • Two weeks later, use a water-soluble fertilizer.
  • Use a fish emulsion once per month to help get microorganisms growing.
  • Spray your roses with water! Spring brings aphids, thrips and mildew to your plants. Use the jet-spray setting on the hose in the morning, twice per week, to prevent unwanted critters and mold.

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 on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Want to improve your landscaping without spending a lot of money? Consider this: shimmering reflections of your existing landscaping, as well as a few artfully arranged container gardens.

Why not double the intrinsic value of your landscape by using your pool as a mirror that reflects your plantings year-round? Container gardens are perfect for this: You don’t need to retrofit new beds and planting areas; all you need to do is add some appropriately sized pots close to the water’s edge, and gain the look immediately.

Consider using some brightly colored pots, and then plant in them flowers/plants with one or two colors to gain the greatest reflective value in the pool. To keep your pool-cleaning from becoming more challenging, you will also want to choose flowers that do not readily drop. Some annuals that hang on to their blooms are Scaevola (fan flower—trailing), Pentas (tall upright) and Gazania (low perennial). I also recommend searching out some of the more interesting varieties of Lantana. They will thrive in the heat and hold up well all summer long.

Some heat-happy succulents and other plants to consider:

  • Giant Hesperaloe. (Pictured to the right.)
  • Red Yucca.
  • Whipple's Yucca.
  • Bougainvillea—Torch Glow. (You don’t want to use other varieties, as you will constantly be removing the petals from your pool filter. The Torch Glow hangs on to its blossoms much better.)

What about the heat, you ask? You can beat the heat with some good planning. It’s best to place your pots on the south or west side of the pool. West-side pots should ideally have something behind them to provide a bit of afternoon shade. A wall would be perfect—see the picture at the top—or you can use a landscape plant if you already have a bed nearby. You can even use a larger pot behind the pool pots. The reflection value is tremendous with this latter arrangement.

If the pots need to be on the east side of the pool—which means plants will get not only a direct hit of the Western sun; they’ll also bear the reflecting heat of the pool—it’s best to go with shrubs or cacti/succulents. These plants hold up well to the direct sunlight and heat of our desert summer.

North-side pots are most at risk of heat problems in the middle of the summer when the sun is setting. Again, you can add plants or large pots to offer these pool-area pots some relief.

All plants will need regular water, so make sure your plantings are in pots a minimum of 24 inches tall. Floral plantings will need daily water, and shrubs require water every two to three days. Cactuses only need water once every two weeks.

Your first step is to spend some time looking at your pool while the weather is still relatively cool. If you have an empty pot handy, try placing it near the pool’s edge to see where you get the best reflection. Then plan what pot(s) you will want to use, and what you would like to plant in them. Start with just one, if you’d like, or ramp it up to two or three. If you’re worried about trying this during the summer, go ahead and plan for the fall.

A 24-inch pot with one of the succulents listed above will be the easiest plant to practice with. Plant one in a brilliant red or purple pot, and it’ll do the trick!

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., and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook. The Potted Desert Garden appears weekly at CVIndependent.com.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Roses can be more than just pretty flowering shrubs or climbers. We always think of using cut roses to decorate our homes with flowers, placing them on tables inside and out.

However, roses can perform other jobs in your landscape, too. I have used roses in pots as a focal point; as a screen to block more unsightly items; as a grouping in the front yard to shout out to passers-by that gardeners live here; and as a tall plant to break up a long wall, as you can see above.

When choosing roses to use for any of these purposes, keep in mind common design rules. Use complementary colors together, and colors that work well with your décor choices inside and out. If your home uses desert colors (sage greens, browns, tans, soft yellows), your palette choices can be pretty broad. But if you have deep hues of red-oranges, browns, purples or burgundies, you will want to stay within the shades of these colors—adding red, apricot and yellow, perhaps, but staying away from pink and lavender.

For your cut-flower roses, hybrid teas and grandifloras are your best bet. With blooms grown on long stems, either singly or in clusters, they lend themselves to arranging in vases.

Floribundas have flowers in large clusters with more than one bloom on stems at any one time. These roses typically provide massive colorful, long-lasting garden displays and can bloom continually. These also can serve as a hedge or single plantings.

Climbing roses work well for screening and for breaking up a long run of a wall. Since you do not cut climbers all the way back when you do your January prune, you will not lose much of the “bush.”

Miniature roses, such as the roses in the whiskey barrels below, make great close-up focal points on your patio or at your eastern-facing front entry. They are fun, smile-producing plants that welcome you and your guests home each day. They are easy to care for, too!

For more on your desert rose garden, sign up for the Potted View at www.potteddesert.com.

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., and follow the Potted Desert on Facebook.

Published in Potted Desert Garden