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Regal Mist Pink Muhly—or Muhlenbergia capillaris—is probably my favorite landscape grass in this part of the country. I love the way the sun shines through its plumes during its flowering season. That hazy but eye-catching frothy mist of deep pink is what first caught my eye when I saw a mass planting in a landscape. All I could say was, “Amazing!”

So grab your gloves and tools, because now that cooler weather is here, it’s a good time to plant this stunning grass.

The grass stays relatively small and is drought-tolerant, but thrives with regular watering. Its bloom period is during the fall months, and it boasts glossy green leaves the rest of the year—until you cut it back annually to the ground in January. As a clumping grass, it only grows in size and does not propagate new plants. It also is not prone to reseeding, so you can trust that it will only be where you plant it. Regal Mist thrives in full-sun and reflected-heat locations.

People often ask about planting these gorgeous grasses in pots—and this leads to a bit of a conundrum. Yes, the plants look great. They are clean and look splendid around a pool—plus you don’t need to worry about them throwing off debris you’ll have to clean up. They will wave in the breeze, and with regular but lesser amounts of water, will reward you with a stunning show all fall and early winter. The color intensifies as the desert cools off into the 50s and 60s. Its seeds provide a banquet for native birds, and the grass can provide these same birds with shelter—while also being critter-resistant.

However, there is a problem: The grass must be cut back in January. It will start sprouting new leaf growth as the spring warming trends begin, in March or so. So what should one do with this stark pot from January to early April? I am definitely a gardener who prefers immediate gratification, and no matter how splendid the grass is in the fall, it’s a bummer when it brings nothing to one’s container garden for half of the winter.

One suggestion to deal with this problem: When the grass is cut back in January, plant pansies or other winter annuals around the perimeter of the pot to hide the cutback grass in the center. Of course, this means the grass needs to be placed in a pot large enough to support the root space needed for these plants. I recommend a 22-24-inch diameter pot.

Of course, you could also put the pot away somewhere out of view and replace it with another temporary pot that is filled with the look you want this winter—and then bring back the Regal Mist come April.

Whatever you decide … happy gardening!

After more than 3 1/2 years of The Potted Desert Garden, this is the final column by Marylee Pangman, the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. With more than 18 years of experience, she has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. Marylee’s book, Getting Potted in the Desert, is now available. Buy it online at potteddesert.com. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Potted Desert Garden

Trust me: These hot days are getting shorter. The summer equinox was way back on June 20; that is when the sun started its journey north.

As we think of the sun’s journey, it’s time to start thinking about how the sun affects our potted desert gardens.

We know that our climate changes from long summer days, with daytime temperatures of 115-plus, to long winter nights, where temps regularly dip down to 30-45 degrees. In some areas, temps may drop even lower.

The sun is shifting from its northern angle in the summer, and moving more southerly now. Plants that were getting a lot of sun over the summer, if kept in the same location, may have much less sun. Some plantings on the more northern side of the house will eventually be in complete shade.

Note where your winter sun is so that your plants that do well in the shade are not blasted with rays. You also want to make sure your sun-loving plants, fruits and vegetables are getting enough sun during the cooler season.

I know this sounds like a science experiment, but if you pay attention as the sun travels from season to season, your plants will thank you. They really do want to please you!


Hints to Help Your Plants During the Changing Seasons

1. Put pots that you know will need to be moved regularly on pot dollies. Plants may need to be moved not only for the shifting sun, but for protection from the cold, too.

2. To make it easy to move wheeled pots, try to keep them on flat surfaces with no steps or gravel to traverse.

3. Move plants before you water them so they are lighter.

4. Don’t put off moving sensitive plants. Sunburn and freeze damage don’t improve over time. Parts of plants suffering from these ailments will need to be pruned.


Tips for Your Next Flower-Shopping Trip

1. Know your pots—sizes, colors and sun/shade.

2. Know your desired color scheme.

3. Grab a cart at the nursery, as well as an empty flat or carton.

4. Place your selections on the flat. Step back and look at it.

5. Stare at it, and be sure it sits right with you.

6. If something seems off, take out one plant. Look at color combinations, textures and heights. You may have too many small, flowered plants with small leaves, and that can complicate the arrangement.

A 24-inch pot with one central planting will need approximately 14 4-inch plants. If you select gallon plants, they can replace three or four smaller ones. I urge you to use 4-inch plants and not six-packs.

Important: When you go shopping and bring your plants home, water them in well, and plant as soon as possible—preferably on the same day. If you have to wait until the next morning, place them in the shade to rest until then.

Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz. With more than 18 years of experience, she has become known as the desert’s potted garden expert. Marylee’s book, Getting Potted in the Desert, is now available. Buy it online at potteddesert.com; it’s now available on Kindle. Email her with comments and questions, or requests for digital consultations, 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

Do you hate it when you look through your yard and see a fence or block wall?

A majority of our desert homes are cordoned off by walls. These walls can seem restrictive—but they certainly do not have to be prison-like. Walls are linear—that is, they go on in a line. Even when the wall is curved or turns a corner, it is still linear (just not straight). Unless your design is minimalist in its truest, purest form, this can get rather tedious.

If your walls are boring, be creative while enhancing the view from your home. This can certainly be done with landscaping: Trees, shrubs and even vines can go far in limiting the view of the wall. Structures such as a gazebo, shade sails or even a planting shed can also move the eye away from the wall.

But sometimes, we just don’t want to put more things in the ground—or perhaps we don’t have the ground to put plants in, if there is a solid “floor” of pavers, bricks, flagstone, concrete or tile.

Well … container gardens can come to the rescue!

When your home has a wide backyard with a wall or, as is the case in the two pictures below, a metal fence, you can add potted plants to serve any purpose you want.

If you have a view beyond the barrier, you do not want to block it—instead, you want to lead the eye beyond it. With the large pots as a backdrop to the pool, the viewer is encouraged to look from the front pots, to the pool, on to the back pots, and then off to the distant mountain view. If a guest visiting this home in the “after” picture were asked whether there was a wall or fence around the yard … that guest might not even remember!

Not all of us have wide backyards, of course. Smaller homes often come with diminutive yards, patios or courtyards. In community developments, these spaces are always bounded by walls of some sort. These walls can give you a boxed in feeling—a feeling that does not make you want to spend a lot of time in these outdoor living areas.

Once again, you can use a container garden to soften the setting, as well as create a small living feature that will attract birds—especially when you add a water feature. People often think that they need a water source to have a fountain. However, you only need power and a way to fill the fountain, which is easily accomplished with a hose or bucket. Be sure you don’t let the pump run dry, though.

Notice in the picture above how the shadows of a nearby tree cast interesting effects on the wall. As the tree moves in the desert breezes, these shadows will cool the area and provide a tropical feel.

Also, some of us have “seat walls” that are so long that we’ll never have enough guests to fill them. Many builders use these seat-height walls as dividers to create different “rooms” on a patio. Well, I’ll bet we can come up with even more ways to put them to good use.

Some seat walls are built into an outdoor “room.” I once worked on an al fresco dining area enclosed by full and half walls in a U-shape, with a large barbecue on one side. Between the dining table and chairs as well as the banco, this corner was not missed when the planters were added.

Sometimes all it takes to change up your viewpoints is to look at what you already have. You do not always have to go shopping for new pots and plants. Think about adding some metal art; hanging pots from the wall in shadier areas; or even painting the wall. A little creativity and imagination is all it takes. Just be sure though to make necessary adjustments for the desert. We are not going to put a wax candle on a sconce in the sun … right?

Your May To-Do List

1. Plant summer flowers in pots and beds.

2. Monitor irrigation and watering as heat rises, especially with newly added plants.

3. Place shade cloth over tender vegetables and herbs, like tomatoes and basil, especially in the low desert.

4. Fertilize citrus trees around Mother’s Day. Water in thoroughly.

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, is now available. 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 faced with the pending summer warm-up of their desert homes, people often ask: How should I water my potted gardens as the days grow hotter? As we leave winter’s slightly cooler months, we need to be prepared to adjust our watering each day, until we settle into consistent temperatures as spring blasts into summer.

I say this, because the temperatures could be in the mild 70s one week—and then get pumped into the upper 80s or even 90s in a day’s time. As we enjoy our wonderful winter flowers, we hope to get a couple more months of splendor from them, so we need to make sure they are moist enough to make it through the hotter days—but not overly wet when it cools off.

If you are hand-watering or have your pots on an irrigation system, adjustments are not hard to make, as long as you are mindful. Being mindful means exploring your garden on a regular basis, especially as the seasons change. Take your coffee or tea out in the mornings, and check your pots to make sure they are each doing well.

Our plants have the greatest chance of survival if they are healthy before the heat hits. Proper water and regular feeding (every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer) will provide them with the best conditions possible for this challenge.

With fully grown winter flowers and plants now shading the soil, I would expect you are watering your larger pots (greater than 22 inches, that is) every other day in the morning. Check your pots on the non-watering day to make sure the top 6 inches of soil have not dried out. The roots of flowers planted in the fall should be at least this deep, so that is where you want them damp. They should be OK if the top soil line is a little dry.

A water meter is a handy tool to have; otherwise, just insert a pencil. If the pencil comes out with soil clinging to it, the soil is moist. The water-meter reading will be between medium and dry before water is needed. If you do find them dry that far down, be sure to give them a good soak—meaning that water flows out of the drain hole in the bottom of the pot. The general guide for hand-watering is 30 seconds for each 18 inches of soil diameter, with your hose set to a gentle-shower setting.

Irrigation run times will depend on your system and emitters. A dedicated pot line is typically set for five to 10 minutes each day of operation. I have seen some systems running only three minutes, with ample water delivered to the soil. As I said, it depends on your water-delivery methods. You must make sure you understand how to run the system and make adjustments as needed. They best way to learn is to practice making changes every day until you are so comfortable with its operation that you could coach someone over the phone.

While you are out there being mindful, take time to smell the flowers!


Planning for a Delightful Year-Round Pot

I have often talked about planting trees in pots—but a tree I have left off my list, at least until now, is the pineapple guava (pictured below). It’s actually a shrub, but this plant is often grown as a patio tree, keeping its size in a pot to 6 feet. We won’t necessarily see flowers or fruit on the tree due to the absence of the chilling time required to produce fruit, but the gray-green leaves with silvery-white undersides bring a striking and unique hue to your yard. They’re similar in color to the leaves of an olive tree.

Pineapple guavas, like all potted trees, should be put into a pot at least 26 inches in interior diameter. This will give the roots enough soil to stretch out and provide the plant with the moisture and nutrients it needs to thrive. They are not fast-growers, so I suggest you select a plant in a 5-gallon nursery container.

Plant them in a good potting soil that drains well. Similar to Mediterranean plants, pineapple guavas do not like wet feet. They can take full sun, but they will look better if given some afternoon summer shade.

Don’t be fooled by the drought-tolerant listing: You do not want the tree to dry out. If it does get too dry, the leaves will let you know by dropping off the plant. (Remember my “be mindful” mantra!)

The pineapple guava is frost-tender in mid-desert regions, but in the low desert, it will be rather comfortable all winter long. If we happen to get down to 35 degrees or lower, it would not mind a little jacket, in the form of a light blanket. Take it off the next morning after the sun is up.

As seen in the accompanying picture, the Guava can be underplanted with seasonal flowers—making for pure beauty when supported by the perfect pot.


Your March To-Do List

  • Monitor irrigation and watering. Be Mindful!
  • Deadhead faithfully, and selectively prune longer branches, especially in petunias.
  • Use your water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks with a hose applicator.
  • Clean up plant debris, including dead leaves and broken succulent stems.
  • Begin fertilizing roses.

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, is now available. 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. The Potted Desert Garden now appears monthly.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

We all move pretty fast these days.

I’m not talking about a physical race (although a lot of Coachella Valley residents are runners and bikers). What I mean is that over the last 50 years, life’s pace has gotten more and more hectic. Even many retirees I come across are very busy.

On the flip side, there is a movement toward “slow food,” across the country and even the world. This movement “officially” started in 1986 in Italy. The slow-food movement strives to build a region’s cuisine and encourages the local farming of plants, seeds and proteins distinctive of the local ecosystem.

As a result, more and more restaurants are sourcing local ingredients. There has also been a huge upswing in home gardens with vegetables and herbs, as well as an influx of chickens at home—and even some home beekeepers!

Those of us who don’t want to have a miniature farm at home can still enjoy a taste of freshness—right out of our own garden. Winter in the Coachella Valley is a splendid time to be outside gardening, and pots are a perfect way to keep this endeavor manageable, even for the most hectic of lives.

Starting a Potted Edible Garden

Place your pots in an area that receives approximately six hours of sun—preferably morning to early afternoon, rather than late-day sun. If you plan to grow anything edible in the summer, your pots will need to be shaded by 11 a.m.

When choosing where to place your edible garden, also consider the proximity to your kitchen. If you have to traipse across a large yard on a busy day, you might not be inspired to do so. If an area closest to your kitchen gets the required six hours of sun, it may be the perfect location.

I always preach that pots should have an inside diameter of at least 18 inches. They need to be large enough to support plants when they are fully grown—and even 18 inches is often not large enough to do so in our intense heat. As always, bigger is better.

Be sure your pots have adequate drainage, with at least one 1-inch hole which you will cover with a coffee filter or window screen to filter the water as it drains out.

Materials

Pots: For larger vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli and potatoes, you need one pot per plant. You can mix herbs, greens and other small plants in a large pot.

Soil: Get a quality potting soil from a local nursery. Fill your pots up to two inches from the top.

Fertilizer: Each time you plant, use a time-release fertilizer and some organic granular fertilizer. When plants are established, use a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks to keep food available to your growing plants.

Water: Your pots will need water almost daily, so either plan to have your hose on the ready, or hook up the pots to your dedicated pot-irrigation line. They need to be continually moist but not overly wet.

Plants: If you are just starting out, begin with only a few pots. Think about the time you have available to plant, care for and harvest your garden through the next five months.

Plant Choices

Herbs: thyme, oregano, bay laurel, cilantro, parsley and mint. Be sure to keep mint in its own pot; it’s incredibly invasive.

Great winter vegetables for the Coachella Valley: tomatoes, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas, radishes, potatoes, turnips and all greens, including lettuce and spinach.

Edible flowers: pansies, nasturtiums, calendula, violas, roses, dianthus and marigolds.

Other Tips:

  • Cluster your edible pots for easy harvesting and care.
  • Water in the early morning.
  • Harvest early and often. The more you harvest, the more plants will grow.
  • If we do get a cold snap, protect your tomatoes.
  • If you start now, you will have some lovely edibles in time for holiday dining: Greens planted now can be harvested in as little as two weeks! Bon appétit!

Your December Potted Garden Checklist

1. Continue to plant winter flowers.

2. Deadhead faithfully, and selectively prune longer branches—especially in petunias.

3. Use your water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks with a hose applicator.

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. The Potted Desert Garden now appears monthly.

Published in Potted Desert Garden

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

Many of our homes have been built with a kiva—or fireplace—in the backyard.

This leads to a question: Why? For those long, cold winters? I think not! But we have them, so let’s put them to good use.

Fire or No Fire?

If you think you will use the fireplace in the winter, then you will want to place ceramic pots with low-water, high-heat-tolerant plants closest to the flames. Another option is to use a lightweight pot that can be moved when the heat is on. Either way, planning ahead will make life easier—and lessen the risk of losing plants to the fire’s heat.

Pots that are more distant from the fire can contain your favorite seasonal bouquets with annuals, as well as perennials, trees and shrubs. Use colors that coordinate with your kiva wall color and tiles. Keep it simple, as there is probably a lot already going on with the hardscape, seating areas and pots. Consider a white garden to reflect the firelight and moon light in the cool of the evening. (See an “after” pic above, with the “before” pic below.)

Prioritize your relaxation time

Crafting a small garden around your outdoor fireplace area will create another draw to get you out into your backyard. This is the No. 1 complaint that I hear from desert homeowners: Even with our wonderful, mild winters, they do not use their patios enough. We get caught up in the daily life of work, volunteering and our infamous to-do list. We forget to put some priority on motivating ourselves or even allowing ourselves time to spend outside, on the patio.

Well, with flowers and plants that need attention … we must go out to care for them. While we are there, let’s stay a while.

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

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