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Potted Desert Garden

23 Jun 2015
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Volunteer plants! We often get surprised by something we did not plant that shoots up. These plants can come from previous plantings, seeds carried in by the wind, and even bird droppings. One of the nicest surprises is when alyssum plants (above) pop up during late summer rains. We might find volunteer vinca, and some volunteer cactus in a hidden shady spot. (Feel free to move the cactus after the summer heat has dissipated. It may not be growing where you will want it to mature.) Think of the potential reward when we grow any cactus that surprises us with spring or fall blooms! Below, you can see some summer flowers that decided to sprout up at my desert home. They came up in areas where there obviously was some water runoff from irrigation. Enjoy! Marylee Pangman is the founder and former owner of The Contained Gardener in Tucson, Ariz.…
16 Jun 2015
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Desert homeowners often complain about birds eating their potted plants and flowers. Unfortunately, I have not come up with any way of truly deterring them. Some people try bird nets, pepper spray and spinning reflective objects such as CDs, pinwheels, etc. However, birds seem pretty smart and focused when there is something they want. The biggest surprise is going out to a pot—and finding nest full of eggs. Often, you will discover your pot has become a quail’s nest. The lucky homeowner often will ask: What should I do?! The best idea is to keep the pot (if living plants are sharing the pot with the mother quail) slightly moist. When you water, it will scare the mama bird away, but she will come back. Quail and most other birds are very devoted to their offspring. With patience, you will be rewarded with a covey of quails following Mom and…
09 Jun 2015
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Shade is a good thing during our hot summers—and some ground-cover plants offer a lot of great shade for our summer pots! The entire vinca family (perennial groundcover vincas) will grow easily, even in our summer heat, as long as the plants are in the shade. Above, you have a picture of the beautiful gold and green variegated vinca, “Golden Illuminations.” You will have no problem keeping the plant going down the sides of the pot. You can also find vinca major and vinca minor, with deep, glossy green leaves; one of the few differences in the two varieties is leaf size: Major leaves are about twice the size of minor leaves. Each variety also comes in a variegated style. (The variegated vinca major is pictured to the right.) Another key difference between major and minor is the growth height. Vinca major will grow to 10 inches tall, even in…
02 Jun 2015
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A lot of us living in the desert did not grow up here. We came from up North, back East or elsewhere on the West Coast. We may have gardened easily in those regions thanks to ample rain, plenty of moderate sun and simple conditions. Many transplanted gardeners yearn for their gardens from back home. But now, faced with the challenges of the desert, we might give up and not even bother, once we see the thermometer hitting the 95 degree mark. I have been sharing tips on not only surviving the desert summer, but having gardens that thrive, for almost two decades now. Today, I want to give you permission to try something different: Go ahead and plant something that you loved back home. The photo above shows a bed of coleus. These wonderful, colorful, leafy plants are being hybridized to handle increasingly hot climates. Some even can take…
26 May 2015
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Looking for a gorgeous, colorful flower pot for our extensive Coachella Valley summer? Here is a combination that will stand up to a full summer of heat. The 28-inch pot pictured above is filled with overflowing vinca in red and white; white summer snaps (Angelonia); and a Silver Queen euonymus shrub, planted for permanent stature in the center of the pot. If you have a cool side, you can add the Million Bells (Calibrachoa), shown on the bottom right of the picture. However, it may be best-suited to fall seasons or higher elevations. To keep these plants happy, be sure to water twice a day for the first two weeks. As the plants grow large enough to shade the soil, you should be able to reduce your watering to once a day. Feed them every two weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer, and jet-spray them off at least weekly in the…