The Potted Desert View

The Potted Desert View
This blog is for you, the native or transplanted desert dweller. Our harsh and varied desert climates continually present a challenge for gardeners. Those of you who have moved from a colder climate such as the mid-west or New England, you have most likely tried to find container gardening information that tells you how to grow the kind of garden like you had 'back home.'

Search here to find answers to your potted garden questions.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

December Potted Garden Tips

December Garden Tips
The Last of the Summer Plantings!

Around your own home, you will have extremes in temperatures in "mini" microclimates.  Elevations, nearby washes, hardscape, and orientation of your home all contribute to this phenomenon. If you pay close attention to the differences around your home and in your neighborhood, you will develop a sense of what plants do well for you and what you need to protect in the event of a freeze or frost alert.

Tips for preventing frost damage:
  • Water the plants well the morning before possible frost/freeze.
  • Cover with frost cloth. Do not use plastic covers.
  • Tie or fasten the bottom so that the air does not get under it. Use clothespins!
  • Bring potted plants that are very tender close to protected walls, under carports, in garages or inside if possible.
  • Use Styrofoam cups on columnar cactus tips.
  • Wait to cut back frost damaged branches until March!!

Freeze Alert!

Snow flakes
There is a freeze warning for the Tucson area for  
tonight through Thursday morning.  
Be sure you cover your plants!
  • Cover tender annuals and perennials 
    • Do not use towels or plastic. 
    • Plastic conducts the cold
    • towels hold in the moisture which will then freeze
  • Use Clothespins or rocks to tie down the frost cloths. 
  • Keep plants covered at least until Thursday mid-morning. 
  • Double check the forecast for Thursday night to see if it is ok to uncover.
  • Cover newly planted tender plants.
  • Citrus, tender annuals such as geraniums, euphorbias
  • Agaves and tropical plants.
ml newIf you have any questions, 
email Catherine or me 
and we will try to help.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vegetable Garden Information - A Free Resource from the Master Gardener Program

Use our Master Gardner program through the UA Cooperative Education program for your plant information. 

Vegetable information can be found at

And to save you time - for your winter garden:
Cool-season vegetables include beet, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, lettuce, onion, pea, potato, radish, spinach and turnip. Because they are hardy or frost tolerant and germinate in cold soil they can be planted in winter or early spring depending on location. For best quality these crops need to mature during cooler periods rather than in the heat of the summer.

Monday, November 7, 2011

November Potted Garden Tips

If you are not on my Potted E-News list, maybe you want to be!! Click here to sign up!
In the meantime, here are Novembers tips:

Our Yard of Winter Flowers - ready to go out to our clients!
It is definitely time to plant your winter annuals. Have fun with different textures and colors! Remember not to combine too many colors in one pot.

Keep watering your pots. When you plant new flowers, be sure you do not let those tender new roots dry out.

Roses in November (adapted from the Rose Society of Tucson)

We hope you are enjoying your fall blooms!

Water - if you do not have any annuals in your pots with your roses, you should water every other day.


  • Continue your water soluble fertilizer, until the fall shows are over.
  • Toward the end of November, you no longer want to encourage new growth.
  • Let your roses have a brief rest period for the winter.

  • Keep a watchful eye for powdery mildew. As the nighttime temperatures cool off, the conditions are right for this fungus.
  • At the first signs of mildew on your roses, spray with a fungicide such as Funginex.
  • Unless you have a mildew problem, you should not need to spray.

 If you need any help or have any questions, email me!

Cold Snap Here - Great local Tucson information

The average early frost for Tucson is November 15. Today is only the 7th but here we are with a forecast of 35 degrees tonight. So those living in the colder regions of Tucson and Southern Arizona - beware!

I suggest you bring in your tender tropicals and cover any plants in question. No - this is not a deep freeze but with the warm temperatures we have been having, we have new growth on our plants. Those that are rated as frost tender need to be protected.

For great information on proactive garden planning, check out this article from yesterday's AZ Daily Star.

In the meantime, this weekend will be a great time to plant your winter annuals!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pansies - The Barometer of Tucson's Potted Gardens

Did you see the temperature forecast for this week? It looks like we are finally making it to fall in Tucson! I have always held off our winter annual plantings for our clients until the last week of October. Yes, the flowers are in the nurseries at the beginning of the month and yes, landscapers are planting wildly around town. However, typically we have a high heat spell mid-month and by the end of the month the nighttime temperatures creep under the 60 degree mark.

The reason for the delay is that pansies and violas need those cooler nights to thrive. We want them to last until May through any freezing weather we have. To give them a strong start, we cannot tire them out with high nighttime temps.

...and no - I am not a meteorologist. I do not track the weather except in my memory. In my 14 years in business where I attend a mid-October Octoberfest, I know more years than not, it has been in the 90's for that event. If it is too hot for me to stand out in the sun all day, I know it is too hot for my pansies too!

Need help with your potted gardens? Send me an email and I will be happy to make some recommendations. Also, check out my free potted garden classes this Saturday (Oct 29) I will be talking about creating potted cactus and succulent gardens. Visit  the class link for more information.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Fall is in the air - but watch the return of 90 degrees

Getting Ready for a Party!
Planting and Picture by Martha of The Contained Gardener
The mornings are beautiful! It is certainly a joy to go outside. After our unseasonably cool weather last week, watch out for the temps creeping back up this weekend. I still want to wait another week before planting some of the young tender annual flowers like pansies and violas.

Our flowers are going to start arriving this week! What a glorious time it is to see them all in the yard as we prepare them to go out to our clients' homes and businesses! I will post some pictures so you can enjoy it right along with me!

Shoot me an email if you have any questions!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Fix your landscapes potted gardens now and save!

Have you been away all summer or stayed right here in the Hot Ole Pueblo? Either way, your patio landscape may be suffering and I want to help!
 Email me to take advantage of this offer or call today to make your appointment.

If your gardens don't look like this, you may be throwing your money in the compost heap. We can help by doing it for you or come to our free classes!

Click here for more information on this Saturday's classes. Be sure to scroll down the page for the complete class schedule.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Free Container Gardening Classes - beginning this Saturday!

Saturday, September 17 - Free Classes
8:30 AM  Enhance Your Outdoor Living Spaces 
Your patios, porches and courtyards are extensions of your home as outdoor “rooms” to enjoy, use for entertaining or just for a restful break. 
Learn how to think about and plan these areas with potted gardens to define these rooms, add some dramatic impact with structural plants or maximize a small space.

9:30 AM  Successful Planting in Pots
When planting in containers, there is a definite method for plant survival, particularly in Tucson’s challenging climate. Learn our tried and true techniques to planting successful potted gardens in and for all seasons.

Classes are 45 minutes in length and are held back-to-back in our air-conditioned studio.
Register on our website, email me or by call 733-3359

The Contained Gardener 
2522 E Ft Lowell Rd, Tucson 85716
Just east of Tucson Blvd. Park in the gravel parking lot, studio in the rear of the building.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Potted Gardens - without abundant monsoons

Our monsoon flow has been pretty minimal over the last 10 days. This means our plants are showing signs of a struggle in the heat again. Be sure to give them some TLC and water aplenty during our continued high heat.

Do not fall into a sense of complacency though - be prepared for a monsoon storm. Batten down the hatches as I expect that we will see one this week. NO - I am not a meteorologist so don't go running off to the bank on that comment. :) It just seems that we are due for a storm and in tracking our local meteorologists, the systems are setting themselves up for one.

Have a great day and take time to enjoy the early mornings before the heat hits.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How much water is enough for your potted plants?

Be sure that you have enough rain to stop watering plants. Here are some implications if you jump too fast to just turn it off:

  1. Are some pots under cover where they do not get rain? If you turn off the irrigation, they will dry out pretty quickly.
  2. A deluge of 15 minutes of rain will not deeply soak your pots. Check to see how wet they are 6-8" into the soil for annuals and 10-16" down for perennials, shrubs and trees.
  3. Your pots of flowers are getting daily watering. One day of good rain means you might be able to take a break for one day - not beyond that.
Be Mindful! Check your pots!!
 Keep in mind other Monsoon Cautions:
  • Dump standing water to reduce mosquito populations.
  • Anchor pots to reduce the risk of tipping over in high winds.
  • The same goes for all furniture and patio belongs.
  • Heed monsoon warnings and travel safely!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

How Large is Large?

In the world of pots that is! With Tucson’s desert climate, the smallest suggested size for a potted garden in the sun begins at 18 inches. I add to this recommendation that the measurement is the interior diameter of the pot.  To give your plants a fair chance at survival, they need enough soil to hold moisture and insulate them from the heat.

Too often I speak with people looking for help with what to plant in their pots and when I ask what size they are, they say they are very large. I ask them to define that and the answer is 16 or 18”. In my world of potted designs, this is a small to medium pot.

How large is large? Try this on for size:
16-18” Medium
20-23” Large
24-28” Extra Large and so on.

The biggest pot you can put in the space is the one you want!! The bigger the better in the desert!

Become a Fan of The Contained Gardener on Facebook!
Have a question? Just email Marylee!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Are your roses suffering in the heat?

When I need help with rose questions, the first place I turn is the Rose Society of Tucson. They recently put out some great advice of helping your roses through this heat wave. Visit their website for more information.

Friday, June 24, 2011


Be sure to dump any standing water to lessen the risk of mosquitoes. If you have standing water in pot saucers or fountains, use mosquito dunks or pellets available at most stores in town.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Water Bills

Are your water bills higher than normal?
  1. Turn on the irrigation system and walk around checking for leaks.
  2. Let the water run for a while to be able to check for pooling areas.
  3. Listen for the sound of bubbling or water spouts.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Caring for your Roses

Now that the nighttime temperatures are in the 70’s, powdery mildew won't be a problem for your roses. Keeping the humidity up around your roses will discourage spider mites. You can do this by spraying off the roses each morning and keeping them well watered and mulched. If you need to spray for mites, you will need to use a miticide and NOT a pesticide. Information provided by the Rose Society of Tucson.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Our Heat Continues

Our heat continues so please watch your watering of your pots. I am going to give my landscape cactus a little extra drink of water this weekend as there is no rain in sight and they have not had water since February. Remember though – your potted cactus that are in the sun need weekly watering in the summer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Losing Dirt

I had a call from a client today that her pot that is up on small pot feet is having dirt excavated through its bottom hole. Has anyone else had something crawl in a one inch hole and burrow in so that dirt comes out? 

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Free Potted Garden Landscape Classes - It's not too late to plant!

Saturday, June 11 in Marylee's 

 9:00 AM  Low Water Potted Gardens with Living Color!

10:30 AM  Drought Tolerant Potted Plantings

Please email me to register today!!
2522 E Ft Lowell (East of Tucson Blvd)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Fire Prevention in Coronado National Forest

Friday I said it’s a dry heat – never did I think that our Forest Service would have to close the Coronado Forest to lesson the risk of fires. I know this is being well covered in the news but please make sure your friends know what is going on. There is also a “Fire Map’ online where you can see all the fires in Arizona and New Mexico. 

It is astonishing to look at this map and see all the red dots – and our summer has only just begun. Let’s enjoy our homes and gardens – and keep our lands safe.

Friday, June 3, 2011

But it’s a dry heat

Tucson is dry – that we know. You can create a little more humidity for your potted gardens by grouping them together, especially where they are in the shade or at least afternoon shade. Damp soil and healthy foliage can provide a more comfortable environment for both you and your plants. My shady side of the house, which is filled with pots runs about 10 degrees cooler than the sunny side. That is a huge difference. So when planning pots, include clusters for aesthetic reasons as well as creating that little bit of humidity.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Add summer color to your landscape with your potted garden

Color in the summer in pots! You bet! And some can even be achieved with low water plants such as the potted garden in this picture. Combining purple heart and lantana in a low water pot is terrific! (Now please note – I did not say no water! ) 
Want to learn more? Come to my class on June 11th at 10:30 am. Click here for more information.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What Color is Your Purple?

It is interesting to see how people prefer their colors together when combining flowers in a pot. I have a purple pot at home and plant purple flowers in it each season. This year, I combined red purples with blue purples and I am deciding what I think. Since the pot is viewed from a distance of 30-60 feet, depending on where you are in the yard, I think it works. What do you think? 

Email me at (or hit Like on the Contained Gardener Facebook Page!)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Save Money – Get your questions answered before the dead plant has to go into the compost heap!

Well – the sale is over and a good one too! We probably gave out twice as many answers to questions as plants we sold! I overheard Catherine telling some of our customers that they can always email or call us with questions – and that is what I want you to remember. IF you are not sure – email me your questions. If we don’t have the answers we can help you get them but we often will help you from tossing your money into the compost heap.

Have a great holiday weekend Happy Memorial Day – let’s take a moment to remember all that have served our country and continue to keep us safe and free.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Don’t let your pots go empty all summer

Don’t let your pots go empty all summer. There is still plenty of time to plant everything!! You deserve it so put it at the top of your list – NOW!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Planting at Maynards

Check out this planting at Maynards that we did before Easter. When you go - check out the growth.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

5 Minutes of Gardening Makes a Big Difference

Do you know that 5 minutes of gardening improves both self-esteem and mood as well as making you feel more tranquil, generous and hopeful*?

To me this is both surprising and makes so much sense. I know when I go out to tend my potted garden in my back yard, I quickly feel better than before I went outside and wonder why I don’t get out there more often. And as the eternal optimist, maybe all my gardens have given me more reason to be hopeful, even in our challenging economic times!

Give it a try – go outside and if your garden is one plant or 100, spend 5 minutes tending them and see how you feel. Take a break during your day and I bet you that you will come back inside energized and ready to go!

*A Study in the journal of Environmental Science & Technology

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Free Potted Landscape classes this Saturday!

Not one, but two FREE classes by yours truly, Marylee, The Contained Gardener.

Sat, May 21 at 9am will be Potted Garden TLC – “Getting Started in your Potted Landscape.” Now is the perfect time to start your garden ~ yes – even in the summer in Tucson!

Immediately following at 10:30 am is “Planning and Maintaining your Potted Landscape Irrigation System”  Marylee will help to demystify your irrigation woes when it comes to pots in your landscape.

Registration is required. Go online to to register. Both classes are held in our air-conditioned Design Studio at 2522 E Ft Lowell Rd. Just east of Tucson Blvd, across from Zona Fountains. If you need more information, call 733-3359 and leave a message for me!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Tucson Tips for Geraniums

Yesterday I mentioned Lowe’s insert in the paper. They also had a little article about geraniums. The information is complete – with one caution for Tucson’s summer climate. Geraniums in the summer should not receive more than a couple hours of early morning sun. It is best if they have an eastern exposure moving into shade by 9am or so. We also expect our geraniums to ‘brown out’ by late July and August. When this happens, cut them back to their lowest point and either shade them or plant some flowers around them to provide a natural shade. You will be rewarded by having fresh wonderful plants in the early fall. Be sure to let them dry somewhat between waterings as they don’t like their feet constantly wet!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Not all plants can weather a Tucson Summer

You might have received a Lowe’s insert called Creative Ideas for Home and Garden  in the AZ Star this week. While I find some of the ideas inspiring – be mindful if you are tempted to try some of the plant combinations as these magazines are made for the entire country and while Tucson is part of the U.S. many of these plants are not for our summer!! If you want more information, send me an email with your questions:  

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Troubles with Trees

This week in my garden I removed two seemingly dead Mexican Lime trees. They had ‘suckers’ coming up from the root stock but the limbs were gone. Since the root stock will not bear good fruit, I decided to give up. My grapefruit tree, however is still giving me mixed messages so I am going to be even more patient and wait it out. I have given it some extra drinks of water and will fertilize it again this month. Stay tuned and we will see if it honors me with growth this spring!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

My own philosophy about the freeze

I have my own philosophy about the freeze. The plants that made it through are giving us a real show of color this spring – roses especially!! See this picture of one of our client’s roses. What a treat for our field technicians to go out and care for these gardens and be rewarded with this kind of bloom! And it is not just the roses – many other plants have given us great color and scents that just fill our senses with delight!

Friday, April 29, 2011

We will be living in a hair dryer!!

Happy Friday! We have a wind alert for today with high temperatures. Be sure to water your pots well this morning to serve as ballast and to protect your plants from drying out in the wind and heat. One of my colleagues, Marion Hook from @Adobe Rose Inn said yesterday, “Like we will be living in a hair dryer!!” Well put Marion!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A super–surgence of spring blooms!

Here we are in the 90 degree range and the topic out there is still the Big Freeze! Have you seen this year’s cactus flowers, the roses and how many plants that did survive are coming back stronger than ever?!! I think we all need some rejuvenation and that is what the freeze has done. I am sorry for our losses but get out there and enjoy the new growth and ‘super – surgence’ of spring blooms!!’

Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Different Way to Get Potted with The Contained Gardener

   A new client - let's call her Wanda had come to one of my potted gardening classes last fall. Last month she took advantage of the certificate I had sent her to have me do a consultation at her home for $100 instead of my usual fee of $125.
   During that visit, we talked about where she would like to have pots and pockets of color. I designed a pot layout for her and in our conversation, she said she would really like to do some of the work herself. Our next step was to go pot shopping!

   Yesterday we did just that. We went to Pottery Blowout and Glazed Expressions and Wanda chose and purchased eight new pots! While at my studio, we were discussing the design for the floral combinations for her pots and although she wants to do the planting herself, she had asked me to design the plantings.
   I suggested that I not only design the plantings for her new pots but that I obtain the flowers and she can pick them up from our yard when they come in, take them home with enough soil and with the written plan, have her family help plant them!
   I think Wanda is going to save quite a bit of money by "Getting Potted' with us this way. She and her family are not hesitant to put in the work and she will still end up with a designed patio worthy of her beautiful home!
Come back to visit and I will show you some pictures of the results!

Monday, March 14, 2011

2011 Arctic Freeze - Further information

What happened to our plants in our February, 2011 “Arctic Freeze’
   In our desert climate, we do not have cooling temperatures during the winter that put our woody plants (trees and shrubs) into a true state of dormancy. When a plant does go into full dormancy, it develops freeze tolerance. Just as we are not very tolerant of freezing temperatures, nor can our plants be tolerant!
   As our temperatures drop well below freezing and stay low for a period of time as they did in February, ice crystals form inside the cells. These intracellular ice crystals rupture cell membranes, resulting in leakage of the cell contents. Thus, tissues injured by low temperatures often appear water-soaked and are flaccid.

The Relationship between a Full Moon and a Frost – not science-based proof!
1.      If a warm air mass is on top of us, it holds the heat in and we typically will not get a frost.
2.      The heat of the sun is reflected by the moon.
3.      Frosts are more likely the closer we are to a full moon, because the heat reflected by a full or nearly full moon is enough to evaporate the water in the upper atmosphere that otherwise would have reflected the sun’s heat back to earth. When the water evaporates, heat escapes and the air gets colder.
   However, many of those on the Internet that have looked at this issue are known to say, when it's clear you're more likely to see them.

And now that you are getting around to reading this, I expect the danger of any substantial frost or freezing in the Tucson area is over. Before you know it, we will be talking about how hot it is!!!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Check back early next week for more information

Thank you for checking in - I hope you arrived here from my most recent Potted E-News! I am planning to complete all the added information that I spoke of in this issue early next week.

Can you do me a favor and check back on Tuesday? By then too, we will know the long range forecast and be ready to do some serious pruning!!

Thanks again! Have a great weekend!