Sunday, September 4, 2011

Container Gardening

Yesterday, I wrote about low maintenance plants in your garden.  Today I am going to go even lower:) Like most people, everyone's on the run.  Gotta go go go. And then you become like my Grandma wanting people to visit but they can't because they are so busy which makes her bored and then she starts gambling and watching QVC. Did I capture the chaotic feel of that last run-on sentence?:)  When does it end? Let's not think about the answer to that question:) Anyhow, today's post is an interesting one for people who may not be aware that having pots and plants could be a lot easier than you think. 
A lot of things swarm around in my brain and thankfully, this blog allows me to write down those ideas ahead of time.  I'll schedule a post with a title, like "Container Gardening", and wonder what it was that I was wanting to say.  But luckily I always jot down some notes inside the post to remind me what it was that I needed to mention.   As a docent, I'm always trying to think of ways to help out the Tucson gardener when I can, but this information may also assist other people who live outside of the Sonoran desert.  For this particular post, 2 things came to my mind beyond the "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" concept of a container garden. 
Before I started blogging, and more importantly writing again, I worked 3 jobs just to pay the bills. My life is less hectic now and I am thankful for getting older.  The 20's and early 30's were great, but I wouldn't want to relive them again.  As the government is paying off its trillion dollar debt, I am also doing the same (student loans!!).  I finally see a light at the end of the tunnel after all these years of struggle. I'm definitely a product of the "work hard to achieve your goals" and "do it yourself" type person.  Several years ago I ended the crazy work schedule I had when I began to suffer health problems in my mid-30's.  I taught, worked a part to full time job with special needs people, landscaped, and took on extra duties as Department Chair as well as sitting in as Vice President on my HOA board.  Anyway I could pay the bills, I did.  It was during this 10 year time period that I met a lot of people in really bad situations who didn't have health care or a quality life. I'm getting off topic here, but it's important to note that during my work with people who have developmental disabilities, I discovered some wonderful services to help people out.
As you may or may not know, there have been a lot of cuts to state spending and as a result, a lot of agencies have had to budget on a dime.  Group homes can look like sterile places or they can look like our homes.  It all depends on the staff and care of that particular environment.  We all love working in the garden because it's a part of who we are.  We spend that time outside because it's what we do.  But I discovered most people don't care about their yards or what they look like because they are struggling to pay their own bills.  Some of the group homes reflected this attitude with empty and weedy backyards...yet many of the staff would take a cigarrette break to relax.  I don't like smoking but I did enjoy taking a break from the work and stepping outside once and awhile.  And here is where my topic begins:) A program coordinator and manager cared enough to make the group home a better place and contacted an outside agency to bring in plants for a resident who loved sitting outside on the patio area.  
One day I arrived to work and discovered beautiful pots with lots of lovely flowers in them.  There was also an irrigation drip system connected to the 3 artsy containers.  They surrounded the patio area and were always maintained by someone outside of the group home. There was a monthly cost which at first, I thought was ridiculous, but again, I wasn't there 24/7 to make sure the plants would be watered.  Over time, I came to really enjoy those large pots as I cooked dinner, filled that mop bucket, or just took a break to gather my wits.   Container gardening isn't for everyone, but since this short series on low maintenance gardening is on LOW care, I thought I'd share this idea with those of us who like plants but don't have the time.  There are several companies in the Tucson area that will come in and create a container garden/s for people who have the extra cash.  They'll maintain your pots on a timely basis and at a fairly reasonable price.  For me, this was a luxury and a waste of money as I garden and do everything myself.  Today I have a better understanding for why this service exists and appreciate that it's there for people who need it.  I was certainly glad we had it for the group home because it made the place feel and look better.  
In the mid 90's, I met a woman by the name of Marylee who, like me, loves plants.  But she took her passionate business concept out into the community of Tucson and today, runs "The Contained Gardener".  I knew she was out there doing well, but it wasn't until she was featured in the Phoenix Home and Garden magazine that I realized she had "made it".  Her work can be found at her website, The Contained Gardener.  There's a lot of information on her site so I'll post the link......  We are fortunate to have so many resources at our tips here in Tucson.  I hope these last two posts will help some of you get started on your own landscape.  It doesn't have to be a scary thing.  For me, it all began with that spider plant in college.  For you, it might be the prickly pear or silver torch cactus.......


  1. Interesting twists and varied thoughts in this post, Chris! I agree...I would not EVER go back to my 18-35 years, except to go into a different career and not move here!

    And low maintenance container plantings - I like their single plant boldness, and I've seen this topic lately. People "getting it"!

  2. Gracias David:) I'm laughing right now about your relationship with New Mexico. I shouldn't laugh, but I understand how you feel. It's a beautiful state full of native grasses and rolling areas:) And I honestly still am puzzled over how agaves survived that freeze??!!! Incredible. I think you and I both at the same point in our lives. I've been doing my education thing for so long that it's a part of who I am....but it's not all of who I am as it had been before. We get settled and it makes "starting over" or "adding on" challenging. But I'd do it all over again. Not that we're old:)

  3. Plenty of ideas here... I started years ago with plenty of pots with different plants and the only winners at this very date are the Aloe Vera ones!

  4. What a great business idea to provide these containers. While my mom was in the hospital recently, I noticed all the plants throughout the building and thought, "a person could have a full time job taking care of all of these and maybe others in different businesses." Hmmmm

  5. Hi Chris,
    Otherworldly and beautiful pictures of those potted succulents!
    Hey, you're going to be my best friend for awhile while I search through your blog for desert gardening ideas for.....HOUSTON! Our climate has shifted to such a severe, arid condition that I'm not certain I can ever go back to what I had before.
    Our entire pine/hardwood forests are brown and in the throes of death and I'm calling it the great die off. And trees in our yards not watered from this point on will probably die unless we get rain soon. We are 25 inches below normal since last September! Currently we've had 11 inches of annual rain instead of the normal 32 for this point in the year!
    Thanks for all of your tireless posts this past summer detailing plants from the botanical gardens and in your desert garden.
    Tropical Storm Lee missed us entirely. Clouds, wind, but only a few drops of water. Louisiana is flooded.
    David/ Tropical (Dust)Texana/ Houston

  6. It really makes me sad what you folks are going through in Houston. I actually stopped in Houston this summer at the airport for several hours on our way to Panama and thought about you and your garden. At the time there had been a rain shaft over one part of the city. So that beautiful forest surrounding the airport is turning all brown? That's an amazing area of trees. I really hope you folks get some rain. There are droughts like we are experiencing here in Tucson and then there are extreme droughts that have a huge impact on our environment. That's an incredible loss of rain fall. I hope you find some desert solutions for your woodland area. Tropicals here have to be in pots. There is a post from awhile back showing a lush back yard full of a cacti jungle. Just be careful...if that rain comes back which I suspect it will...cacti and succulents can rot from too much water. Our pattern here in Tucson sometimes displays an extreme drought with a super wet year following. Good luck! Chris

  7. I find your garden so interesting, so different than my Iowa garden.


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