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When trying to decide what to fill our containers with, most people gravitate toward colorful, flowering annuals. For those of us who live in the Southwest, we are equally likely to fill our pots with cacti or succulents, which thrive in our dry climate.

However, did you know that plants aren’t the only thing that looks great in containers?  In fact, what many people would consider ‘trash’ can actually transform the look of a container and your outdoor space.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

Dried plant material can add a unique and striking look to the landscape when showcased in a pot.

Besides decorating your outdoor space, they aren’t particular about sun, shade and are perfectly happy without any water or fertilizer.

In this particular case, I had a lovely blue container in my front entry that had stood empty for longer than I would care to admit to.  The opening was too small for most plants and it sat in the shade for most of the day making it difficult to grow colorful annuals.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

On a recent visit to a client whose home was surrounded by the natural desert, I found some dried plant material that would soon find its way to my house.

Among a pile of yard debris mixed in with cut tree branches and branch clippings were several dried yucca flowering stalks that had been pruned away and were waiting to be put in the trash.

Now most people would probably walk right by this pile of discarded plant material and understandably so.  But, I was on the lookout for items that the homeowner could use for a walled in patio, which was quite bare and received hot, reflected sun for most of the day.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

My thought was to add colorful, glazed containers in order to bring welcome color to this space and fill them with cacti.

yucca

However, once I saw the dried yucca stalks, I decided that they would make a striking filler for a container.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

The homeowner, who enjoys designing the interior of her home, saw the potential right away and selected three stalks.

soaptree yucca (Yucca elata)

The flowering stalks came from a magnificent soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) that they had growing in their front yard.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

The homeowners graciously offered to give me a few of the stalks to take home.

 blue container

I knew that my empty blue container would make the perfect home for dried yucca stalks.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

While I love my new dried yucca stalks – they are just a few natural items that can be used in containers.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

This large, dried flowering stalk from an agave would look fabulous in a container and displayed in the corner of an entry or patio.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

Discarded canes from an ocotillo that would otherwise be headed toward the landfill can find new purpose as a filler for containers.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

A saguaro skeleton would make a dramatic statement if ‘planted’ in a large container.

Fuss Free Container Plantings

On my recommendation, this client gave up trying to grow flowering annuals in her shady entry and add colorful containers with bamboo poles.

Do you have a location where you’d like to have containers, but whatever you plant there dies?

Do any of the following situations where you’d like to have containers apply to you?

– Too much shade or sun

– Access to irrigation is limited

– You are gone for long lengths of time and can’t care for container plants

– Worried about staining the concrete or tile underneath the container from mineral buildup from watering

– You tend to kill anything you plant

If you are dealing with one or more these situations you may want to look at adding dried plant material to your containers for a unique and fuss-free look that will add beauty to your outdoor space.

It’s All About the Leaves: Creative Container Plantings

This past weekend, I was on a mission.

My mission was to replace the few plants that had died in my in-laws garden as well as replace their warm-season annuals with cool-season ones.

Unfortunately, I could not indulge my creative side and re-design the landscape that I had originally created 9 years ago because my mother-in-law wanted to keep everything the same as it was before.

My father-in-law was a meticulous gardener and was beautiful, perfectly pruned and very neat and tidy (very much unlike my own messy and untidy garden 😉

As his illness progressed, I started to take over care of his prized landscape.  Now that he has passed away, I still care for it.  Every Sunday night, we go over and have dinner with my mother-in-law.  We always arrive a bit early so that my husband can do miscellaneous tasks around the house and I help in the garden.

And so back to my mission – I had to find the exact same plants that had died over the summer.  Now for those of you who do a lot of planting – you know it can be hard to find everything you need at a single nursery.  

local nursery

Well, I still harbored unrealistic hope that I would miraculously find all that I needed in one place.  I started at our big box store and found the geraniums that I needed (they had to be red).But, unfortunately, they had nothing else that I needed.

So, off to the second nursery, which is a locally owned chain.  I scored a bit “zero” there.  Then I drove on the a third nursery.

local nursery

Local Nursery

I love this particular local nursery.  It is very large, they have a huge selection and the staff is very knowledgeable.

You may be wondering at this point, why I didn’t start at this nursery first if it all that wonderful?

Well, the problem I find myself often being tempted to buy some of the unique and hard to find plants that they offer.

And so, I arrived at the nursery and started searching for the plants my mother-in-law needed – Angelita Daisy, Blackfoot Daisy, Firecracker Penstemon and Golden Barrel.

I did my best as I walked through the nursery to stay focused on my mission – to buy plants only for my mother-in-law and NOT for myself.

local nursery

Local Nursery

I found the Firecracker Penstemon, which is hard to find this time of year.  Now, I realize that it is not all that impressive looking in a small black container.  But, it looks fabulous once you plant it and it blooms in winter and in spring….

local nursery

I also found the other plants that I needed except for the Blackfoot Daisy.

Now, I had all the plants that I needed.  But did I leave the nursery at this point?

No.  I decided that my resolve was strong and that I wouldn’t buy any plants for myself and so it was okay to stroll through the nursery and take some pictures.

local nursery

Local Nursery

They had many cool-season annuals to choose from, but I already had all I needed at home, so I wasn’t the slightest bit tempted.

Until….

local nursery

I spotted this Black Petunia.

local nursery

Aren’t the flowers just gorgeous?

I looked to find a plant tag to see what variety they were, but it was missing.

Well, I really liked these Petunias, but didn’t really have a place to put them, so I pressed onward.

local nursery

I walked by a mini grove of Bamboo.  Many people are surprised to find the Bamboo can grow in the desert.  As long as they receive enough water, they do well in our zone 9 area.

Blue Salvia

Among the cool-season annuals, I spotted a bunch of Blue Salvia.  Normally, they are grown as warm-season annuals and they do very well.  I used to plant them in pots around golf courses, but I haven’t used them in years.  I’m not sure why, but I think I will try planting them late next spring.

local nursery

As I pressed, on I noticed movement among the plants.  This rooster was busy eating the tops of the plants.

You know, I think that roosters and chickens give a nursery a ‘homey’ feel, don’t you?  Kind of like a cat in a bookstore or knitting shop.

succulent collection

Of course, no nursery located in the desert is complete without its succulent collection.

Golden Barrel, Argentine Giant Cactus, Fishhook Barrel, Cereus, Saguaro, Agave and much more was available.

Agave

Here is a helpful hint….

Did you know that often Agave have more then one plant in the container?  That is because many species of Agave reproduce ‘pups’.

So, when you are out to buy an Agave, look for one that has more then one plant in the container.  Then when you are ready to plant them, simply cut the smaller agave from the mother plant and plant them as well.

bare root Ocotillo

The nursery had a large collection of bare root Ocotillo.

I love Ocotillo and was given one by my kids on Mother’s Day a few years ago.

Ocotillo do leaf out off and on throughout the year and produce vermillion colored flowers….

local nursery

As you can see, I was having a great time at the nursery.

There is more I would like to share with you.  I found some different ways to use everyday plants AND I have yet to show you two different plants that I was sorely tempted to buy.

At this point however, I think this post is long enough and I don’t want to bore you, so please come back for “Part Two”.

Further Temptations at the Nursery…