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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Container, Raised-Bed and Collage Gardens

Use of container and raised-bed gardens is a practical and ever popular choice with many homeowners.  Integrated around your outdoor living areas, they add warmth and character to areas that could otherwise be hard and uninviting.  Also, backyards are now typically smaller than years ago, therefore containers can make an excellent patio garden. They’ll add greenery, architectural interest and structure to the patio and around the yard.  Container gardens also lend themselves to the renter as well as the homeowner.  Raised-bed gardens also add to an area and can also be a practical solution for gardeners with limited mobility.
Container and raised-bed gardens can be done in various sizes of areas and pots, In Arizona automating the irrigation with a loop laser drip system makes them a lot easier to maintain during the summer months than they once were. 
Soil Mix  
When planning a raised-bed or container garden, use a good soil mix.  A peat moss-base soil mix is a poor choice for our Arizona conditions because water wicks out of the soil mix easily.  Years ago I designed a soil mix called,’B-2 Mix,’ especially for our Arizona conditions.  Professional horticulturists, landscapers, resorts and hotels have been using this mix for their container pots and raised beds for more than 20 years.  The mix contains specially acidified mulch, sand and top soil as well as all the necessary nutrients and a bio-culture containing beneficial soil microbes.  This mix is a proven performer, good for flowers, herbs, vegetables and ornamental shrubs. 
When designing your floral scheme for pots and raised beds, take into consideration the color of the pot or wall material.  Choose complimentary and contrasting colors, textures and heights to add visual boost to the area.  Choose plants that cascade out of the pot, compact plants and upright plants to give height variations to the collage.  Vines also work well for both the cascading affect as well as upright with a decorative trellis for adding vertical interest.  The mixing of herbs and perennials adds a lot of intense color and fragrance … not to mention butterflies and hummingbirds. Also take into consideration your cover material.  Personally, I think raised beds look better with colored mulch or bark rather than granite.  Additionally, the bark and mulch cools the area and is more appealing to the eye. 
These may also be grown in container and raised-bed gardens successfully.  When planting, take into consideration how big they’re going to get at maturity and allow enough room for the plant to grow and develop.  If you crowd vegetables they will stunt and not develop properly and give poor yield.  Also, consider that the warmer it gets, the more area is needed for root development.  Roots need lots of soil to keep them cool. Use the ‘rule of two’: if the plant is two feet in diameter, the root system is about double that, or four feet in diameter.  Crowding plants for visual affect may work in some instances for ornamentals but for growing vegetables sufficient root development is key.


Herbs grow excellently in containers because they’re a small ornamental plant and you can use a variety to compliment each other.  Of course, herbs will be more compact when pruning them for their edible qualities.  Mixing flowers with herbs can be stunning, like lavender or society garlic, mixed with nasturtium, which is also edible.  Reminder: if you have insect problems on your edible plants use organic neem oil for control.
Type of Planter
With so many planter materials available, steer clear of wood planters.  Wood swells from the moisture and also gets dry rot, as well as being susceptible to termites, so it’s better to go with ceramic or concrete materials.  Sealing wood is not advised because many sealers fume or put off chemicals that suppress the roots.  Also NEVER use railroad ties for planter beds.  The creosote in railroad ties is a carcinogenic and can be absorbed by the plants.  Also, with pots and raised beds always make a drainage hole and cover with gravel in the bottom to keep salts moving out of the soil when watering.
Collage Planting
Containers and raised bed gardens lend themselves well for use with collage style planting.  My favorite is the Arizona collage that mixes desert-adapted ornamentals with perennials, herbs, and annuals.  Most recently we have designed Arizona collage landscapes using only blooming trees, or fruiting trees such as citrus, peaches, apricots, and then the mid-story plants selected for their growth habits in various micro-climates around the yard, and plants that bloom at various times of the year. 
Shade Plants
With many homes being on small lots, we frequently need plants that are adaptable to more shade than you might imagine for Arizona. Shade-loving plants typically consume more water than a desert-adapted plant, so plan to use larger irrigation emitters on those.  Additionally, shade-loving plants will typically bloom in the summertime where a lot of desert plants go into summer dormancy, so this adds a lot of color and fragrance to the collage.  Personally, I like to use vines such as passion vine, star jasmine, and angel wing.  They are all are extremely fragrant and colorful. 
Outdoor Features—Kitchens and BBQs            
Architecturally speaking, the collage garden marries well with the use of arbors with climbing plants and vines, and creates the relaxing setting for outdoor cooking and entertaining.  BBQ’s can be made of a variety of products.  Featured is a strong, but lightweight, Glass Fiber Reinforced Concrete (GFRC) Add appliances such as stainless steel burner, barbeque, rotisserie, cooler, etc. and cover with a beautiful weatherproof slab granite countertop.   
Seatwells and Garden
Creative hardscapes create a front courtyard into a private retreat allowing the user to enjoy the neighborhood along with their privacy.  The flagstone patio features a Frank Lloyd Wright sprite statute.  The seat wall, capped with matching flagstone, borders the planter area that creates the living privacy screen. The use of flagstone as a meandering path in the garden allows one to walk through and enjoy something interesting every day. Many times we will do a simple water feature such as a cobalt blue pot bubbling over into a pondless water feature to add the enjoyment and romance of the sound of splashing water.



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