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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Desert Inspiration

My trip to the southwest earlier this month was great! And so inspiring in many ways.

Right off the plane, Sheila and I went to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. I've never been to Arizona in May and so I was surprised by the amount of blossom everywhere. And the cactus were in bloom too. By the way, there is a very nice new restaurant there called Gertrudes. Lunch there was a terrific way to start off our holiday.

Just at the entrance to the Gardens was this display of cactus, succulents and other plants in big pots. I saw similar things everywhere we went. Made me want a little version of this at home!

Desert Botanical Garden Phoenix
Of course, some climate variation had to be considered! Succulents (vs Cacti) seemed to be the way to go, seeing as they tolerate extreme heat and cold, and grow through times of both drought and moisture. Which sort of sums up the annual weather picture around here!

So, I rounded up some pots, dug a few 'hens and chicks' (various kinds of Sempervivum for those of you who like to know these things) out of the garden, picked up a couple of other prime specimens at my local nursery and got to work.

The only thing you really need to remember when making a planter like this is good drainage. Both the big ceramic bowls that I used have drainage holes in the bottom, and I added a thick layer of brick chips and stones. A light soil is also a good idea (although these things grow in just about anything I think). So either use special cactus soil, or mix some sand into regular potting soil. I also picked up these pot stands at Dollarama for extra drainage. And thank goodness! We've had 50-60 cm of rain over the last 24 hours!

Check out the big guy in this planter. It's almost 20 cm across. And just to its left, one of the green varietals is already sending up a bloom. These start to look very alien, very quickly.


The plants will spread so the bowls will be well filled by the end of the summer and may even need separating. 

By the way, these plants are hardy to about -30C. So I'll be able to overwinter them.

OK, so it's not the Botanical Gardens, but with a big pot of portulaca and maybe a couple of geraniums I'll have a pretty (and heat resistant) display on my hot and sunny upper deck this summer. Come on over for a drink soon!