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Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Landscape Design in the Desert

Smart landscape design provides stylish places to relax in your yard, adds beautiful colors, fragrances, cool shady areas, and can enhance overall curb appeal and invite nature to your home.

Here in Arizona, our outdoor living spaces keep us connected to nature and offer a relaxing atmosphere to spend time with family and friends. Smart landscape design provides stylish places to relax in your yard, adds beautiful colors, fragrances, cool shady areas, and can enhance overall curb appeal and invite nature to your home. Of course, we do live in Arizona. Low-water-use plants are a conscientious way to achieve spectacular aesthetic results around your home this fall and show an appreciation for our desert climate. 

Landscape design with water in mind

Half of household water – in some cases as much as 70% – goes into our landscape, making it especially important to be efficient in our design and maintenance. The extended drought and recent announcement of a Tier-1 Colorado River shortage declaration (projected for January 2022) reinforces the gravity of being responsible with all the water we have. Water conservation must be a part of our long-term management strategy and lifestyle and is why we all need to be smart about the water we have. It just makes good sense for our landscapes to be designed with the low-water-use principles of Xeriscape.

Sow the seeds for a more sustainable future. 

So, are you wanting more hummingbirds and buzzing bees? Fragrant flowers? Shady trees? Water conservation becomes poetic in its beauty when desert landscaping balances plant aesthetics and dry climate mindfulness. At Water – Use It Wisely, we show Arizona desert dwellers how easy it is to conserve water through good landscaping habits. Think of our website wateruseitwisely.com as your trusted, go-to water conservation resource. We have a lot of expertise thanks to our 18 partners who contribute to the campaign. But our goal is to bring you the best information and advice from other local experts like the University of Arizona Master Gardeners, landscape and plant nursery members, irrigation or rainwater harvesting experts, and more. 

Where to begin fall planting?  

Fall is the prime time to plant trees, shrubs, and spring wildflowers in most areas of Arizona. From late September through early December soil temperatures are still warm, encouraging root growth and development. Planting now allows plants to become established before next summer’s heat sets in. Also, with cooler temperatures, plants need less water, and it is a much more forgiving time of year to put new plants in the ground. We’ve created a micro-site, waterplantitwisely.com, dedicated to low-water-use landscaping and planting tips. The website provides fall landscaping ideas and is helpful for anyone who seeks guidance on best home gardening practices. Here are some of the topics you’ll find:

Drab to Fab Video Series: Ten short videos follow a landscape transition that took place in Avondale. It provides you with steps to take, and don’t miss video 10 for a fun time-lapse of the installation.

Rainwater Harvesting: The generous monsoon season reminded us to ask ourselves why should we pay for water when it’s free? Learn how to direct beneficial rainfall to your plants.

Welcoming Wildlife to Your Garden: While we have numerous blogs on this topic, we like to feature this beautiful booklet from the Glendale that will show you what plants to select to provide great habitat.

Design Themes –  this design booklet from Scottsdale provides design ideas for unique landscape options like Birdscape, Colorscape, EZscape, Flutterscape, Nativescape, Shadescape, and Verdescape. 

Is Artificial Grass What You’re Looking For? OK, it’s complicated. While it can save water, artificial grass can reach temperatures of 200-degrees during our hot summers. We have nine additional tips to help you with this decision.

Of course, we have more on Xeriscape principles including plant selection, irrigation, how to water properly, and more. The best part? We provide you the guidance needed to keep it simple and affordable, and to do-it-yourself or hire a pro. Now, let’s do some gardening!


The Seven Principles of Xeriscape Design

Xeriscaping is defined by seven horticultural principles which help to ensure that landscapes, wherever they are located, reflect a sensitivity to the local environment and its climate. You can find more details on each principle at wateruseitwisely.com.

  1. Planning and Design
  2. Soil Improvement & Grading
  3. Practical Turf Areas
  4. Efficient Irrigation & Water Harvesting
  5. Mulching
  6. Low-Water Use Plants
  7. Appropriate Maintenance


Who is Water – Use It Wisely?

The Water – Use It Wisely campaign was launched in 1999 to promote an ongoing water conservation ethic among Arizona’s rapidly growing population. We want to bring more attention to Arizona water topics and issues, which can be both unique and complex, and to inspire our water users as to the best ways to use water wisely in our state.

Partners include the municipalities of Avondale, Buckeye, Chandler, El Mirage, Glendale, Goodyear, Mesa, Peoria, Phoenix, Queen Creek, Scottsdale, Surprise, and Tempe as well as the Arizona Department of Water Resources, Central Arizona Project/CAGRD, EPCOR Water, Global Water Resources, and Salt River Project.

Donna DiFrancesco is a Conservation Coordinator at the City of Mesa (a Water – Use It Wisely partner) where she educates Mesa residents about Xeriscape, water conservation, living green and sustainability. She dreams of someday taking on a superhero persona as Xeriscape Woman, wearing a large “X” on her chest, and carrying an ironwood branch magic wand that will turn dull, grassy lawns into beautiful Xeriscapes.

Keep up with all of Green Living’s original content online and on social media.


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