Desert landscaping in Arizona involves emulating the beauty of the natural desert and incorporating it in a residential setting. This does not necessarily mean having a minimalist yard with cactus and rock mulch as ground cover. Arizona homeowners new to desert landscaping are sometimes surprised by the variety of plants and trees available to them while keeping to a low water usage design. The colors, textures and sizes of plants that can be combined are only limited by the designer's imagination.
Plan a Series of Zones
Separate the area into zones, with each zone serving a different function and featuring different types of plants. You could have a pond area with river rock, shade trees and a bench for sitting and relaxing to the sound of the running water. Another part of the yard could be a desert garden with all low water usage plants such as cacti and succulents along with a meandering pathway to stroll and admire the beauty of the desert landscaping. Arizona homeowners are increasingly emphasizing water conservation in their landscape designs, but one popular trend is adding a small lush oasis with grass and greenery to provide cooling relief in the summer and give the homeowner a place to entertain friends and family. Just by nature of its modest dimensions, the grassy area will be a bold contrast to the desert plants that surround it.
Add Spots of Color
Large flower beds can require lots of care and maintenance. The extreme temperature changes during the year in the desert cause stress on perennial or annual flowers that might flourish in a cooler climate. There's no reason the desert gardener can't have a few pots filled with flowers strategically placed to create colorful focal points in various parts of the yard. Arizona gardeners often incorporate wildflowers that flourish in the desert climate and bloom colorfully in the spring such as pink penstemon or superstition mallow, with its orange-yellow flowers.
Texture and Height Contrast Adds Interest
Desert plants such as the agave family of plants, as well as many species of cacti, have a harsh appearance, complete with thorns or spines. Fortunately, desert plants come in a wide variety of textures. Many succulents are softer in texture, such as the elephant's food plant (also known as African jade). Mixing these plants can provide interesting contrast while still maintaining a desert theme. Plants of various heights can add interest to a landscape, such as pairing the tall and stately saguaro cactus, whose blossom is the state flower of Arizona, with smaller, rounded prickly pear cactus.
Use Slope Creatively
Many homeowners have sloping areas of their yard that they aren't sure how to landscape, and leaving it bare can create erosion problems during the heavy rains of Arizona's monsoon season. Try creating terraces by building a series of retaining walls and filling them in with soil. The same effect can be achieved on a flat property by creating an elevated area with a retaining wall and filling it in with soil. Eyes are naturally drawn to terraces. Additional interest can be created by putting in plants that tumble over the wall. Building steps up the terraces can make your garden path more interesting.