While lovely to look at, flowers can sometimes be too short lived for the amount of work that often goes into their cultivation and maintenance. Gardeners who are looking for an alternative to the standard flower bed have plenty of options to choose from, allowing them to create a bold statement not dominated by blooms.
Aloe vera, a member of the Liliaceae family, is an attractive ornamental that is also useful for medicinal purposes. Native to Northern Africa, the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, and naturalized in many other warm climates, aloe vera is a medium-sized succulent that has toothed, waxy grayish-green leaves. The plant is easily grown in warm regions in well-drained, gravelly soil. Aloe vera requires full sunlight, and those who get sunburn while tending to the plant can break the leaves to release a soothing sap to rub on burns.
Yucca plants make an unusual alternative to standard herbaceous flowers, giving an exotic edge to any warm, arid garden. The Soaptree yucca (Yucca elata), named after the soaplike substance within the plant, is a popular ornamental that boasts spiky foliage and a tall stem with clusters of tiny creamy blooms. The plant is found in the wild throughout the Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts of the American Southwest and Mexico. Soaptree yucca requires extremely well-drained soils and full sunlight.
Evergreen shrubs are useful tools in the garden, filling in empty spaces and providing texture. Shrubs are often used to attract wildlife to a garden, or as a wall or barrier. English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) is a popular evergreen shrub and can be grown into a tree. The traditional plant has been grown in Europe for more than 400 years, and the plant is native to both Southeast Europe and Southwest Asia. English Laurel is an excellent choice for gardeners working with shady gardens, as some varieties will tolerate full shade. Slightly acidic soil is preferable for this plant.