Water conservation has become a major theme of Arizona homeowners' landscape designs. As the state's population has grown during the last two decades, making the best use of finite water resources has become critical. Municipalities have undertaken efforts to educate the public about xeriscape landscape designs, which use plants that require minimal or no irrigation. No longer do Arizona homeowners try to create backyards that look like the rolling, pastoral landscapes in the Midwest or East--from where many Arizonans migrated. Bringing the beauty of the natural Sonoran desert into a backyard is now the objective for most homeowners.
Colorful Shrubs and Ground Covers
Low-water-usage plants have vibrant, colorful flowers, giving the desert gardener numerous choices in color combinations to brighten up the landscape design. The flame honeysuckle has brilliant orange-red flowers. The pink fairy duster blooms in the spring with puffs of pink flowers. Lantana and its relative trailing lantana are popular because of their rich green foliage and flowers of orange, yellow, gold, lavender or white.
Rock materials help create a natural desert look in an Arizona yard. They come in an array of earth tone shades from beige to mahogany, but choose stones in rose, black, peach, gray or gold if you want a more unusual color palette. Flagstone, flat pieces of sedimentary stone, is an easy-to-install material to build garden paths with. Finely crushed granite is also a good choice. Edge the path with larger diameter gravel to provide contrast. Surrounding clusters of desert plants with different colors of rock materials can help make them stand out.
Container plants dotting the yard can provide visual interest to a desert landscape without significantly increasing overall water usage. They can be placed on patios or on the edges of walkways so that you have the beauty of a flower bed without having to prepare the soil to plant one. Because you are using potting soil in the containers, choose varieties of flowers that don't do well in Arizona's alkaline, low-nutrient soil.
Arizona's plentiful sunshine and warm temperatures allow backyard gardeners to grow fruits and vegetables nearly year round. On summer and early autumn afternoons that are still too warm to be comfortable, having shade in your yard allows your family to spend more time outdoors. Mesquite trees and Ironwood trees grow very well in Arizona yards and are still considered low-water-usage varieties. Citrus trees need regular irrigation but provide shade and a harvest of the delicious fresh fruit that has long been a commercial crop in the state.
Build an Oasis
A small patch of lawn, 20 feet by 30 feet, with some nearby shade trees, can provide your family a cool oasis to escape the Arizona heat. Add a water feature, a rushing waterfall or tranquil stream, and relax to the sounds of running water. Or add river rock to create the illusion of a stream running through the yard, adding smooth stone textures to contrast with the sharper rock materials in the landscape.