Desert landscape designs are intended to look like the natural desert as much as possible. This is done through using a mix of native plants with nonnative plants that thrive in arid conditions and desert soils. Low-water usage plants are emphasized in desert landscape designs. Because many desert homes have swimming pools, plants that do not drop litter are popular so pool filters do not become clogged with plant debris. Homeowners in desert regions often incorporate shaded areas and small areas of grass to cool off the yard and allow for maximum enjoyment even in the hottest months.
Rock mulches are used in desert landscaping to cover bare areas of ground. They come in many interesting colors across the spectrum of brown and beige, but also more striking colors such as rose, gold and black. The size of the material varies as well, from fine crushed granite, to gravel-sized, to chunks of sharp fractured rock called rip rap. Use more than one type of material to make the yard more visually appealing. Try the finer, lighter material in a circle around clusters of plants, and then spread the larger diameter, darker material around it. Use finer material for paths and then edge the paths with a larger material in a different shade.
Paths through the desert yard do more than provide a way for you to move through the property--they can be a design feature. Using interesting materials, such as flagstone or slabs of sedimentary stone, can carry the theme of the natural desert. Concrete pavers come in many earth-tone shades and are simple to install. Build curved, meandering paths through the yard rather than making them in straight lines. This gives your yard a more natural desert garden look.
Tranquil Water Features
A water feature provides contrast to an arid landscape, like encountering an oasis during a desert trek. Relaxing by a waterfall, pond or stream helps you unwind from the pressures of day-to-day life. Hummingbirds and other colorful birds are drawn to water features. It doesn't have to be a time-consuming or expensive job to put a water feature into a desert yard. Flexible rubber liners or preformed shapes can be used instead of pouring concrete. Using native stone as pond edging contributes to the natural look. You may even be able to use stone found on your property.
Areas of Shade
Particularly during the hottest months of June through September, when afternoon temperatures routinely climb above 100 degrees F under a merciless sun, shade is essential to enjoying a desert landscape. Patios exposed to the western sun, especially, need relief in the form of sun protection, so homeowners can entertain before the sun goes down. A pergola or arbor with grapes or yellow trumpet vine growing across it can provide a welcoming visual entryway to an area of the desert yard and as well as shade. Try framing sections of your patio with latticework and growing vines over it for partial shade and privacy. Cat's claw vine can trained to grow up latticework. Trees aren't necessarily big consumers of water. The Texas ebony tree grows tall and thick enough to provide shade and is considered a low-water usage plant. The Brazilian pepper tree and Australian bottle tree also grow well in the desert climate providing the soil has adequate drainage and nutrients.