Get Off the Grass: How to Build a Beautiful Backyard in the Desert

Gardens are more sustainable and environmentally friendly when you use native plants and vegetation, and it’s no different for desert gardens of the Southwest. Whether it is drought or water restrictions that hamper the desire for a lush, thirsty garden, you can be assured of bountiful beauty and aesthetics using drought tolerant plants. Here, we show how you can easily achieve a beautiful backyard in the desert.

A World of Color in Native Foliage

The most exciting and inviting aspect to desert gardening is the wide array of colors to be found in your choices of foliage and flowers. While best known for their sculptural quality, the many varieties of succulent cacti produce stunning blossoms and oversized blooms in every color except for true black and blue. Most tend to open in the day closing up at night while others only have a single day of bloom making them something to appreciate.

Punctuate your garden setting using perennials and blooming plants with contrasting allure for visual transformations occurring through the changing seasons. Colors also invite birds, butterflies and bees to pollinate and perpetuate your garden. The brilliant reds are irresistible to hummingbirds.

Seek the Expertise of Residential Landscaping Architecture

Whether your garden space is already populated or a wide open space begging to express your personality, one of the best places to start is with a plan. When you see the possibilities of your landscaping rendered in an architectural drawing, it is easier to imagine the different features you can use to create the exact space you want. If you’re unsure where to start, you might consider reaching out to residential landscaping services who can help you learn what flora would fit for you.

The Southwest garden is less formal relying on elements that depict the natural rhythm of nature. Ground covers such as gravel, stone or pavers can be used in lieu of concrete paths giving you the option to change things easily if you desire. The use of stonework or a painted retaining wall segment adds the opportunity play with shadows and light and to create a backdrop to showcase agave, yucca, purple prickly pear or ocotillo. River rock lining a cultured valley both suggests a waterway and provides a useful run off. Mounding the soil surrounding the creek rocks gives you hills upon which to plant in tiers with the idea of scale in mind.

Accent Your Garden Space

Contour your walls to complement adobe style structure classically used in the desert. Smaller pedestal bases to host oversized potted planters can be used to mark an entrance. The use of rustic lumber to build up and outline steps ascending to a raised patio give your space varying elevation. The use of water features such as recirculating fountains offer attractive visual pieces that are algae-free and less likely to lose water through evaporation.

Using native elements such as weathered branches to create a pergola adds to the natural features. Shades, sun screens or umbrellas offer respite from the direct sunshine. A fire pit or outdoor fireplace helps make the most of the colorful sunsets and peaceful twilight. Using iconic imagery as motifs such as cowboy lassos or longhorn steer skulls add historical symbols. Metal garden art, gates and walls are all useful pieces to accent and highlight aspects of your rustic garden.

You find numerous advantages in a Southwest desert garden such as the reduced need for fertilizer and water. You will also find your beautiful backyard requires less pruning when done correctly.


Addy Reeds is a freelance writer from Eugene, Oregon. She discovered her passion for journalism while attending the University of Oregon. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook: @addyreeds1;

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