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   YOUR LANDSCAPE  The Elements of Planning
2011 - Volume 1 Issue 1
Casas Bonitas
Article: Bob Skolnick
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Your outdoor living space is your personal tapestry, providing much enjoyment for you when inside the house looking out into the backyard area and when you are outside enjoying the space. Like inside remodeling, you have considerations and decisions to make. If you have a pool and spa or have chosen to add one, they will be the focal point of the landscape design along with the view from your yard, especially if you have a view of the mountains.

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1.) The use of desert vegetation with flowering plants makes for an attractive year-round garden that is low maintenance.

2.) Xeriscape landscaping blended with plants and trees that are going to thrive in this growing zone produce an attractive landscape design.

3.) This rear garden was built on two elevations and tied together with attractive timber and brick steps.

4.) A Koi pond adds beauty to any back or front yard and gives you a world-recognized hobby. Koi are revered for their coloration throughout Asia, the U.S. and South America.

5.) The mixture of mature trees, a rock water feature and a variety of shrubs and plants bring together a soothing meditation area.

6.) This steel saguaro cactus adds a great design element to many landscape designs. It can be fitted with interior light for an evening glow.

7.) If you are a passionate golfer, then this is a great way to enjoy your backyard with a putting green and chipping arc.

8.) Synthetic grass has come a long way – green all year and no mowing and watering.

Chavez Landscaping

Desert Walk

Dolphin Pools

Easy Lawn

Nash Patio & Garden

Oasis Landscape & Pool

Paradise Pools

Silver Springs Pool & Spa
The other major feature is the outdoor kitchen area which is often covered and may be attached to the house or independent of the house. Ask yourself about the visual image you want once the landscaping is mature. Keep in mind what you plant today will be larger, in some cases much larger in a few years. Think of your outdoor area as a room that you are decorating with elements.

This is a big project and a big investment and you should use the services of a Landscape Designer and company that can help with the design, build or secure the major features and advise on the plants and trees that do well in this life zone. You make the decisions, but wise advice is worth the time and expense. When all is said and done, the investment you make in your outside living space can equal fifty percent or more of the value of your physical house structure.

If you like gardening regularly as recreation, then design the space with that in mind. If you cannot devote the time now to gardening and do not want the expense of a landscape maintenance company, then make the upkeep simple by design. Stand inside your house and look out, then move to the four compass points outside of the house and envision the look of your landscaping from each direction. Your outside plan needs to be looked at as three dimensional. Also consider set back requirements from the perimeter barrier of the yard for major features such as pergolas, gazebos, elevated decks and outdoor fireplaces. You will have to comply with local codes. Consider yard drainage – will you need to channel water runoff from monsoons and to where – you may need to build a rock sump. Sun and wind orientation is also an important consideration, you want to make sure your cooking and eating areas are protected for comfort.

Decide on how you are going to navigate throughout the yard. Will you need walkways? If so, they should have curves and end at a destination, but not be too linear. Placement of trees that have significant growth has to be envisioned for the tree’s presence with age and placed for optimum shade and the affect of the shade on planted areas. Make a plot diagram, get sample photos of the key elements and if possible, invest in a rendering artist to get a complete look. Remember you can change wall colors or move furniture in an inside room - moving a mature tree or site-built gazebo is not so easy.

Once you have the design placement of key elements in mind, think about depths and elevations. When you are dealing with a sloping terrain, terracing is a good option. Elevated sitting or meditation areas look nice and add to the appearance of your design. Do not make your design a flat plain, planters should not be linear and one dimensional. Consider the front fascia of planters, stacked stone, river rock, wood timbers or talavera tile. Make your planters elevated and irregular in shape. Select hard landscape items such as boulders, fountains, benches, walkway surface appearances and outdoor fire places. They have to be selected and positioned before you can consider plants, shrubs and color. You will see the outdoor plan come together and the remaining spaces for ground cover, grass, trees, shrubs and plants being more clearly identified. Keep in mind, your outdoor living space has a daytime and a nighttime personality. You need to plan for maximum enjoyment for both times of the day. Lighting of hard features, trees, walkways and plant groupings needs to be decided and also incorporated with the lighting affect you will get from your pool and spa. You are now at a point where you know the areas for shrubs, plants and trees. This will define the destinations for irrigation system runs and where electrical will be needed. Licensed irrigation contractors will be brought in by your landscape designer.

Now you can add your plants and color, knowing the sun and shade requirements of the planted areas. Make your selection by grouping plants that have the same water and sunlight needs. Select plants that bloom at different times of the year to keep your garden in color through all of the seasons. Also, you can plan your ground cover, whether grass, artificial grass, bark or succulent plants that spread horizontally.

Synthetic Lawns & Steel Xeriscape

Xeriscape landscaping is a popular type of landscape design in this region and sometimes native plants are blended with metal sculptures that show the artistic side of our local culture. Desert Steel and their local distributor, Desert Walk, have developed a series of Xeriscape metal sculptures that look authentic and offer the opportunity to light them in the evening, creating ambience for your outdoor living space. Check them out at

One issue you will have to contend with is dormancy during different seasons. With plants you can make an offset with your selections and when they bloom. With grass lawns, there is a definite dormant appearance that can affect the overall look of your outdoor living space. Today artificial grass is an option that is a good alternative for replacing traditional grass lawns. The artificial grass product has advanced significantly since the advent of AstroTurf twenty plus years ago. Artificial grass offers the benefit of a constant color and surface throughout the year plus reduced maintenance and costs over time. Artificial grass lawns are also a better option for children’s play areas or putting greens. For example you can have a putting and chipping green with short grass for the putting surface and a longer blade for chipping onto the green. There is an initial investment with artificial grass but it is recoverable over time from maintenance cost savings. Typically you can recover your investment through maintenance savings over a three to five year time frame. Water is a big element for grass lawns and artificial grass eliminates the need for watering, and in this dry desert environment, water conservation is an important consideration. You just need to blow the sand and silt off with a leaf blower periodically in the windy time of the year and hose the surface off one to two times per year.

The artificial grass has an eight to ten year warranty and fade just a few percent per year and can be patched if damaged, just like laying a sod patch in a grass lawn. There are about ten choices in the artificial grass moving from a dark to light green by increments. Some types look like rye grass and there are several blade lengths and densities. The best way to decide if this is for you, is to go to an installed home and feel and touch. Personally, I have seen the product and I am amazed at its high quality. ///
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