The Hot Trend of Arid Landscapes

In Southern California, there is a growing need and desire to create landscapes that work with the climate, rather than against.  As enthusiasm for lush green (and thirsty) lawns with neat hedges and flowering shrubs begins to fade, homeowners who want to take their water-wise landscape to the next level are starting to latch on to the idea of creating mini-deserts in their yards.

These arid landscapes are enticing for a number of reasons. We’ve mentioned the water economy, which generally goes hand in hand with being lower maintenance. Cleaner and more simple design, too, lets the few plants that comprise the plan truly stand out while the textures of rock and sand are interesting and dramatic.   Plain and simple, these “plain” landscapes are simply beautiful.  So, what goes into an arid landscape?

1. The right plants.  If you live in a region that can support cacti, then it is obvious that at least a few should be a centerpiece of the design.  If you do not live in the right climate, however, do not despair.  Look for plants adapted or native to your region and choose ones that convey the feeling of an arid landscape.  Think spiky, fuzzy, and/or succulent.

2. Even in a small space, desert landscapes feel expansive and minimalist.  Place them so they are spread out, allowing their individual aesthetic to be truly appreciated. While this means fewer plants to look after, the ones you do use need to be in tip top condition as much as possible.

3. Texture and interest.  Think sand and rock.  Even if sand isn’t an option for your yard, use lighter colors of mulch and paving to emulate the look.  Find and space large boulders similarly to the plants.  Everything that sits above the ground plane becomes a focal point in the desert landscape.


What is a landscape maintenance program?

The natural environment is ever changing, always growing and regularly impacted by weather and climactic conditions. Regular maintenance under the eyes and care of a professional will keep your landscape looking trim and neat no matter what …

4. An oasis. Find one key area of the garden and use it as a focal point.  The rest of the landscape then serves as a scenic backdrop.  A small fountain or waterfall is perfect, or even just a massing of colorful plants.

5. Function.  Think about how the space will serve you and use that programming to inform the design.  For example, patio space paved with a stained concrete can be a perfect complement to a craggly, rock-scape.  Or, if you need to control occasional stormwater flows, consider a dry rock bed that picks up and directs water while gracefully traversing the property.

As landscapes become more responsive to a growing concern for the environment, the desert xeriscape is a perfect and attractive solution to low- and no-water landscaping.  And even better, there are plenty of landscape designers and contractors in Santa Barbara who can help.