Whether you live in a Southwest desert home full-time or seasonally, you know the challenges of maintaining a beautiful garden. Selecting plants, both native and drought tolerant, is crucial to the success of your desert landscape. No matter what the architecture of the home, from modern contemporary to Spanish revival to ranch style, certain elements are important for an outdoor lifestyle. The desert yard must have lots of shade areas with covered outdoor living spaces with ceiling fans. Avoiding dark colors that absorb the heat of the sun is a basic design consideration, as is the selection of outdoor furniture that reflects heat and remains cool. No desert landscape is complete without a body of water, pool or spa, for cooling off and providing entertainment for your family and friends. Cool desert evenings call for fire pits and outdoor fire places. Outdoor lighting—nightscaping—is an important element in the Modern Desert Garden.
Modern Desert Garden Elements: Stucco walls with adobe brick or colored concrete patios and walkways form the foundation of the yard. Focal points are the swimming pool, spa, and waterfall; or perhaps, a fountain or stone-clad fireplace next to the outdoor kitchen area. Umbrellas and shade sails provide relief from the desert sun. Cool desert evenings call for a fire pit or fireplace. Perhaps a fire-pit table with fire glass, or a water and fire fountain suits your taste. Decorative rocks and boulders accent concrete and gravel pathways that meander through mounded cacti and succulent gardens. Homes with contemporary architecture display bright colors, symmetrical/geometric shapes with abstract garden sculptures and wall fountains. Keep in mind, permeable paving materials add sustainability to your Modern Desert Garden.
Modern Desert Garden Plants: Adding the appropriate plants can make the desert garden look lush, full of texture, form, and color. Desert gardens do have to look barren! Covered patios may have a variety of potted plants and hanging baskets with drip irrigation. As we move away from the sheltered patio into the yard, some excellent plant selections include Cactus and Euphorbias of various shapes and sizes. Mounded succulent gardens with rock groupings reveal Dwarf Agaves, Aloes, and Red Hot Pokers accented with succulent groundcovers like Sedum, Senecio, and Crassula ‘Campfire’. Specimen trees such as a mature Dragon Tree (Dracaena draco) or a Dr. Suess specimen tree (Aloe bankseii), or a grouping of three to five Big Bend Yuccas, add tremendous interest to your desert landscape. Other foundation trees and shrubs may include Desert Willow, Acacia, and Palo Verde. Depending on your locality, certain California, Nevada, Arizona, or New Mexico native plants such as Ocotillo, Joshua Tree, or Saguaro Cactus are wonderful additions to your Modern Desert Garden.