A Well-Designed, Natural Landscape in an Unusual Place

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Well-Designed, Natural Landscape in an Unusual Place

Standing Out in a Sea of Sameness: A Well-Designed Natural Landscape

Have you noticed that landscapes around parking lots and shopping malls look somewhat lackluster? This is often due to a combination of over-pruning, over-planting, and the wrong plant in the wrong place. 

Sadly, this is so commonplace. A beautifully designed and well-maintained landscape stands out as a shiny diamond.

A Pleasant Surprise: Native Plants and Natural Shapes

a natural landscape

My husband and I went to our local outlet mall to buy some clothes for him. I hadn’t walked more than a couple of steps when I realized that something was wrong. Well… actually right! The parking lot islands have shrubs that are spaciously planted and not pruned into round balls and cupcake shapes.

Native plants looking very nice in a Well-Designed, Natural Landscape in an Unusual Place

Most of the plants were native plants. The landscape grows together attractively and in natural shapes. This begs the question, who created a rule that plants can’t touch each other?

Colorful Desert Shrubs and Perennials

Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia), and chuparosa (Justicia californica)

Shrubs such as Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia), and chuparosa (Justicia californica) stood out. The shrubs are combined with ornamental grasses like pink muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

I confess I didn’t make a very helpful shopping companion for my husband. The attractive landscaping constantly distracts me, causing me to stop frequently to take pictures.

A Shopper’s Paradise: Discovering Yellow Orchid Vines

fabulous yellow orchid vine (Callaeum macropterum)

My favorite area was where a fabulous yellow orchid vine (Callaeum macropterum) was growing up a large wall. 

Because of the wall’s large scale, people have planted at least three vines together. Yellow orchid vine deserves more frequent use in landscaping but is seldom observed.

Yellow vines in the Well-Designed, Natural Landscape

I find that it does best in morning sun or filtered shade and regular water. Its yellow flowers are lovely and form a papery seed pod that resembles a butterfly. You can learn more about this vine here. This isn’t a common vine that you’ll find at the nursery. But you can usually find them at botanical garden plant sales or your local nursery may be able to order one for you.

Explore Natural Landscaping in Phoenix Premium Outlets

If you live in the greater Phoenix area, and want to see some great examples of desert natives and natural landscaping. Definitely plan a visit to the Phoenix Premium Outlets in Chandler. And who knows? You may even find some great deals at your favorite outlet stores.

From Grass to a ‘Natural’ Desert Landscape

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
8 replies
  1. june veloce
    june veloce says:

    LOVE the Orchid Vine too – Never seen one.
    Most of the plantings around my area range from fairly decent to half-dead.
    I’m always ogling whatever is growing too – always looking to see what’s growing and how it’s taking the heat.
    Thanks for posting all that beauty!

  2. Winnie Schiffgen
    Winnie Schiffgen says:

    I bought one at the Desert Botanical garden plant sale for my backyard and it is doing well. Love it!

  3. Darcie Naylor
    Darcie Naylor says:

    I wonder if we could find out who did their landscape planning and who does their landscape maintenance? More HOA’s need to employ this dynamic duo whoever they are. It would save homeowners a lot of money in HOA fees that are due to plant/tree replacement and it would preserve perfectly good plants that are just being mistreated. P.S. I love that yellow orchid vine! I saw it a month or so ago and asked you about it. I’m going to find a spot for one in my garden this fall.

  4. Lynn W
    Lynn W says:

    I have been known to wander and look at the landscaping there as well. :). Whoever they hired to design and now handle the upkeep is doing great.
    I’ll have to try the orchid vine. So beautiful!

  5. Dave Henning
    Dave Henning says:

    Hi, Plant Lady.

    I am replacing a crossvine that I killed. I had two planted in a very large vase-shaped pot and was growing up a trellis. The goal was to have them cover a pergola. After 5 years or so of happy growth, I killed it with over-fertilzing. I got busy and stupid.

    Today, my trusted nursery guy (Dave @Summer Winds-Mesa) recommended this Yellow Orchid as a replacement. He said he has had great one that has grown fast and gets full sun. My pots face south. We cover them with burlap during the hot months.

    Do you think these would make it in a pot like this blue one?


    Dave …

  6. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:


    Yellow orchid vine is a beautiful one and not used enough in my opinion. It will do well if protected from the summer sun for the first year after planting until it’s established. I would also use a large pot for it as that will enable it to grow more quickly and larger while providing some insulation for the roots from the hot air temperatures in summer. For fertilizing, I recommend adding a slow-release fertilizer such as Osmocote in March, June, and September. I hope this helps!

  7. Dave Henning
    Dave Henning says:

    Thanks so much, Noelle.

    I am hoping that by installing them this week, they will be quite established by summer. They will go in a 30″ tall urn-shaped pot with a 14″ rim. We shade the pots with burlap in the summer months.We really like the look of them, so if I have to, I will shade the whole plant during the first summer.

    Osmocote is a new one for me. I will try it for sure. I think I killed the previous crossvine with over-fertilization.

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