Posts

I am always on the lookout for beautiful landscapes that are well-designed and need minimal care.  I like to call them sustainable or ‘fuss-free’ landscapes.

A week ago, my friend and fellow-blogger, Pam Penick came into town on a quest to see examples of gardens that use little water.  So, I was more then happy to spend a day with her looking at some great examples of gardens around the greater Phoenix area.

The first part of our journey began with a visit to the beautifully-designed Arizona State Polytechnic Campus, which included cisterns, man-made arroyos and creative uses for urbanite.  If you missed it, you can read about our visit, here.

The second leg of our tour took us to a butterfly/hummingbird demonstration garden along a golf course and a well-designed parking lot (yes, I said a parking lot).

First, was our visit to a butterfly/hummingbird demonstration garden.

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

Firecracker Penstemon (Penstemon eatoni)

I must admit that I was excited about seeing this garden, which is near and dear to my heart because I designed it.

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

In the beginning, this landscape area was rather unremarkable   There were a number of foothill palo verdes, cascalote and ironwood trees in this area and a few over-pruned Valentine shrubs.

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

Pink Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii)

The golf course community wanted to create a demonstration garden to show residents how they can have a beautiful landscape that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds that consists entirely of drought-tolerant plants.

Coral Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua 'Coral')

Coral Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua ‘Coral’)

I want to showcase drought-tolerant shrubs and perennials that provided overlapping seasons of color.

Firecracker Penstemon, Purple Trailing Lantana and Damianita.

Firecracker Penstemon, Purple Trailing Lantana and Damianita.

Paths were created by using stabilized DG that blended seamlessly with regular DG placed around the plants.

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

While walking through the garden, we saw hummingbirds enjoying the flowers.

White Globe Mallow

White Globe Mallow

The plants in this garden aren’t only drought-tolerant – they don’t require any supplemental fertilizer, soil amendments and need pruning once a year or less.

It doesn’t get much better then that, does it?   Our next stop was a park in the mountains of Scottsdale, called Cavalierre Park.

I must admit that I was surprised that my favorite thing about the park was its parking lot.

I realize that that may sound strange, BUT have you seen how ugly most parking lots are?

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

The majority of parking lot islands are over-planted and over-pruned.  In addition, trees seldom thrive in the small islands in the midst of hot, reflected heat.

So, as we drove up to Cavalierre park, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no asphalt in sight.  

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

Believe it or not, these parking lot islands get no supplemental irrigation and need little, if any pruning.

Each island was edged with rusted steel edging and filled with native rock from the site.

The fact that there is not a traditional asphalt parking lot reduces the amount of runoff from rainfall.  This non-traditional parking lot created from stabilized DG (decomposed granite) doesn’t heat up, thereby keeping the area a bit cooler since it doesn’t contribute to the ‘heat-island’ effect that asphalt does.  

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

During construction cacti and trees were salvaged from the site and replanted onsite once it was finished.

Trees too large to be removed were incorporated into the design with steel edging preserving their original grade.

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

This raised planter keeps the existing mesquite tree and saguaro cactus at their original grade while creating a beautiful, focal planting near the entrance of the park.

Southwestern Sustainable Landscapes

I am constantly amazed at how beautiful sustainable landscapes can be simply by using good design and arid-adapted plants that are maintained correctly.

I don’t know about you, but I would much rather enjoy a parking lot like this instead of one surrounded by asphalt and over-pruned shrubs, wouldn’t you?

I hope you have enjoyed this second installment of our tour of sustainable landscapes in the Phoenix area.

Be sure to come back for our last installment – I have saved the best for last…

What do you think of when someone mentions ‘sustainable landscaping’ to you?  

Do visions of stark landscapes with a few dried out plants and cactus come to mind?  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Sustainable landscapes are beautiful, low-maintenance and drought-tolerant.

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden

Last week, I spent an entire day visiting some great sites throughout the greater Phoenix area, which have some great examples of sustainable landscaping.

Now if you are thinking that I did this all by myself, you would be wrong.  My friend and fellow southwest-blogger, Pam Penick, came up for a visit from Austin, Texas to see how we do sustainable landscaping here in Phoenix.

Our first stop was a visit to Arizona State University’s Polytechnic Campus in the East Valley.  

A row of Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana) trees stand along the side of an arroyo that catches rain water.

A row of Palo Blanco (Acacia willardiana) trees stand along the side of an arroyo that catches rain water.

The campus is located on a former Air Force Base and it was decided that the lackluster appearance of the location needed a huge facelift.

The new academic complex consists of several buildings connected by separate courtyards – each with great examples of sustainable landscaping.

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) trees, Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) shrubs and potted Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)

Chinese Pistache (Pistacia chinensis) trees, Jojoba (Simmondsia chinensis) shrubs and potted Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis)

Each courtyard had inviting, shady areas along with sunny spots so that whatever the season, students were drawn to enjoy the outdoors.

All the plants were arid-adapted and relatively low-maintenance.

sustainable landscaping

Concrete cisterns collected sporadic rainfall and the overflow is directed toward a swale that collected excess storm water.  Plants along the swale benefit from the extra water.

Most of the area within the courtyards was covered in stabilized, decomposed granite (DG) that allows rainwater to permeate and keeps the ‘heat island’ effect away in the absence of excess concrete.

Gabion wall with Lady's Slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)

Gabion wall with Lady’s Slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus)

Gabion walls are filled with river rock that had been saved from the previous site and were used throughout the complex to create low walls.  One of my favorite succulents, lady’s slipper, looks great when planted against walls like this one.

Aloe Vera planted in rows underneath Palo Blanco trees.

Aloe Vera planted in rows underneath Palo Blanco trees.

I must admit that I have not been a huge fan of aloe vera plants.  But, after seeing how effectively they were used throughout the courtyards, I have changed my mind.

They are so striking when used in masses like this.  Of course, I realize that this is their best season and soon they will be done flowering, but even when out of flower, the striking texture of the leaves would still look great in this area.

Aloe Vera

Aloe Vera

Here is another photo of the aloe vera – I’m really loving this plant now.

Anna's Hummingbird and Aloe Vera flower.

Anna’s Hummingbird and Aloe Vera flower.

The hummingbirds were very busy feeding from the flowers of the aloe.

sustainable landscaping

The concrete that was removed during construction was repurposed into step stones, benches and retaining walls.

Called ‘urbanite’, this recycled material is becoming increasingly popular and is one great choice for hardscapes.

If you are renovating your landscape and concrete removal is part of that – think about reusing it in the landscape.  Want to use ‘urbanite’ and don’t have any broken concrete?  You can sometimes find it available on Craigslist.

sustainable landscaping

Palo verde trees were in full bloom and used to great effect with the straight, modern lines of the building.

sustainable landscaping

One of the reasons that I love palo verde trees so much (I have three in my own garden), is that they have great branch architecture – meaning that they shape of the branches and how they grow is beautiful.

sustainable landscaping

During heavy rainfall, excess water runs from the cistern down the swale, watering the plants alongside it.

River rock removed during construction was saved and reused for the cisterns and the swales.  

sustainable landscaping

The outside of the buildings were covered with grape ivy, which help to keep the building cooler as it helps shield the building from the sun’s rays.

sustainable landscaping

The walkway the ran alongside the buildings was planted with Sonoran desert natives such as Palo Verde and Creosote.

sustainable landscaping

Along the walkways, arroyos were created to help channel storm water in this area that was previously covered in concrete and would flood frequently.

sustainable landscaping

Mesquite trees were salvaged for use in this area and smaller shrubs and cacti were planted along the arroyo.

There are many different elements of this landscape that contribute to its sustainability – the use of recycled plants and materials, areas formerly flooded now direct storm water toward cisterns and plants, reduced concrete areas decrease the heat island effect, and finally arid-adapted plants decrease the need for supplemental water.

*I attended school at the main campus of ASU in Tempe.  Since then, my major (Urban Horticulture) has been moved to the Polytechnic Campus.  How I wish that I had had the opportunity to study at this beautiful campus!

This landscape was designed by Ten Eyck Architects who won an ASLA award for the sustainable design of the landscape.  To learn more about this well-designed landscape, click here.

Pam and I had a wonderful visit and this was just the first stop on our tour!

Next time, I will show you the next spots along our journey including some innovative landscapes that need no supplemental water, while still looking beautiful.