Help Create Beautiful Outdoor Living spaces That Save You Money
Southwest summers demand an aggressive approach to outdoor living design. Anyone who has lived through a blistering-hot Arizona summer knows that a yard full of rocks not only drives you indoors but skyrockets cooling bills and besides, who wants to be inside during the summer?
The good news is that you can save money, do your part for global warming and create delicious outdoor spaces using Xeriscape principles.
Contrary to popular belief, in the right hands these principles, which amount to an intelligent interaction with the outdoor landscape, create lush outdoor environments that use little water. In fact, it's not uncommon for Xeriscaped yards to have small areas of lawn, usually grown using native, drought-tolerant grass varieties.
"Turf can be appropriate especially if it's in a spot that's going to create cooling for outdoor living space", said Yavapai County Cooperative Extension Agent Jeff Schalau.
The key, according to Schalau is to create zones in your yard, planting the periphery in plants that require little or no water and placing trees and flowers that require more water and provide more beauty, cooling and cover closer to the house and around spaces you plan to use for outdoor living.
Here are some plants to consider near the patios where you'll be doing your cooking, eating and entertaining:
Drought-tolerant trees like Mexican Elder (Sambucas mexicana), Arizona Rosewood (Vauquelinia californica) and Mexican Redbud (Cercis canadensis var. mexicana) offer fast-growing shade. Plant them where they'll shade both the house and the patio. Make sure to create catchment basins around your trees to conserve water and to collect rainfall. As an added bonus, using deciduous trees allows more sunlight to reach your house during the winter while maintaining shade and cool during the summer.
- Native flowers that bloom without requiring huge amounts of water or maintenance like penstemon (Penstemon sp.), yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Mexican hat (Ratibida columnaris) mean that you'll spend more time relaxing, not sweating. The added benefit you get with some of these flowers like penstemon are the swarms of birds and butterflies that keep you company while you enjoy your outdoor room.
Incorporating Xeriscape principles into your planning for outdoor living spaces is a must in hot, dry climates. It not allows you to save water and money on cooling costs, but most importantly, it increases your quality of life by allowing you to ditch the moonscape and get back in touch with nature.
Amy Snyder is the interior designer at Sun Pine Homes, a custom home builder and developer in Prescott, Arizona. Sun Pine's current project is developing the Canyons at Granite Park, a residential community first founded in 1905 and filled with 1.5 billion-year old boulders. For photos and more information, please visit www.sunpinehomes.com.