Sep 19 2016Share

Cities Offer Classes To Help You Reimagine Your Yard

By Warren Tenney

Monsoon storms brought temperatures down and brought more desert dwellers out to their patios. It's the time of year when homeowners begin to reimagine their yards: a new tree here, some flowering shrubs there, perhaps a new irrigation controller or some contouring to retain more rain water. AMWUA cities understand this and are offering dozens of free landscape classes that can help you create the look you want.

A few  weeks ago, the City of Avondale presented "Fall and Winter Splashes for Desert Landscapes." Those who attended learned how and where to plant 60 drought-tolerant trees, shrubs and vines to maximize their colorful foliage, fruit and flowers throughout the fall and winter. Here are a few of the trees and plants that were discussed. 

  • Cascalote Tree:  This hardy, moderate-growing evergreen offers yellow, lightly fragrant flowers throughout fall and winter.
  • Mexican-buckeye: This large shrub provides bright yellow foliage before it drops its leaves for the winter. (It also provides rose-pink flowers in the spring.)
  • Dalea: These bright shrubs come in several varieties that bloom purple, pink or yellow through the fall or winter.
  • Purple Prickly-pear: This low-maintenance cactus turns a dramatic deep purple during the winter.

Purple Cactus

Purple Prickly-pear Photo: Kirti Mathura

  • Queen's Wreath: This fast-growing vine will keep its clusters of pink flowers deep into the fall.
  • There are still plenty of classes to attend. Avondale is offering free classes about landscape design, watering schedules and irrigation repair, pruning and vegetable gardening. Here is a sample of what is available in other cities in the coming months. (You’ll find a full list on the AMWUA website.) All the classes are taught by landscape experts and most require that you sign up ahead of time.

Dalea Frutescens Flowers1 Dbg10 07cr

Dalia blossom Photo: Kirti Mathura

  • City of Mesa: “Hydrate Your Plants” - Create a beautiful, lush landscape with rainwater harvesting.

    City of Peoria: “Homeowners Guide to Lush Lawns” – Receive easy, practical advice to help you maintain a healthy, beautiful and water-efficient lawn. 

    City of Phoenix: “Rain Gardens” - Learn how to design an earth-friendly yard using simple earthworks and low-water-use plants.

    City of Goodyear: “Meet Your Irrigation System”  - Take charge and learn the ABCs of controllers, emitters, valves and zones.

    City of Glendale: “Happy Soil=Happy Plants” – Improve your soil to improve the vigor of your plants and reduce the need for excessive watering.

    City of Chandler: “Create Your Own Oasis” – Learn the concepts of design, how to plan for small spaces, the desert plant palette, plant selection and plant combinations.

Mexican Buckeye

Mexican-buckeye Photo: Kirti Mathura

  • Town of Gilbert: “Hummingbird and Butterfly Gardens” - Explore the numerous options for a colorful and water-efficient yard that will attract nature’s pollinators. 

    City of Tempe: “Drip irrigation” – Get advice from a pro to help you design, install and maintain a drip irrigation system. 

    City of Scottsdale: “Managing & Reducing HOA Water Use” – Learn how much water your HOA’s landscape needs and identify opportunities to improve water efficiency.

    There are three things to remember about your yard in fall. 1) It’s a great time to plant. The soil is still warm but the coldest temperatures are still months away. 2.) Stop fertilizing your plants. Fertilizing encourages new growth that is susceptible to damage by colder temperatures. 3.) Continue to water deeply but not nearly as frequently as summer. Trees and plants don’t absorb as much water in cooler months and the cooler soil retains water longer.

    Get ready to open your windows to fall and open your door to winter visitors. It’s the beginning of the end of an especially long hot summer and time to get free advice from your city about maximizing the beauty of your desert landscape.

    For 47 years, Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has worked to protect our member cities’ ability to provide assured, safe and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more water information visit

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