BY: Kathleen Ferris

Design: Here’s Your Guide To A Car-Stopping Landscape

Published Aug 10, 2015

We've all seen desert yards where three or four cactus plants are scattered across a sea of gravel. (We may see one when we look out our windows.) Then we've seen those dramatic desert yards with the height, depth, color and texture of a painting.

Many car-stopping yards are by professional landscape designers that a lot of us can’t afford. AMWUA has a design tool that gives you the secrets to creating a yard that gets closer to that professional wow.

Photo: Linda Enger, Linda Enger Photography for Landscaping with Style

Landscaping with Style is an online site that translates landscape professional know-how into a useable, step-by-step guide for the rest of us. It was first published in 2000 as a 72-page book developed by a team of local experts, including botanists, landscape architects, and water conservation experts.

It is a site rich in visuals that goes deep into usable details to help design, install and maintain an attractive, functional landscape that will thrive in the desert. (Note that the site is not yet designed for easy use on smart phones.) 


The site is one of a trio of go-to gardening guides that include Landscape Plants for the Arizona Desert and Landscape Watering by the Numbers . You can find all three guides along with additional resources, demonstration gardens, free classes, professional assistance, and rebate information at

Landscaping with Style starts with a plan. Before turning over a shovel of dirt, completing a plan will help you stay focused and avoid frustrating, costly mistakes.

Design the landscape that fits both your budget and your wishes, and think long term. To get the yard you want you may need to put elements together over time, such as adding a tree or a grouping of plants, laying down a sidewalk, or putting in a drip system. Ask yourself what functions you want your yard to serve, and create a wish list. For example:

  • Do you need a small turf play area?
  • Do you want to attract wildlife?
  • Do you want color and shade?
  • What do you want to see from your windows?

Here are other examples of what you’ll learn on the Landscaping With Style site:

  • How to draw a diagram of the yard and the elements you plan to include to help guide you to a finished product.
  • How to select and place plants for the best effect and to avoid common mistakes.
  • How to group plants and design your irrigation system so that plants with similar water needs are on the same valve.
  • When and how to prune plants so they stay healthy.
  • How to maintain your irrigation system.
  • How to hire the right professional for the tasks you don’t want to tackle.

This is a useful guide to review even if you are using a professional to help you design your yard. Knowing how it is done and what to expect makes you a wiser consumer.

However you create a new yard, don’t forget to take photos. Photos help you to appreciate the time, energy and money you’ve invested in a garden's creation. And they could inspire others. Share your photos on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #LandscapeWithStyle and your landscape could be included in our online gallery .

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