Step Five: Learn About Landscape Materials

Step Five: Learn About Landscape Materials

You may want to incorporate hardscape or structures into your landscape plan to add to the beauty and function of your yard, including:

  • patios and ramadas
  • walkways
  • boulders
  • a barbecue or fire pit
  • built-in planters and seating areas
  • a swimming pool, spa, or fountain
  • walls or fences to separate or screen an area
  • trellises that support vines and soften the look of fences and exterior walls

You can choose from a wide variety of materials and colors. Consider materials like flagstone, bricks, exposed aggregate and colored concrete in addition to more traditional hardscape materials like natural colored concrete and pool decking. You can also add to the landscape by incorporating unusual shapes or a combination of hardscape materials into your landscape design.

Tips on Planning Structural Elements

  • Investigate your hardscape and structural options before planning your landscape.
  • Browse sites like Houzz and Pinterest for ideas.
  • Purchase some landscape design books, house and garden magazines, or borrow some from the library.
  • While visiting neighborhoods and public areas for plant possibilities, take time to observe how hardscape and structural features have been incorporated into landscape designs
  • You may also want to visit some landscape materials suppliers to see what’s available locally.


Inorganic mulches are commonly used in xeriscapes to cover the soil and are considered part of a yard’s hardscape component. Mulch reduces water evaporation and runoff, keeping water where plants can use it, and block sunlight from reaching weed seedlings, reducing weed growth. It also gives your planted areas a finished look.

Decomposed granite and crushed rock are the types of inorganic mulch most commonly used in our area. Both are available in a variety of sizes and colors.

How to Select Mulch

  • Decide on the overall effect you want to achieve
    • Do you want your mulch to match the color of your house or would you like it to provide a bit of contrast?
    • Do you like a very natural look or a more stylized look?
    • Do you want your yard to blend with a common neighborhood landscape scheme or would you like something a little different from the neighborhood norm?
  • Consider your maintenance style. Some types of decomposed granite and crushed rock are easier to rake than others, and some types minimize the appearance of plant litter.
  • Consider your long-term landscape plans. Decomposed granite or crushed rock is neither inexpensive nor easy to replace. Do some research and shop around before you buy.
  • Visit two or three rock suppliers and collect samples of decomposed granite or crushed rock in your favorite sizes and colors
  • Before making a final selection, find landscapes that use the samples you chose. Study each landscape to determine which granite or rock mulch is your favorite when used in a real landscape situation.
  • Mulches are a lot like house paint. Colors and textures may look different when they cover a large surface area.

Purchasing and Installing

  • As a general rule, the layer of decomposed granite or crushed rock should be two to three inches thick. This will help to inhibit evaporation and weed growth and provide consistent coverage with less chance of developing bare spots in the future.
  • Measure the total area to be covered. Call or visit suppliers who can help you determine the amount of mulch needed to cover the area. Typically, one ton of granite or rock covers about 120 square feet.
  • It is NOT advisable to put a layer of black plastic beneath the mulch. Over time, the edges will dry out and curl up and may become unsightly. In addition, black plastic prevents air and water from reaching plant roots.

Other Ways to Add Color

Although hardscape, structures and plants will be the major components of your outdoor spaces, remember that there are dozens of ways to add color and interest to the landscape.

  • Consider using garden artwork, fabric and paint to help complete your landscape design.
  • Outdoor artwork can include ornamental doors and metal work.
  • Colorful fabrics on seat cushions, umbrellas and awnings can brighten up the yard all year long.
  • Paint applied to walls, fences, trellises and yard furniture can be used to add personality to the landscape and draw attention to certain spots in the yard.

Before you Start

Check the Rules

During the research process, don’t forget to consider any guidelines or restrictions imposed by your city, builder or homeowners association. Now is the time to review these and plan for any necessary applications or approvals.

Digging for any reason?

Contact Arizona 811 by phone (811) or web ( at least two full business days before digging for free assistance in locating underground power lines and other utilities. It’s the law, and it’s for your safety.