Perusing my shelves for a good plant reference to recommend, I spotted Arizona landscape architect Judy Mielke's fine book, Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes (University of Texas Press, 1993). It was one of the earliest books written for our region, compiling a wealth of information on plants from the Chihuahuan, Mojave, and Sonoran Deserts. Each plant entry covers Description, Native Distribution, Culture, and Landscape Use. I particularly like the Appendix lists, which group plants by potential uses or characteristics, such as Plants for Attracting Wildlife or Shade-Tolerant Plants. I remember seeing people at the Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix) semi-annual sales in the 1990s, with a copy of this well-thumbed book clutched in their hands as they compared its information to the plants in front of them. More plant references have come along since, but this is still one of my favs.
Clever Gardening Technique
Know Your Neighborhood Regulations
Review municipal zoning regulations and HOA CC&Rs during your planning process. Some older developments require a certain percentage of lawn, while new developments may not allow it at all. Some HOAs are modifying turf requirements and/or updating plant lists. Also, some plants are prohibited because of invasiveness or being highly allergenic. Know before you start your plant selection process and save yourself some grief!