In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
September, 2012
Regional Report

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Plan to maintain attractive views.

Xeriscape Part III: Plant Selection: Final Varied Considerations

Xeriscape design includes a set of seven principles to guide you in the creation and long-term maintenance of a colorful, earth-friendly landscape that suits your unique needs. Previous reports covered design, site analysis, whether to install turf, and plant selection topics. This report concludes plant selection with a variety of ideas to consider when choosing plants.

More Bang for Your Buck
If you are having trouble deciding among several plant species that fit your Right Plant for the Right Space requirements for appropriate mature size and sun exposure (as discussed in an earlier report), select those that offer multiple characteristics, such as a long blooming season, fragrance, edible fruits or seeds, or wildlife attractor.

Extend the Bloom Season
If two shrub species provide similar attributes, but one blooms for two months in spring, and the other blooms year around, which one do you choose? Most people want to enjoy color in their landscape, so it makes sense to seek plants with extended bloom seasons, especially if space is limited.

The following low-water-use, easy-to-grow plants flower for many months (depending on growing conditions), and offer more bang for your buck as surefire hummingbird magnets: chuparosa (fall, winter, early spring); hummingbird trumpet (summer-fall); red yucca and desert willow (spring, summer, fall); Baja fairy duster and orange bells (year around).

Consider the View
Examine potential views, both as you are seated on the patio or other outdoor living areas, as well as inside the home, looking out. Is there something unattractive that needs to be screened with a hedge of jojoba, hopbush, or Arizona rosewood? What do you want to look at from your kitchen window, family room, or home office? Create your most colorful and fabulous plantings where they can be seen and enjoyed. For example, situate hummingbird or butterfly plants close to windows and patios. These tiny flyers soon become accustomed to human presence and will plunder nectar while you sip a cool beverage nearby.

When Are You Home
If you are a snowbird who lives elsewhere part of the year, take that into account with plant selection. Will you be around to harvest deciduous fruit when it is ripe, for example, or enjoy summer blooming plants? Will you hire regular maintenance while you are away, or do you need plants that are as low-maintenance as possible to survive with minimal human intervention?

Many desert plants are thorny, spiny, spiky, pokey, and other descriptive words that mean sharp! If you are worried about kids, pets, or clumsy relatives impaling themselves, plant something else. Otherwise, site them with plenty of elbow room to spread to their mature size, especially around sidewalks, driveways, or other traffic areas. Your goal is to avoid cutting them back merely to stay within bounds because this ruins their natural shape, creates extra labor for you, and sends green waste to the landfill, since most of this plant material is a bit tricky to handle in the compost pile!

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