Fine Outdoor Living in the Hot Southwest
with Desert Landscape Designs

Desert landscape designs are popular garden styles for affluent communities in the hot and dry southwest. These outdoor designs make the most of the arid climate by incorporating native plants that require little or no water to flourish. Shade and covered outdoor living rooms are also an integral part of desert landscaping, but the most important thing to remember is to focus on a natural look that provides relief from the intense afternoon sun.

desert landscape designs

This type of landscape design is found throughout the upscale neighborhoods of Arizona, Nevada and the Southwest styled gardens of New Mexico. In the magnificent Sonoran Desert of Southern California lies the arid Coachella Valley and is a popular location for amazing desert landscape designs.

Here in California we’re familiar with the inland desert communities of the Coachella Valley that boast an array of desert style outdoor spaces.

These desert cities include:

  • Palm Springs. Palm Springs is the Valley’s oldest and best-known city. It was a famous getaway used by Hollywood stars in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s.
  • Palm Desert. The largest city in the valley, as well as the fastest growing, this center city is made up of prestigious gated communities, golf clubs, and exclusive vacation resorts.
  • Indian Wells is home to the most elite communities within the Coachella Valley.
  • Rancho Mirage is a predominantly residential city with extravagant country clubs and exclusive gated communities instead of resorts and spas.
  • Indio. One of the smaller valley cities, Indio is the annual host of two food festivals and home to several affluent neighborhoods.
  • La Quinta is the newest city to join the Coachella Valley area. An arts center, La Quinta is also a popular tourist destination and showcases some of the finest desert landscape designs in southern California.

Materials for Desert Landscaping

Landscaping in arid climates requires careful planning to create a refuge from the heat during the day while accommodating the chilly nights typical to the desert.

Energy efficient materials are used to create outdoor living rooms that resist the sun’s intense rays but retain warmth after dark.

desert landscape designs

Shaded patios, covered walkways, and other living space can be constructed from clay barrel roof tiles, smooth adobe brick, thatched straw, innovative Rastra block, or natural cast earth. Paths and patios within a desert style garden are made of classic materials with a natural appearance as well. Light colored gravel, decomposed granite, and even chunks of recycled concrete are possibilities. Garden walls made of plaster or clay can provide privacy and shade.

 

Accenting Desert Landscape Designs with Accessories

The right accessories can create unity between your indoor and outdoor space while adding functionality and comfort to your landscape. Desert landscape designs like those in Arizona generally include water features and shade structures to escape the heat, fans and other air circulators, and a fireplace for cool evenings, as well as other outdoor accessories that enhance the space.

Consider these guidelines for decorating your desert landscaping:

desert landscape designs

Integrate the cooling effects of water into your hot, dry outdoor space but remember to do so in moderation.

Trickling streams and gentle, cascading waterfalls are more pleasing in an arid environment than large fountains with rapid water movement. Swimming pools can create an oasis-like focal point in the center of your garden that serves as a refreshing retreat for your friends and family.

Shade can be just as revitalizing in the desert. Overhanging trees are popular plantings, but structures designed to provide shade are more common. Wood or adobe ramadas are open air outdoor rooms ideal for desert entertaining.

Keep cool in the afternoon sun by creating a breeze with ceiling fans on porches and patios. Choose a style that complements the rest of your design. There are also misting systems and evaporating coolers that can reverse the effects of dry air.

While the days are unbearably hot, nights in the desert are quite cool. Fire pits or outdoor fire places can add elegant lighting and knock off the evening chill.

•Furnishings and accessories in a similar style to those on the inside of your home can lend comfort and functionality to your desert garden.

 

Desert Plant Life

Desert landscape designs are typically implemented in extremely arid climates with very low levels of annual rainfall. Compacted soil, usually hard clay and watertight adobe, make a xeriscape style planting design the most ideal. Xeriscapes include a variety of native plants that survive on just the small amount of rainwater received to create a beautiful garden that is full of life in a barren environment.

desert landscape designs

Maintaining a xeriscape is nearly effortless. Grass is used sparingly and colorful flowers and shrubs that are heat resistant are planted near the house for ease of watering as needed.

The wiry branches of the ocotillo are often used to design fences in desert landscaping and can add vivid color to your outdoor space when it blooms.

Cacti, fragrant lavender, hearty ferns like juniper, and even wildflowers can be incorporated into your xeriscape.

Desert landscape designs are amazing outdoor spaces that create an enjoyable way to entertain in the arid southwest. Drought tolerant plants, natural materials, and an array of outdoor accessories can blend the simplicity of the desert with the sophistication of your modern home for one of the most unique garden styles available.

Self-proclaimed blogger and founder of Landscape Design Advisor, I've traveled the world visiting famous gardens and their owners in the search for landscape design ideas that I can share with others. Many of these ideas can be found in my recommended eBook called Ideas 4 Landscaping.
Allen Quay
View all posts by Allen Quay
Allens website