Desert Landscape Design Essentials

Desert Landscape Design

Known for its desert climate, with very hot summers and mild winters, Phoenix provides several landscape challenges. Among these challenges are unique soil compositions and extreme temperature fluctuations. Drought-like conditions also provide challenges as residents are required to conserve water.

Luckily, there are many plant species that are either native or well-adapted to the area that – when combined with other materials like river rock, pavers, and earth-colored stucco – can make your dream of an environmentally friendly, eye-catching landscape a reality. For inspiration, visit the Desert Botanical Garden, then contact a professional landscaper in Phoenix who specializes in creating desert landscape designs.

Here are some essentials for designing a desert landscape.

Native Plants

In recent years, native plants have become increasingly popular; valued for their ability to thrive with little water. Native perennials like penstemon, sage, and marigold are known to add pops of color. Succulents such as blue yucca, desert spoon, and agave add regional flare. Native plants are also known to provide food and shelter for the area’s diverse wildlife. Use the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA) website for information on these and other low-water-use plants.

Hardscaping

As you consider essentials for your desert landscape design, keep in mind that you can add tremendous appeal to your front or backyard with hardscaping such as a paved patio, fire pit or sitting area. Other ideas include sculpture gardens, resurfaced driveways, and outdoor kitchens. There is a wide range of materials that can be used for these and other hardscaping projects. It’s a good idea to contact a professional landscaper when considering adding hardscaping to your landscape.

Irrigation

Drip irrigation systems are designed to deliver a consistent amount of water over an extended period. They typically put out water at a leisurely rate of 1/4 to 4 gallons per hour to sufficiently hydrate your plants, trees, and shrubs. Drip irrigation not only helps to ensure the plants survival during dry, hot summers, but its productivity as well. Thanks to today’s technology, some irrigation systems can even be automated, saving time to smell the flowers as they bloom in the spring and early summer.

Gravel

Gravel serves many purposes, from solving drainage issues to lending textural appeal, making it one of the most popular landscape materials with today’s homeowners. It can also be compacted, making it an ideal choice for pathways. The most common types of landscaping gravel are crushed stones, pea gravel, and decomposed granite. River rock is also included in this category. Gravel is available in a variety colors and sizes to complement most any architecture.

Mulch

Mulch provides several benefits, including acting as a soil insulator to keep the roots of plants cool during the summer and warm during the winter, and preventing excess water evaporation. These benefit makes mulch – either organic or inorganic – essential in desert landscape design. Mulch also has weed suppressing properties. It is available in wide range of naturalistic colors. When applying to garden beds, layer three inches deep to ensure sufficient covering.

Roundup: Easter Egg Decorating Ideas to Try

Easter Egg Decorating Ideas

Want to take your Easter egg decorating to the next level? Hop to it with these awesome ideas that we collected from around the web. Just keep in mind that using paint and some other craft supplies to decorate your eggs will render them unsafe for consumption. They may also be too pretty to hide in your yard.

Chick Easter Eggs

Source: It All Started with Paint

These eggs couldn’t be any cuter! Yellow paint (or dye), a tuft of feathers, and a face made of craft paper or washi tape is all it takes to transform your plain white eggs into adorable baby chicks. To make a chicken coop display, simply use the original egg carton, tucking in some faux green grass.

A New Take on Dyed Easter Eggs

Source: It All Started with Paint

These dyed eggs are so easy! All you’ll need is some Tupperware bowls, long grain rice, and food coloring. Fill a bowl with ¼ cup rice, and 5-6 generous drops of food coloring, then put the lid on; shake vigorously to mix. Hard-boil your eggs, and once cooled, place in the bowl. Cover and shake to coat the egg with the food coloring – remove and let dry. You can use as many colors as you’d like.

Confetti-Dipped Easter Eggs

Source: Studio DIY

These glitzy eggs make the perfect table centerpiece. First, hard-boil or hollow out your eggs, and dye them using traditional techniques (you can also paint them). Once dried, apply a thin coat of mod podge to one side of the egg, then sprinkle confetti over the mod podge until its covered. Let dry completely before displaying.

Natural-Dyed Robin Blue Eggs

Source: Honestly Yum

This is an all-natural alternative to decorating eggs. You’ll need a head of red cabbage, 4 teaspoons white vinegar, edible metallic gold paint, and a thick bristle paintbrush. You will be using the red cabbage, boiled, to dye your eggs different shades of robin’s egg blue. Splatter them with edible gold paint for gorgeous results. Makes one dozen eggs.

Early Spring Landscaping Checklist

spring landscaping checklist

Sunlight, warmer weather, and flowers blooming everywhere can mean only one thing – that spring is quickly approaching. Is your landscaping (front and/or back) ready? If not, get it ready with this easy-to-follow spring landscaping checklist.

Care for the Lawn

Once your lawn begins to wake from its winter dormancy, usually after the danger of frost has passed, address any bare spots by reseeding. You’ll also want to get a head start on weed prevention by manually removing them before they can multiply. For cool-season grasses, fertilize in the early spring; for warm-season grasses, fertilization can wait until late spring or early winter.

Add Color with Mulch

Mulch is one of the easiest ways to add both color and texture to the entire yard. Its primary purposes are to enhance aesthetics, control weed germination, insulate the soil, prevent soil compaction, and reduce lawn mower damage. Add 2 to 4 inches of mulch around the base of your tree, shrubs, or flowers. Be careful not to let it touch the tree’s trunk or the flower’s stems. Mulch is available in a range of colors.

Plant Summer-Blooming Flowers

Spring is the ideal time to plant summer-blooming (also called heat-tolerant) flowers. The best summer-blooming flowers for desert gardeners include Datura, blue salvia, penstemons, and primrose. These flowers can be planted from February – once the threat of frost has passed – through May. Before planting your flowers, prepare the bed by mixing in lots of organic matter, such as compost or peat moss.

Update Outdoor Light Fixtures

The addition of outdoor lighting can really enhance a home at night. Lead guests up to the front door with path light set along the walkway; add drama to your front yard by highlighting your garden beds; enjoy your patio after dark with classic string lights; and combine safety with beauty by installing motion-detecting spotlights. There are many different types of outdoor lighting to consider, including high-voltage, LEDs and solar.

Prune Trees and Shrubs

Pruning promotes good plant health. The best time to prune is in late winter or early spring, just before new growth starts. This leaves fresh wounds exposed for only a short length of time. Pruning now can prevent certain diseases and physiological problems. Other trees and shrubs that bloom early in the growing season on last year’s growth should be pruned immediately after they finish blooming.

Clean Outdoor Furniture

Cleaning improves the appearance and durability of your outdoor furniture. Use a garden hose to rinse powdered-coated aluminum furniture off. Follow this by wiping it down with a mild dish detergent and water. Rinse completely and let dry.  Wood, wicker, rattan, and iron furniture require special care. All hardware should be inspected and tightened as needed. Pavers, concrete, and hardscapes should also be cleaned.

Backyard Design Trends

backyard design

Are you ready to update or upgrade your backyard design? Here are four backyard design ideas that are trending right now.

Low Maintenance Landscape

A sustainable backyard design, complete with drought-tolerant, native plants and minimal (if any) grass can be useful and attractive. While low-maintenance landscapes are by no means new, they’re becoming increasingly popular – both for economic and environmental concerns. In this case, less really is more!

Durable Outdoor Surfaces

Hardscape elements, such as stacked stone retaining walls, meandering paver pathways, and traditional outdoor kitchens are a must-have for outdoor living spaces. Custom built fire pits are perfect for family gatherings; kids and adults alike will enjoy roasting marshmallows in their own backyard.

Add Ambience with Lighting

If you want to enjoy your outdoor living spaces into the evening hours, consider installing LED and other low-voltage lighting fixtures (e.g., path lights, spot/flood lights, deck/step lighting, string lights, lanterns, and tiki torches). Lights that are connected to motion sensors will also enhance the security of your home.

Sustainable Gardening

Imagine serving your family fresh fruits and vegetables sourced from your own backyard. A great way to do this is with edible landscaping. Edible landscaping is the perfect solution for small spaces as fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants can be planted in raised garden boxes as well as containers in varying shapes and sizes.

Professional Backyard Design Services

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair has the tools to make your backyard design beautiful throughout the year. We have the expertise to complete all the landscape and poolscape (we now offer pool remodeling!) projects on your to-do list. For more information about our services, or to request a free estimate, visit us online at www.elitesprinkler.com or give us a call today at (602) 390-4645.

How to Pick the Best Holiday Tree

best holiday tree

The holiday season comes but once a year, and although picking out a real or living tree to last through all the tidings of comfort and joy may require a little more time and effort, you will find that the scent alone to be well worth it.

Here are some tips to help you select the best holiday tree.

Measure Your Space

Before you visit a local tree lot, take to the forest or purchase a living tree, be sure to measure the room in which you plan to put your tree. Measure the height of your ceiling, adding an extra 12 to 18 inches for the tree stand at the bottom, as well as a tree topper. Another good idea is to measure the room’s width.

Choose a Species

If your tried and true holiday tree species still works, great. If you want to try a different species there are a variety of trees available; 16 to be exact. Popular varieties include (but are not limited to) Balsam Firs, Douglas Firs, Noble Firs, Fraser Firs, Colorado Blue Spruce, Arizona Cypress, and White Pine. You can find information on each variety here. Remember: Not all species may be available in your area.

Check for Freshness

If you were lucky to get a tree permit – the forest service makes a total of 600 permits available annually – you know how fresh the tree is. Many pre-cut trees, on the other hand, may have been cut weeks earlier. Always check a tree for freshness by running a branch through your enclosed hand. The needles shouldn’t come off easily. You can also bend a branch backwards to see if it snaps back. If it doesn’t, the tree may be too dry and you may want to consider a different tree, or come back when the vendor’s next shipment comes in.

Don’t Neglect the Trunk

Once you’ve found the one, be sure to ask the vendor to make a fresh, second cut as well as trim the bottom branches. At home, immediately put it in water. If you don’t plan on putting it up right away, store your tree in a cool place (i.e., the garage), ensuring it is in water. When setting up the tree, make sure to place it away from any heat sources, such as vents and fireplaces.

The Stand Matters

It is highly recommended that you use a reservoir-type tree stand to keep trees fresh. Stands should hold a gallon of water. Amazon’s best selling tree stands include the center pin stand; the two-piece stand; the four-bold stand; and the “clamp” stand.

Caring for a Real Tree

Replenish water daily. Plain water is fine, and contrary to popular belief, temperature doesn’t matter and will not affect water intake. It’s perfectly normal for water absorption to vary from one day to the next. Ensure your tree stays fresh all season long by topping off the stand’s reservoir daily.

Responsibly Dispose Of

After the holidays, don’t throw your real tree away in the trash or set it on the curb. These trees are biodegradable, which means they can be easily recycled for mulch and other purposes. The city of Phoenix will collect trees at no cost to you and turn them into mulch. Residents can also drop off their trees to be recycled at the “I Recycle Phoenix” festival from 8am to 1pm Saturday, January 6, 2018.

If you have a live tree with the root ball still attached – often covered by a piece of burlap – it can be replanted outside after the holidays. Keep in mind that a live tree can only be used indoors for 1 to 2 weeks max. When planting in your Phoenix landscape, move the tree back outside for a week or two so that it can re-enter dormancy. Once this time has elapsed, remove the burlap and any other coverings on the root ball, place the tree in the pre-dug hole and backfill. Cover with mulch and water.

Landscaping Ideas for Small Backyards

small backyards

A backyard provides a great place for outdoor activities, entertaining, and relaxation. If you have a large, spacious backyard, the options are truly endless. However, if you live in a populated suburb or condominium in the city, your relaxation and entertaining space may be limited. Although, looks can be quite deceiving; don’t let your small backyard fool you into thinking you can’t enjoy it. In fact, all it takes is a little imagination, and some creative design planning to turn your small backyard into an oasis.

Here are six landscaping ideas for small backyards.

Lay Outdoor Pavers Diagonally

Laying pavers diagonally creates the illusion that the space is bigger than it looks. You can find outdoor pavers in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Material options include concrete, natural stone, and brick. Manufactured pavers are interlocking, which makes installing them without grout easy. What’s more? Pavers are virtually maintenance free, although regular sweeping, and resealing will help enhance their appearance and longevity.

Raised Garden Beds

When landscaping for small yards, nothing beats raised garden beds, also called garden boxes. These beds are great for growing small plots of plants, flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Since they are raised, they reduce weed growth, provide good drainage, prevent soil compaction, and reduce damage from outdoor pests. Raised garden beds can be built in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and materials to perfectly fit your small backyard.

Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardens are perfect for small backyard landscaping. If you have a bare fence or exterior wall, you can create several vertical gardens, thus saving ground space. You can create a privacy wall with a trellis, edible vegetables and herbs using old shipping crates, and/or grow your favorite annuals with some chicken wire and an old bookcase.

Cozy Fire Pits

Imagine sitting outside surrounded by your loved ones on a chilly winter’s night, gazing up at the stars, embraced by the warmth of a crackling fire. This picturesque evening can be yours with a fire pit, which is built low to the ground with no chimney, so it doesn’t require ventilation or a building permit. Popular building materials include concrete, stone, and brick. It can be installed on your patio, deck or yard.

Exterior Lighting

Exterior lighting is perhaps one of the easiest and most affordable options for outfitting a small backyard. It instantly adds visual interest to any size yard, providing a soft glow that creates a comfortable, inviting atmosphere. Available in a variety of halogen, LED and solar fixtures, exterior lighting allows you to highlight focal points in your landscaping. It also enhances home security and safety.

We want to hear from you! Can you think of any other landscaping ideas for small backyards?

Fall Bucket List

fall bucket list

Who doesn’t LOVE fall?

There are leaves for jumping in, apples for picking, pumpkins for carving, and freshly baked goods to eat. Did we mention pumpkin spice everything? We’ve collected more than 30 ideas to help you make the most out of the season, including tips for preparing your landscaping for the cooler months ahead, and compiled them into this fall bucket list.

  • Go apple picking
  • Go for a hayride
  • Rake your yard; front and back
  • Drink warm apple cider
  • Try new pumpkin recipes
  • Get lost in a corn maze
  • Jump in a pile of leaves
  • Take a scenic fall foliage drive
  • Trim rouge tree branches
  • Enjoy hot chocolate under the stars
  • Host or attend a bonfire
  • Decorate your front porch or patio with fall decor
  • Lace up your hiking boots, and set out for these trails
  • Bundle up in your favorite sweater, scarf, and boots
  • Clean your gutters
  • Do a fall photoshoot
  • Watch Halloween movies with kettle corn
  • Carve a jack-o-lantern
  • Curl up under a comfy throw with a good book
  • Make your home smell like fall by filling a stockpot of 4 to 6 cinnamon sticks, orange rind, 2 tablespoons whole cloves, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and 3 to 5 bay leaves. Add water and allow to simmer.
  • Add a good layer of mulch to your landscaping beds
  • Tell ghost stories
  • Visit a haunted house
  • Plant fall perennials
  • Sip on a pumpkin spice latte (a delicious combination of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, mace, nutmeg, and cloves served hot or cold)
  • Bike to neighboring farmer’s markets
  • Host a chili or soup night
  • Volunteer
  • Start holiday shopping
  • Go antiquing or thrifting
  • Make apple butter from scratch
  • Make homemade candied apples
  • Overseed your lawn using Arizona’s cooler season grass: Perennial Rye. The best time to overseed your lawn is during the first two weeks of October when temperatures are consistently below 65˚F.

Join the conservation: What are you most excited for this fall?

Summer Lawn Watering Tips

watering tips

Ensuring a healthy, lush, green lawn doesn’t have to waste one of our natural resources if you maintain proper watering techniques. Proper watering, along with fertilizing, and mowing practices can help prevent a host of problems including bald patches, insect infestations, and disease.

Consider the following watering tips when caring for your summer lawn:

Water Once Every 3 Days

The key to watering is to water no more than once every three days. Yes, even during the hottest days of summer. Remember to water for longer periods – the time it takes to move water to a depth of 10 to 12 inches into the soil. You can check the depth by pushing a probe or long screwdriver into the ground. If it goes in easily, no more water is needed. By watering your lawn wisely, you help prevent common problems caused by overwatering, conserve a natural resource and save money on your water bill.

Water at the Right Time

The best time to water your lawn is during the morning hours. Typically, between the hours of 4 and 8 A.M., when the air is still cool. This helps minimize evaporation and prevent the growth of fungus. Avoid watering your lawn in windy weather; it’s a far less efficient use of water as it will evaporate before reaching the roots. Don’t water after it’s rained. The University of Arizona provides a FAQs page with more information on when to water your summer lawn.

Install an In-ground Sprinkler System

For added effectiveness, install an in-ground sprinkler system. Investing in the right sprinkler system has two main benefits – it helps to conserve water and, through automation, can prevent overwatering and/or underwatering. The right system also allows you to customize your watering strategy.

Elite Landscaping and Sprinkler Repair fine-tunes the system to deliver water at specific times of day based on your needs and climate. We also offer affordable sprinkler maintenance and repair services. Contact us today at (602) 390-4645. Our office is open Monday through Friday from 7:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M.!

The Best Trees for Pool Landscaping

pool landscaping

A swimming pool is the ultimate backyard amenity. It provides a great way for families to cool down, relieve stress, and enjoy time outdoors with family and friends. Landscaping around a pool with vividly colored and/or native trees can go a long way in enhancing the relaxing, resort-like ambiance of a swimming pool, but they must be chosen carefully. The wrong tree choice could detract from your pool’s aesthetic value.

Choose trees that:

  • Add texture
  • Have minimal leaf drop
  • Have shallow root systems
  • Will flourish around the pool in your given climate
  • Are colorful and lush, turning your pool into an oasis
  • Meet your specific requirements (e.g., shade, beauty, privacy)

Some of the best trees for pool landscaping include: Hibiscus, Papyrus, Queen Palm, Bird of Paradise, Fortnight Lily, Day Lily, Heavenly Bamboo, Apaganthus, and Golden Euonymus. The worst trees for pool landscaping include: Ash, Cottonwood, Elm, Eucalyptus, Mulberry, Oak, Pine, Popular, and Walnut (among others).

Bamboo and hedges can create a natural privacy fence, enclosing the space, and creating even more shade. You should avoid trees that grow too fast, too tall or too spindly, as these trees are often prone to excessive leaf and limb loss. Additionally, there are many small perennials that can add continuous color without the mess, which can be planted in pots.

To add texture, install a variety of plant types, like combining ground cover with leafy and flowering trees around your pool landscaping. You’ll want to choose plants that are native to your zone, such as those listed on the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association website.

The goal here is to add visual appeal to your pool landscaping, as well as spend much of the summer in the water, not cleaning your pool of debris. For help designing your pool landscaping, contact Elite Landscaping at 602-390-4645 today.

Front Yard Landscaping Ideas

front yard landscaping

You can easily incorporate any one of the following ideas into your front yard landscaping to make it as functional as possible. These ideas will also greatly enhance your property’s curb appeal, increasing its value.

Outdoor Walkways

Instead of risking having your grass or flowers trampled, create an inviting entrance with a walkway using natural stone, stamped concrete or decorative brick. When designing your walkway, choose materials that will complement your home’s architectural style and features. For example, if your house is brick, a paved walkway using traditional brick or cobblestone with a brick border is a good choice. Note that a poured surface or paved surface will be much more slip resistant than gravel or pebble.

Landscape Lighting

Landscape lighting can create safe pathways, gorgeous views, and stunning focal points in your front yard. It can also deter intruders. Landscape lighting is available in a wide variety of LED and halogen fixtures. There are pros and cons for both, and it’s important to learn these so that you can make the best, most cost-effective decision. Talk to your landscape professional about the benefits of landscape lighting when designing your front yard landscaping.

Garden Beds

Garden beds full of colorful trees, flowering shrubs, and annuals or perennials are popular additions to both front and backyard landscapes. There are three kinds of garden beds you should be aware of; island beds, raised beds, and border beds. As with landscape lighting, each type of garden bed has its own share of pros and cons that again, should be discussed with your landscape professional.

Native Plants

Bring the beauty of Arizona into your front yard landscaping design by gardening with native plants. Once established, many native plants require minimal water, fertilizer and maintenance time. Native plants grow best under natural conditions. Beneficial insects, such as butterflies, hummingbirds and bees also prefer native plants. As do native birds. These insects and birds will help keep your landscape free of mosquitoes and plant-eating insects.