[Disclaimer: I’m not an Architect. I’m not a professional Landscaper. I’m just a gardening nut who loves the Desert, interesting plants and the critters that call this place home. The contents of this blog post reflect my personal opinions and not those of SH Architecture.]
The climate in the Las Vegas Valley is one of the most challenging in the US, especially when it comes to Landscaping. Located on the Northern edge of the Mojave Desert, we receive less than 10 inches of rain per year, and temperatures can range from 115F+ in Summer to below freezing in Winter. Despite this, it is possible to have a vibrant, colorful and productive yard without having to spend a fortune in water and maintenance.
Desert landscaping has a bad reputation amongst some Las Vegans, mainly because they associate it with a flat square of rocks peppered with cacti and maybe a palm tree or Sumac. This was the extent of “Desert” landscaping offered by most homebuilders during the late 2000’s, as an alternative to grass. Fortunately, with some time and effort, and a little bit of research, a Desert landscape can be so much more, whether installed by a professional or the home gardener. Here are some tips we learned over the years…
- Just because someone calls themselves a Landscaper doesn’t mean they’re qualified. Do your homework – Check the State Contractor’s Board and the Better Business Bureau to make sure they’re Licensed and Bonded. Ask for addresses of past work and contact details of past clients. It’s worth it!
- Use local resources to learn about what grows in this climate. There are several free classes available at various locations around the Valley – The Springs Preserve, Plant World Nurseries, Star Nurseries, and through UNLV’s Cooperative Extension.
- Visit the Southern Nevada Water District’s Water Smart webpage for information about landscape conversion rebates, recommended contractors and to view past winners of the Landscape Awards (a great place to get ideas).
- Learn about the micro-climates in your yard and plant accordingly. Note areas that are shaded, in full sun, and have protection from the wind. Find out what elevation you’re at and how likely it is that there’ll be a freeze in the colder months.
- Plant small, but allow for growth. Not only will it save money during the initial installation, the plants will be hardier and healthier. It’ll also save your back if you’re planting yourself! Keep trees away from walls, slabs and underground services.
When we bought our home in 2000, we put in Desert landscaping because we wanted to save on water. Unfortunately, we made some mistakes in plant choice and location, and we decided to have the yard redone in 2008. We researched some local companies and picked one that had a strong background in both design and sustainability. Collaborating with the Landscapers on the design, we recycled and relocated existing plants and boulders, added a whole lot more, and in a few weeks the yard was transformed. It’s now much more colorful, more practical and uses a whole lot less water. Even in the heat of midsummer, it only needs watering 3 times per week. It has become both home and a stopping-off point for several birds, lizards, geckos and insects. We also have the ability to grow vegetables, herbs and fruit. This year’s Lemon crop is looking to be spectacular…
So, when it comes to Desert Landscaping, it pays to do your homework, and think outside the Rocks…
[Yard Design, Installation and Maintenance by Shilling Horticulture, Inc.]