Drought Tolerant Garden: Beauty in the City – Part 1

A jewel in the midst of a desert city shows how beautiful drought tolerant gardens can be with creative design, water harvesting and drought-tolerant plants.

Mesquite tree and Aloe Vera

Mesquite tree, aloe vera and pink bougainvillea in spring.

What do you think of when someone mentions a ‘drought tolerant garden’? Do visions of a landscape filled with a few spiny cactus come to mind? Well, I am here to help dispel that perception.

As a native of California who now lives and gardens in the desert Southwest, drought tolerant gardening has always been second nature to me.  I know from personal experience, that drought tolerant gardens can be places filled with beauty.

Last spring, I discovered a jewel in the desert – in the middle of Arizona to be precise.  The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is a place filled with beautifully designed landscapes composed of drought tolerant plants and real life examples of water harvesting.

Gabion walls (wire cages filled with stone).

Gabion walls (wire cages filled with stone).

As its name suggests, this is a demonstration garden, whose goal is to ‘demonstrate’ to the public certain landscape concepts.  In the case of this desert garden, saving water is promoted throughout the garden with examples of drought tolerant plants, innovative water harvesting methods and educational signage.

Gabion walls are used to create terraces along the sides of the garden, which help to slow down the movement of runoff that result from rainfall.  The terraces help to capture the water to allow it to penetrate the soil to water plants.  Boulders are also used to help slow the advance of water.

Gabion walls and drought tolerant plants.

Gabion walls and drought tolerant plants.

As you walk through the 5-acre garden, you are in for a visual treat.  Pathways are lined with palo verde trees with their characteristic green trunks and flowering drought tolerant perennials such as white and pink globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), ‘Gold Mound’ lantana and the vibrant orange of flame honeysuckle (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii).  Gabion walls in this area help to enable the plants to soak up rainwater, decreasing the need for supplemental watering.

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden-016

Toward the end of the garden, you encounter an artistic, terraced garden, which is truly stunning.  This creative design is made from curved walls of stacked stone and river rock.  Individual planting beds hold willow acacia (Acacia willardiana) trees, flowering desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata) and a variety of ornamental grasses, which are all drought tolerant.  *Note that there are no cactus present, further illustrating that a drought tolerant garden does not have to be filled with cacti.

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden-012

Another view of the unique terracing.  This terraced garden is a work of environmental art called ‘Terraced Cascade’.  It is both ornamental and functional.  Rainwater is channeled toward the middle of the planting beds where it falls down a series of steps and then underneath two bridges until it comes to rest in a shallow basin that allow the water to slowly permeate, helping to replenish groundwater.  Even when it is dry, this terraced garden creates the illusion of cascading water.

These are just a few of the wonders that this beautiful drought tolerant garden holds.  Come back on Friday, to see Part 2, when I will show you some other examples of water harvesting, beautiful plants and a VERY effective example of the need to conserve water.




Add a Comment

Want more garden tips for your backyard?

Get ideas and advice for a beautiful landscape with our free Gardening newsletter!

Enter your email address: