Landscape ideas needed (backyard)

AZRoboTechJanuary 29, 2013

Hi All, i'm new to the boarda and was hoping for some ideas to get some shade and color in my backyard. I've attached a pic with the layout and what I would like to accopmlish. Irigation is ran around the perimeter. I would like mesquites or Sissos for shade. As far as color we really like the Texas sage, lantanas and anything yellow. By the pool we are thinking about 3 queen palms but would like other ideas there as well. The outer perimeter is block wall. It is a blank canvas right now so let the creativity fly! We are DIY'ers and on a budget.

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No queen palms ... they don't thrive in AZ soil without constant pampering. Mexican blue palm (Brahea something or other) and some others are better choices.

The first thing you buy should be the Sunset Western Garden Book ... it will save you a bundle on bad plant choices.

Check your local water department and city web site for lists of water-thrifty plants.

Make a loose sketch of the functions your back yard has to have ... dining? dogs? play area? composting and gardening? cooking? Lay them out like a floor plan.

Make sure they are in logical places ... walking through the dog yard to get from kitchen to dining is not a good idea.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 2:45PM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Welcome to the forum! We hope you post lots of updates on your projects, plus poke around/reply to the other themes/threads too. :)

Your plan sounds good to me! Although the first thing that JUMPED to mind is the same thing that Lazy mentioned: I would re-think the queen palms as they really, really struggle here. Mexican blue palms and Mediterranean palms are a good alternative, although they have fan-shaped leaves. If you absolutely want feather-shaped leaves you could get a fun "jelly palm" also called "pindo palm" (Butia capitata ) too. Other than that one concern, your plan sounds nice so far, really nice.

I'd go with mesquites over sissoos, but both would be fun choices. Sissoos look more tropical of course. I'm a huge fan of lantana (love it!) so that's nice for some color. If you like yellow, "Arizona yellow bells" (Tecoma stans varieties) could be fun. It gets cut back in cold winters but bounces back very very fast in spring.

If you search the forum for books you'll find several great ones for our area. Really though, you've already got a nice plan started. I like cactus and succulents for contrast with leafy plants, but I know some folks aren't fond of them (many aloes, like Aloe striata ("coral aloe")don't have spines and love it here).

I'm sure others will chime in too. Let us know what you select and how it works out. Fun fun fun.

Happy gardening,

    Bookmark   January 30, 2013 at 6:33PM
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Tecoma Stan's, grows to be up to 10" tall bush and produces beautiful tulip-shaped flowers in colors from gold to orange. Mine are rusty orange at the base and are yellow at the flower edges. Apparently they lose their leaves in the winter though. I'm planning how to prune mine now.

Also, there's a yellow form of butterfly bush that is beautiful. I have it in my yard. It died some after transplanting but has since begun growing back. It has beautiful golden spikes.

Attached is my tecoma stans.

May also want to consider Mexican bird of paradise (though here in tucson they're so pass�.) I have two crape myrtles and a Hong Kong orchid tree in my yard. They require a little more water because they take longer to establish in the summer heat, but the crape myrtles specifically bloom in the mildest beautiful reds and pinks from early summer through the beginning of winter. In Phoenix they'd need to be deep watered daily, here in tucson every other day, for the first two years. Amending the alkaline soils with soil treated with mycorrhizae fungi helps with non-native tropicals.

(Its funny, I can't get the desert/native plants to stay alive, but my tropicals are always doing brilliantly.)

    Bookmark   February 3, 2013 at 3:59PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

My theory is that if you like yellow, you should love orange!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:18PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Sorry, I forgot to say, that's tecoma stans, Orange Bells. Here's another beauty, Mexican bird of paradise. I had this one for many years, but it finally died. Gotta go get another one - or few. ;)

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 2:20PM
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The only thing I don't like about the tecoma is the foliage is a very light shade of green, so it clashes with other things in the yard. I'm also bummed its deciduous (which shouldn't surprise me since everything else I've planted is too). But when in bloom they're definitely an eye catcher. I have them right next to my yellow butterfly bush.

I can't wait until March so I can start fertilizing and getting these plants growing again! It's taken a year of gardening, so I can't wait for them to break out in one beautiful burst of color.

P.S. my tecoma is a "sparky," which was apparently patented by ASU.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2013 at 11:54PM
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tomatofreak(Z9 Phx USA)

Funny, the Orange Bells is about the only plant in my yard that did *not* lose its leaves to the frost. It's pretty and green.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2013 at 1:50AM
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crista(Sunset 13)

What fun! I don't know how big your backyard is, but be sure to plant the trees as far away from the pool as possible so you're not fighting to keep leaves out of your pool. We made a major mistake in planting a lyseloma (feathery acacia) by our pool, and there are few months of the year that we're not doing battle with leaf, blossom, or seed pod litter. If you're looking for ground cover, yellow dots is excellent as it does well in the heat.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 2:37PM
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No Queen palms. You will regret it. How about pencil stick succulents instead. Don't know exactly what they are called but they are smooth long stick like succulents and thrive here.

I like lantanas in other people's yards, but now mine. It is stinky and everyone has them.

How about Australian bottle tree or a Shamel or Fantex Ash. Nice looking trees. Sissoo trees give nice shade, but are very invasive with their roots.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2013 at 10:17PM
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Thanks for the replies everybody! I'll take your advise on the queen palms. The family across the stree had a palo verde that grew right by thier pool. Pretty tree but man what a mees. they finally cut it down last year. I thought I posted a drawing of my back yard but it didnt post I guess. So I'll try again. It's pretty much a blank canvas as far as plants and color. I'll try and get some actual pics up tomorrow.
Thanks again

    Bookmark   February 9, 2013 at 12:38AM
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Well thanks again for all the ideas and info. We've decided to have a guy come out and see what he can design and for us. We just cant seem to wrap our heads around what we need to fill our back yard spaces and make it flow and not look hodge podged. I will keep you all posted.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:25AM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Neat! Definitely let us know what the plan is and how it works out. Sometimes calling in a professional is the only way to help folks weed through the many choices (hah, pun intended).

Have fun and do send updates. What a fun project!
Happy gardening!

Here is a link that might be useful: What's blooming so far in my garden Feb 2013

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 5:07PM
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I'd take Sissoos over Mesquite. Sissoos grow extremely fast if you are looking for fast growing trees. I also like Chinese Elm. Not necessarily fast growing, but I like the look. I have all 3 growing and a few others. I have vines growing along my fence - I don't know what the name of it is, but it branches out all over the place and has hundreds of yellow flowers!
I also have very leafy, ground covering plant in front of my house that puts out both white and yellow flowers - lot of them! Likes water, though, especially during the summer. I can get the name of it from Whitfill's are interested, though the vines I have no clue, got them at a nursery that was going out of business. I am also experimenting with growing a Queensland Bottle Tree (not to be confused with other Australian type of bottle trees). I was at a house that was in a pond club that was doing a tour of homes with Koi ponds. One of them had a couple of these trees that had grown to 20 plus feet. Absolutely gorgeous and extremely different than most anything else you find around here and it loves Phoenix weather. If interested, there is a seller on Ebay that I bought mine from. They aren't exactly fast growing, but it's a project tree.
I'm not a fan of palm trees, just my preference. They grow "wild" on my property and I have to pull them out all over the place. There is another type of desert tree growing on my property that I didn't plant but let grow. I have no idea what the names of those are, either. One of them is 3 years old and about 21 feet tall. Beautiful tree and actually gives some good shade. I saw one at a museum that they had planted a few years back, but I can't remember the name of it.
I would also suggest thinking about pine trees. They are ever-so-slow growing but they can take whatever weather this city can give it, unlike my Ficus trees which sustained major damage in the recent extreme frost session we went through. I was lazy though, I could have saved them - wrap C-9 Christmas lights throughout them, especially on the tops if you can get to them and the heat coupled with covering them up does a nice job of helping them weather extreme cold. Yes, I have in the past wrapped C-9 version of Christmas lights around certain plants and trees that are susceptible to extreme cold when the forecast is for hard freeze and yes, it works.

May I also suggest a Koi pond? Just for fun. Try starting with a small, preformed shell and see if you like it. Get some Koi and goldfish. They're fun to have! Small ponds don't take a lot of work and the fish learn to know you and the Koi will even come up to you! They survive the heat and the cold. I have one I made out of horse trough and 2 more that are preformed. I haven't delved into the larger type with liners - just haven't got there yet.

Whatever you end up doing, have fun with it!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 8:40PM
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Ok, so the "pro" came out today. He had some good ideas around the pool area but did not hit the mark on the rest of the yard. It was very simple and had little wow factor. I'll probably go with his ideas around the pool but could use a little more help with the main part of the yard.
I took pics today and will post them in hopes that you all can give me some fresh ideas.

The wife would like 3 heavenly cloud sage's in this area creating a shapeable shrub close to the house. She also likes the idea of blue and pink hibiscus in this area.

This wall is on the south side of the yard so it is shaded for most of the year. The pro suggested a few sago palms along the wall.

We are thinking heavenly cloud sage against the back wall as well but would love some ideas that would look good.

We are thinking trailing yellow, purple and white lantana along the yard side of the pool fence. I would like this whole area filled with some type of low lying ground cover.

Thanks again for all your help

This post was edited by AZRoboTech on Thu, Feb 21, 13 at 3:32

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 2:51AM
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I'm going to take some pics of the vines and try to find out what they are and also of the ground covering plant that I have that will grow to cover as much ground as you want. Just for some ideas for your project.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 8:10AM
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Sounds good trooper rat I would appreciate that

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 11:46PM
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Here's a link to a landscape design tool that had dozens of examples (photos) of actual landscapes that should give you some inspiration. Use the Garden Tour and Garden Gallery tabs to get to the photos. Many of the plants in the photos are identified and you can add them to "my list" to keep a running inventory of the ones you like. It also has a searchable plant database.

Here is a link that might be useful: Online Landscape design tool

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 11:32AM
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Ok so I found a nursery down the road a bit that I didnt even know about. The guy was very knowledgable and kept things simple. I have purchased the following from him and it will be installed next week. Here is the list of stuff. Keep in mind that this is just a start and we will add to this as we go along. Thanks again for all the help and I will post pics as things progress.
1-multi trunk mediteranian fan palm
2-twisted myrtle
2-heavenly cloud sage
5-misc hibiscus
2-valentine emu

    Bookmark   February 23, 2013 at 12:16AM
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grant_in_arizona(USDA Z9 Scottsdale AZ)

Nice selection of plants! The hibiscus is frost tender of course, so keep an eye on them, but the rest should be pretty darn bullet proof, and all are attractive. I've become a huge fan of 'Valentine' emu bushes over the years. They look great all around town, just blooming away right now.

Keep us posted, and enjoy that new landscape!

    Bookmark   March 4, 2013 at 6:40PM
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Valentine emu! That's what those shrubs are! I love those plants, but could never identify them. There are a bunch of them planted alongside one of the main roads near our house, and they are so pretty when they bloom, and have a lovely airy form that looks nice year round.

I think you'll really like them, AZRoboTech. Looking forward to pics!

    Bookmark   March 6, 2013 at 11:42AM
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