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About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Posted by melt_in_the_sun Tucson AZ (My Page) on
Tue, Sep 21, 10 at 20:58

Hi all,
We live in northwest Tucson (HOA subdivision) and are planning on redoing much of the front yard gradually over the next few weeks. The front of the house faces ESE. Here are the pictures and our tentative plan:

Front porch area: here you can see the stump of a palo verde I recently removed. The fountain grass is next to go. We're planning on putting in:
- A texas mountain laurel about 18 inches to the lower left of the palo verde stump (size concern? very compact/slow grower, right?)
- Tecoma stans (orange version) where the fountain grass is, probably two plants (plan on keeping their size down to 3-4' or so)
- Yucca gloriosa (variegated) between the front porch and the driveway, up and to the left of the stump (reflected heat potentially a concern?)

I'll be taking out these three Texas Ranger bushes soon. I'd like to put in two pineapple guava (feijoa sellowiana) trees to replace them, but will step them back from the driveway a little so I can build basins in the depression you can see in the second picture (can't get it to rotate; sorry!). That way they'll pick up any runoff from the back yard. I'll put something in by the electrical box, perhaps a mexican bird of paradise.

Here, the tied-up dasylirion wheeleri will be removed, and I'd like to put an emory oak (quercus emoryi) a little to the right of that spot (building a basin here may be a little bit of work).

Here, the two hesperaloe parvifloras in the mid-upper part of the picture will be removed. I plan replacing the far one with an octopus agave (agave vilmoriniana). I also plan to plant two Aloe Ferox; one where the large rock is, and the other on the very left side of the image, near the two smaller rocks (are these difficult to grow here?)

That about covers it! Any comments are welcome. I'm trying to make our landscaping stand out from the bland-ness of our community.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

By the way, everything will be on drip irrigation. Right now, the builder set it up as all one zone, but I'm planning on splitting it up. I have four zones potentially available; one on the left side of the driveway and three on the right.

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Mountain Laurel ... size concern. It's a slow grower, but you don't seem to have much room in that teensy strip.

Tecoma stans ... will freeze back, but you'll be doing a lot of pruning to keep it to 3-4 feet in the summer. Ours went from ground level to a 5-foot diameter 8-foot tall monster in a couple of months this spring.

Yucca Gloriosa ... a size problem: says it's 'Growth Habits: Up to 10 feet tall (3 m) or higher, 8 feet wide (2.4 m)' And it suffers frost damage at about 20F.

So my count is all three with size concerns and two that are going to be dead and ugly after a hard winter.

Can you show a pic of the house from across the street - full view of the front - to make the closeups have some context.

Here is a link that might be useful: desert-tropicals GREAT plant info

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Lazygardens, thanks for the tips!

Just looked it up and "yucca gloriosa" is wrong...sorry about that. What my dear wife actually wants is yucca recurvifolia (there's some naming confusion at the local nurseries and in her brain). Our across-the-street neighbors have some of this; it looks nice and is a much more manageable size (has single trunk, will resprout if cut to a stump to control size). It does sucker, but it seems like it could work.

As for the tecoma stans, I am aware of the huge size problems, but my wife promises she'll trim it! (sure....) We'll see if I can talk her into something smaller. She liked heavenly bamboo (nandina domestica) also, any thoughts on that? Maybe I could sneak a couple agave pelona past the HOA spies...

I'll get a larger picture this evening. Thanks for your help! It's difficult working within the HOA bylaws; so many people have exactly the same plants around here and we're trying to be a little more creative.

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Trying to keep a Tecoma in a 3-4' space will be a real challange, take it from someone who is doing just that. The previous owner of my house put one in a spot it had no business being in, and I dont have the heart to take it out. Frequent pruning, which takes time and creates more green waste than I prefer. PLEASE consider using the 'Right plant, right place' concept and put a plant that grows to only 3-4' in the space. There's gotta be another spot in the yard you can put the tecoma if you really want that plant

BTW someone really put a palo verde THAT close to the house?!? AND willingly planted fountain grass? And THAT gets by the HOA? Sorry, had to vent for a second...

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Here are photos of the whole yard from across the street...

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Hi Melt in Sun,

Here are my thoughts.

You already have a nice landscape base - some contours and nice established plants. As you say, you just need a little more interest and color.

Plant a tree, yes but you'll need to be careful of mature size as your yard doesn't appear to be too large. I don't think Emory Oak will work in your location. It grows in moist canyons, valleys and creek bottoms. (In Texas @ 4500'+) Mountain States Wholesale Nursery says it will not grow on alkaline soils and must have moisture.

A better choice would be Southern Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) - the popular cultivar in Arizona is 'Heritage'.

You might also consider a flowering tree like Chitalpa or Desert Willow. They are great for summer color and hummingbirds can't resist the blooms. You can't beat Willow acacia (Acacia salicina) for graceful form and vertical growth.

Aloe ferox will struggle without shade. Once your new tree is established you could plant under the canopy for protection.

A new shrub I'm pretty excited about is one of the Emu bushes. This one is small and only grows to 3 feet tall and wide. Eremophila hygrophana blooms nearly year round with purple-blue flowers. I have one on the west side of my house in Gilbert and its handling western sun and reflected heat just fine.

Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Eremophila hygrophana

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Do you have a list of allowed plants?

I like the Texas Rangers - they have almost hidden the neighbor's driveway. If You plant the pineapple guava now, and remove the rangers later you will have full coverage.

The strip between house and garage would be ideal for some native wildflowers like chocolate flower, Mexican bush sage, maybe Salvia clevelandi ... sweet-smelling things.

Some striking specimen plants - that yellow-flowered grey-leaved mallow, Lion's tail, desert milkweed, desert lady-slipper in a huge pot ...

Cacti? Agaves?


I like A. parryi for it's lovely blue-green color. I think it's hardy in Tucson.

Agave victoriae-reginae - interesting little thing, with intricate markings.

Cacti: It's hard to beat Santa Rita Prickly pear for permanent color.

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Wow, thanks for all the comments!

I can't link the approved plant list, since it's on our HOA website which requires a login. I have it as a .pdf file, but can't think of any way to get it up here for you to's pretty boring anyway :)

Emu bush, southern live oak, chitalpa, willow acacia, chocolate flower, salvias, etc. are sadly not allowed. We really would prefer emu bush and live oak to the choices I posted above. We like desert willow, but half the houses on the street have them :(

Agave parryi is one that we've considered; it actually is approved. I really like agave pelona (not on the approved list...maybe I can hide it behind something!), but I've read it's a bit picky and may be difficult to grow successfully.

The closer we put the aloe ferox to the house, the more afternoon shade it will get. I've seen it kept in full sun in some nurseries around here, but Bach's has it under light shade cloth and theirs looked the best. I'm really excited about this plant...I hope it works!

My wife says the texas rangers have to go. Really, they don't hide anything all that much. The houses are just too close together for that.

Maybe the HOA won't pick up on the difference between live oak and emory oak; I actually had to look at the tags to tell them apart. Gambel oak (quercus gambelii) is also approved, but we were told it wouldn't hit 10 feet. Toyon (heteromeles arbutifolia) is approved and would be cool, but I can't find anywhere to buy it. Gah, why can't anything be easy? Thanks for all the help.

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

Chocolate flower is NOT approved? Bloody well should be, considering it's NATIVE to Arizona. And so are some of the salvias.

Ask them to update the plants list with things from other drought tolerant lists ... get the Tucson water district's list, the Phoenix lists etc and see what's interesting.

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

OK, figured out a way to "post" the plant list. It looks to me like somebody just got to choose off the top of their head which plants are acceptable and which are not. Seriously, only four agave species!? The "note at the end of appendix A" just means nothing taller than 20 feet. Only plants with a "N" or "T" designation are OK for front yard use. It is a poorly considered list and many latin names are misspelled. Even the HOA has taken some liberties in common areas, with pedilanthus macrocarpus and a couple unlisted dasylirions being frequently planted. I plan to do the same with agaves, keeping with the desert-y character that's intended by the HOA (even though lots of the approved plants aren't the least bit desert-y). OK, rant over.

The plan has changed a bit with your comments:
- no more tecoma stans, the fountain grass will now be replaced by agave pelona.
- the sophora secundiflora will now be in the main part of the yard
- aloe ferox will be right between the porch and the garage (original spot for yucca recurvifolia)
- yucca recurvifolia where the palo verde stump is (looking forward to digging/cutting that hole)
- we'll probably ditch the oak idea and put in an ironwood (olneya tesota)
- we'll put in agave victoria reginae between the driveway and planned pineapple guavas. We may switch these with the agave pelonas up near the house.

Thanks again for your help.

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

No Globe Mallow?

I think this list has a strong "out of their nether regions" feeling to it.

Queen's Wreath is native to Baja! And Cat's Claw is native (but should not be allowed near a house).

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

I agree completely about the list! It is what it is though, and I think we've got a solid plan with attractive plants. I started digging up irrigation last night, and am planning to put in the first plants (the small agaves) this weekend. Thanks everyone.

RE: About to redo front yard - thoughts/advice?

You won't be dissapointed with the Ironwood. I'm just sorry I didn't think of it. ;-) I love that tree and in a landscape situation it is considered a moderate grower. You'll find that native birds, especially verdin, love to build nests in it.

Best of luck with converting your yard to a more colorful, interesting, fragrant and beautiful landscape.

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