Soon after moving from semitropical Louisiana to semi-arid Park City, Utah, Anne and Steve Guenard realized that a water-intensive lawn just didn't make sense. They quickly embraced low-water gardening practices. To add interest to their 1/3-acre lot, Steve brought in topsoil to form gentle islands anchored by aspen and blue spruce. The islands are defined by meandering gravel paths and a flagstone walk.
After Steve installed a drip-irrigation system, Anne consulted local nursery experts for suggestions on hardy, drought-tolerant flowers and foliage plants. The resulting palette includes Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silver Mound', blue fescue, violet Rocky Mountain penstemon, red Oriental poppy, deep purple salvia, white snow-in-summer, and pink soapwort ( Saponaria officinalis). At season's end, Anne cuts back the perennials to just above ground level and spreads a blanket of bark around them.