A drought-resistant tropical garden

Richard and Carole Kraemer’s garden in Paradise Valley looks almost tropical. But the plants they grow are really quite drought-tolerant.

Beside the front entry, a plush green welcome mat is not thirsty turf but lippia (Phyla nodiflora). In the backyard, a snaky plant near the pool’s edge with a convincingly aquatic look is lady’s slipper (Pedilanthus macrocarpus), an unthirsty succulent.

Bougainvillea climbs a trellis and grows against the cliff that rises at the back of the garden. And though the space feels quite green, most of the ground is actually covered with hardscape ― pavers, a ramada, and a fireplace.

DESIGN: Greg Trutza, New Directions in Landscape Architecture, Phoenix (602/264-5202)


Eliminate turf. Turf grass demands an enormous amount of water. If you must have lawn, confine it to a small area. (Think of it as a throw rug rather than carpeting.) Better yet, plant a lawn substitute like lippia or another drought-tolerant groundcover.

Concentrate greenery. Create a few lush planting pockets where they’ll have the most psychological impact ― near the entry, by a patio, edging a path. Less-visible areas can be planted more sparsely, if at all.

Celebrate hardscape. Be lavish in the space you devote to patios, terraces, and pathways and use high-quality materials in colors than echo those found in the desert. Cover bare earth with mineral mulch to further tie the garden to its natural surroundings.

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