by Blake Herzog
Most homeowners do a good job overall with plant choice, basic landscaping design and creating a pleasant space for outdoor time.
Still, how can you elevate what you’ve got, and transport your family and guests to a slightly different plane?
Plants on structures
Use climbing vines to wind up, around and over trellises and pergolas to add green, natural shade.
Canyon Grape, Virginia creeper, bougainvillea, honeysuckle, wisteria, rambling roses, trumpet vines and jasmine are among the best choices.
Plant walls are lovely to look at and can be used to improve drab areas, whether by attaching pots or planters to an existing wall or adding the framework for a living wall hosting nothing but plant life (and the accompanying birds and bees).
For an extra-organic look, build your pergola out of branches and twigs.
Every climate has its own compatible seed packets that can be scattered around your property to produce spontaneous crops of color and beauty.
Try to avoid seed mixes with plants from other parts of the country or world, even if you think they will work in your climate. California poppies, purple coneflower, blue flax, several varieties of penstemon and goldeneyes are great for Northern Arizona, while desert beauties include Mexican gold poppies, Arizona lupine and desert bluebells.
One reputable source for native seeds is Plants of the Southwest (www.plantsofthesouthwest.com),
a New Mexico-based nursery that has an extensive catalog of regionally appropriate seeds and seed mixes.
Freeform or natural pools
Quite effective in forested areas, freeform pools are made from concrete sprayed onto an irregularly shaped frame to create a more organic shape, which is often rimmed with manufactured rock and other features to help it blend with the landscape.
Most of these are conventional pools with pumps and chlorine. A natural pool is usually poured the same way, but is “treated” by its water constantly moving between it and an adjacent pool of roughly the same size, which incorporates flowering plants and natural filtering material (such as shale).
If you have room for it, a natural pool doubles the charm.