The “ideal” garden landscape has long been viewed as a vibrant, emerald-green lawn with a splash of colorful flowers and leafy, abundant trees. But in 2021, the pendulum is set to swing in the opposite direction: one that favors arid over lush, and subdued over vibrant.
Desert landscape design is all about creating a zen-like space with unique exotic plants, an earthy color palette, and fine textures like sand and pebbles. If you’re looking to make a bold change to your front yard or backyard garden, here’s everything you need to know about bringing the desert landscape trend home with you.
Replace your lawn with a rock garden
Goodbye, grass! While a verdant lawn is the backbone of standard garden design, desert landscaping ideas are all about leaving traditional approaches behind. Aside from its aesthetic appeal, swapping out your grass for a rock garden is a very environmentally friendly move: maintaining a lawn is not only a water-intensive process, but it can also require the use of pesticides and other chemicals to make your grass grow greener, faster.
Here are a few design approaches to consider before you start plotting your rocky exotic landscape:
Use contrasting rock sizes
While small pebbles are probably your best option for the garden itself, you can create an incredible amount of depth by adding larger stones or boulders as a walkway, or as a border for your greenery (rock gardens also feature plants – you’re not eliminating them entirely). You can even create artistic statue-like arrangements with groupings of taller stones.
Play with colors
In that same vein, you can create vastly different landscaping vibes depending on your color scheme. A rock garden designed using cooler shades of grey with splashes of charcoal or slate will look ultra-modern, while beiges and warm greys create a cozier, more laid-back feel.
Choose your materials wisely
It’s called a “rock” garden, but don’t let that title limit your imagination: there are tons of different landscaping materials you can use to create a similar effect, including slate chips, crushed granite, lava rock, and even colorful glass gravel. Consider combining different options and textures to create exceptional visual interest.
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Go for desert plants
A desert garden is nothing without desert plants. The relaxed, resort-inspired vibe that comes along with exotic landscaping calls for drought-tolerant, tropical plants that are commonplace in the southwest. From succulents to shrubs, these flora are a great starting point for making your outdoor living space feel like a luxury desert retreat.
Golden barrel cactus
This type of cactus starts off bulbous and round (hence its name), but over time, it grows and stretches towards the sky to take on a more “classic” cactus shape. Golden barrels look wonderful in a rock garden no matter their size, and if you’re lucky, they occasionally produce beautiful bright yellow flowers.
Mexican feather grass
The dreamy, slender stalks of the Mexican feather grass plant will lull you into a state of bliss as they sway back and forth in the breeze. Since its root system is much more robust than regular grass, this plant is particularly hardy, and is the perfect touch of softness in a rock garden.
The most common variety of bottlebrush plant yields bright red flowers that look very similar to its namesake: a bristly bottle brush. With tiny, slender green leaves sprouting out of its stems, this plant is an incredibly unique addition to a desert garden.
Arguably one of the most recognizable succulents around, Aloe is best known for its outstretched, pointed leaves and satisfying geometry. Each leaf is filled with a soothing gel that’s been used for health, beauty, skincare, and medicinal applications for centuries – just one more reason why Aloe is a wonderful addition to your future desert garden.
This aptly named plant is the ultimate burst of color against an otherwise muted landscape, featuring an abundant crown of bright flowers (typically pink, red, or yellow). When they are not in bloom, you can enjoy a garden full of your Flaming Katy plants’ curved, paddle-like green leaves.
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Double down on texture with paving stones
From your front yard walkway to your backyard patio, the right paving stones can seamlessly tie a landscaping aesthetic together. If you’re laying pavers within or beside a rock garden, we recommend a large, stately stone that won’t look too busy against a backdrop of small pebbles or gravel (smaller stones won’t necessarily offer enough visual contrast).
Consider a patio slab like Blu Grande for your desert landscape. Available in several colors, its smooth texture is elegant and brings visual satisfaction, and its rectangular shape allows us to obtain a linear pattern, perfect for a timeless and refined effect. It’s just detailed enough to make a statement, without pulling attention away from the rest of your exotic landscaping.
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Opt for airy furniture
Metals tend to heat up when exposed to sunlight, so it’s rare to find metallic outdoor furniture combined with a desert aesthetic. Instead, warmer weather pairs best with natural materials like wood, and airy designs that leave lots of room for air to circulate.
In tandem with the recent revival of mid-century modern styles, teak is a great pick for an outdoor desert garden: this undeniably luxe material is long-lasting, doesn’t absorb heat, and is the perfect aesthetic match for a zen environment.
That being said, teak can be quite expensive – if you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, wicker serves up some serious relaxation vibes and adds wonderful texture to a space. It can sit under the sun for hours without heating up, and many wicker chairs and couches come with an extra-comfortable padded layer.
Another option is furniture made of HDPE wood, a recycled plastic material that looks just like real lumber. It’s exceptionally durable and resistant to the elements, making it a prime choice for outdoor use. HDPE is commonly used for Adirondack chairs and rockers, both of which are a great match for a desert garden.
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Design a desert retreat that’s all your own
Don’t just make it a landscape: make it an artscape. With Techo-Bloc, you can create magazine-worthy outdoor spaces that bring the desert to your backyard. Our pavers, patio slabs, stones, and accessories are all designed to be as durable as they are beautiful, so when you fall in love with a design, you can trust it will stand the test of time.