Lush and Efficient Landscapes: Native & Adapted Plants with an Efficient Irrigation System Bring Lush to the Desert
by Rob Parker, ASLA

This January, the State of California adapted a new water use restriction code which, for the first time, will apply to single family residences. Due to the years of prolonged drought, serious measures need to be taken to reduce domestic water use. In an effort to be ahead of the curve, last fall we were asked by the High Desert Water Agencies to develop a series of exhibits that would be homeowner-friendly and show how to irrigate and plant an attractive low water-use landscape in the high desert. A unique challenge was that most landscapes will likely be installed by DIY homeowners. This meant the graphics needed to be simple and easy to follow.

The climate extremes of the high desert make the plant palettes particularly important. There are scorching summer temperatures and freezing winter ones with the possibility of snow, as has proven true this winter. We selected a plant palette based on our experiences with high desert plants, as well as input from two recently completed high desert demonstration gardens, one for the Copper Mountain College and the other for the town of Joshua Tree. In both instances the emphasis is on natives and native-adapted plants that are readily available; no exotics here!

The irrigation system layout draws on our years of experience with drip systems, again centering on ease of installation and comprehension by a homeowner. The irrigation exhibit shown here is one of three developed to assist homeowners of various lot sizes. The intent is to show how to get a seasonally diverse desert landscape that is not just cacti and gravel. To date these layouts have been well received and have proven to be beneficial to the districts clients.

Learn more about the irrigation system layout -- here's the front and back of an informative pamphlet.

Rob Parker, ASLA, is a principal at RGA Landscape Architects, Inc. He can be reached at 

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