Smith: Spruce up your backyard with these 5 landscaping tips


Backyards in Arizona are as diverse as the landscape across the state. When designing your backyard oasis, you have many things you want to consider with the biggest being your budget. If you are just beginning to design your backyard at your new home or want to spruce up your existing design here are a few tips to help you get started without breaking the bank.

Build a fire pit

Fire pits are perfect for backyard desert landscapes. They provide warmth during the winter months and make great focal points when entertaining or just having a relaxing night at home with the family. You can place prefabricated metal fire pits on your patio, near a pool or build your own with stone blocks that you can purchase from any home-improvement store. Once you have the fire pit in place, simply put some chairs around it and enjoy.

When installing a fire pit, you must consider if you want to use gas or wood. This is a determining factor in the overall cost of the pit. You should also always consult with your local fire department before starting any wood-burning fires so you comply with local and state laws.

Use a variety of plants

Desert gardens may not have the lush look of woodland gardens, but there are many desert plants that provide intriguing colors to liven up your backyard. When using plants in your yard consider the many different colors of succulents, flowers and cacti available that can withstand the summer heat. The classic desert backyard has earthy colors ranging from sand, grays, terra cotta and greens. Integrate plants where you need a pop of color.

As you decide on which plants to place in your yard consider plants for all four seasons. It may not seem like Arizona has all the seasons sometimes, but it does. For example, if you only choose plants that you like during the fall then you will be disappointed come summer.

When installing these plants remember to spread out the species. Don’t just plant four or five of the same bush in one spot. Instead use similar style plants that have different color blooms. If you have a spot in your yard you want to hide — let’s say the dog likes to dig in the back corner — consider larger shrubs for this area. Using plants in your backyard adds life and is only limited by your imagination when planting.

Create an entertainment space

When designing a backyard entertainment space, the first thing you must consider is who are you usually entertaining? Do your kids have their friends over every weekend? Are you throwing football parties with other adults? Is it a mixture of your friends and their children coming over?

Backyard entertainment spaces don’t have to be elaborate with multiple TVs, grills, smokers and pools. You can create a great space by adding additional seating to your patio. If you like to watch sports with your friends install an outdoor TV that doesn’t break the bank. Also consider a spot for backyard games like cornhole. You can install a patch of artificial grass for relatively cheap and that way you have a great spot to play games without having the fuss of watering or cutting it.

Install outdoor lighting

Installing lights is an excellent idea for bringing your yard to life. For a cheap option consider using string lights hung from trees or posts to create a cozy atmosphere that will make you and your family want to spend more time outdoors at night.

Landscape lighting is another easy option that won’t break the bank. You can install these lights around pathways, walls or in flowerbeds. Also, if you have a unique feature in your yard such as a statue or water feature consider using lighting to highlight these areas. Doing so will create a beautiful focal point that you and your guests will enjoy.

Landscape lighting has a variety of different styles to choose from to fit your backyard. Jason Fischbeck, owner of Automated Environments in Mesa, says to choose your lighting wisely when designing your backyard.

“When installing lighting in the yard consider the area size so you know what style of bulbs to buy,” he said. “The most common lights people are buying now are LED’s because they last a long time, are bright, many have color-changing abilities, and they are relatively cheap.”

Utilize outdoor art

Many homeowners like to spruce up their backyards with art to create a uniqueness to the space. Metal pieces are the most popular in the Valley with homeowners installing everything from custom-designed panels to metal plants and desert animals. Metal art often rusts over time which will give your yard a rustic look that provides a great contrast to the plants around your home.

Glass art is another option if you aren’t into the metal aesthetic. Newt Grover of Newt Glass in Scottsdale says that many people are opting to use glass art in their outdoor spaces because it creates a unique look.

“Living in the Valley, I work with many clients who want custom glass art pieces in the shape of cacti or other desert plants,” he said. “Outdoor art brightens up the backyard bringing in additional color and provides a uniqueness to the space.”

Homeowners can spruce up their backyards in many ways and these are just a few. Your backyard doesn’t have to be a bland spot with just a grill on the patio and a couple of chairs. Utilizing these ideas will help you create a space you, your family and your friends will enjoy for years to come.

Editor’s note: Tom Smith is the owner of Desert Designer Landscape and Development in Tempe. The company specializes in individualized desert landscaping designs.

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