Posts Tagged ‘lists’

10 tips for Choosing the Best Plants for Commercial Sites

The landscaping on commercial sites may be low on a business owner’s list of priorities for their property. But you should not underestimate the positive influence an attractive landscape can have on potential clients. With this in mind, here is a list of ten issues to consider for choosing the right plants to keep your property’s landscaping looking and functioning at its best.


Some very hardy plants would be great choices for commercial landscapes if not for their tendency and ability to invade and spread where they are not wanted. This may happen via seedlings or by creeping rhizomes (horizontal underground stems that can send out new roots and shoots). Luckily, here in Colorado and the Inter-Mountain West, our growing climate is challenging for many invasive plants that have ravaged milder climates in North America. However, there are some plants you should never allow to take root in Colorado due to their invasive nature. For a list of plants see:;


Blonde Ambition Grama Grass and English Lavender

Disease Resistant

Nobody wants to spend extra money or time dealing with or replacing diseased or dying plants. Avoid choosing plants that are easily susceptible to attack from disease or pests.

Long Lived

Along the same lines of replacing diseased plants prematurely, nobody wants to spend time and money replacing plants that live short lives. The cost of purchasing and installing landscape plants is significant, so it is wise to choose plants that will stand the test of time.

Adaptable to various exposures

The location you are planting on your property may currently be in any degree of exposure from full sun to full shade. But conditions may change in the near future. Will a new building or new trees be placed on the neighboring property? Conversely is a structure or tree slated to come down, creating a new pocket of full sun? Picking plants with higher adaptability to various exposures will ensure success for your landscape.

Adaptable to various soils

The soils in my area are typically heavy in clay with a high (alkaline) pH. This is one more challenge to add to the list of issues that face landscape plants. For best success and longevity, choose plants adapted or adaptable to the soil conditions on your property.

Adaptable to variable moisture levels

You may be familiar with desert plants and you may be familiar with rainforest plants. These two extremes of ecology illustrate the wide variability of climate that plants live in. Your landscape likely falls somewhere in between these extremes. However, even in the most average commercial landscape, we might find wide degrees of moisture and irrigation levels. Having plants that can handle these extremes will help ensure your landscapes do well.

Drought Tolerant

Although nearly all municipalities require automatic landscape irrigation, it is good if the plants you specify for a site are truly drought tolerant.

But on the flip side, some plants that are considered very low water plants may be more difficult to establish on a commercial site due to over watering. Many but not all native plants fall in this category. They are more fussy about soils and drainage. They may need to be ruled out of the “set it, and forget it” situation that many commercial clients may seek. But if you have the time or the staff to work with some very low water plants during their establishment time, they can eventually become great components of your drought tolerant landscaping. The easiest plants to use in your landscape will be adaptable to varying soil moisture levels.


A variety of perennials and shrubs adapted to Colorado’s climate.

Not messy or difficult to maintain

Your maintenance crew has enough on their plate with regular landscape maintenance. There’s no reason to increase their burden and your costs by having messy, difficult plants on your property.

Readily available from nurseries (not rare)

If you lose some of your landscape plants due to accidents, vandalism or bad weather, you will likely want to easily replace the missing vegetation. If the plant that needs to be replaced is hard to find, you might have to resort to replacing it with one that does not match.


Attract eyeballs and attention to your business by choosing interesting trees, shrubs and flowering plants. Just as having aesthetically pleasing buildings or signage is good for business, eye-catching vegetation and other landscape elements makes good business sense. Choose Trees and shrubs with notable flowers or good fall color.

Crataegus - Hawthorn 2

A Hawthorne tree in spring bloom.

In Summary

If you are planning a new commercial landscape or taking an assessment of your existing commercial landscape, keep these guidelines in mind. They’ll help you avoid potential problems that might repel clients and customers from your property, rather than inviting them in. An inviting landscape on your commercial property is one of the first steps to achieving business success.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

10 Trees that are Better for Colorado

Tree Diversity Conference

Attendees in the lobby of the Denver Botanic Gardens where the Tree Diversity Conference was held.

This past Spring, tree enthusiasts from around the region gathered at the Denver Botanic Gardens to listen and learn from various presenters on the theme of Tree Diversity for Colorado. It seems recent crises such as the discovery of Emerald Ash Borer infestation in Boulder has revealed the urgency for members of the Green Industry to seek out more hardy and appropriate tree species for our region. There are other reasons to seek out trees better adapted to our climate. As climate scientists continue to inform us, it is likely that Colorado’s climate will get warmer and drier, providing even more challenging growing conditions for trees. Also, biotic mixing will continue to increase as more people move goods and materials far and wide across the globe. That is the most probable scenario of how EAB was found in Boulder: it was brought there in a wooden crate shipped from Asia. What far-flung exotic pest will next appear in our area?

This year’s conference was the second occurrence of such a gathering in Denver. Several new tree species were presented to the audience, along with some old stand-bys, with a discussion of each tree’s merits.

Although there were several genera that are represented in the group of trees, the two genera with the most candidates are Maples and Oaks. The other genus with multiple species that should get wider consideration for planting in our area is Ulmus (elms). While most elms have been looked over because of Dutch Elm Disease and also the invasive nature of Siberian Elm (Ulmus pulmila), there are a few cultivars that we should consider planting in Denver.

Here are ten trees that were discussed at the conference (out of many others) that you might consider planting in Colorado and the surrounding region:

Acer grandidentatum ‘Manzano’ – Manzano Bigtooth Maple   Ht: 20-30’ Wd: 20-30’

Large shrub or small tree with rounded form. The Manzano is a more tree like form of bigtooth maple. Once established, the bigtooth maples are drought tolerant.

Acer miyabei ‘Morton’ – State Street Maple   Ht: 50’ Wd: 35’

Rough corky bark and leaf shape are similar to Hedge Maple, but its stronger growth rate and ascending branch habit result in a larger mature size. Excellent drought and cold tolerance. Very adaptable.

Acer saccharum ‘Collins Caddo’ – Collins Caddo Sugar Maple   Ht: 45’ Wd: 40’

This maple provides red fall color, but unlike a red maple like Autumn Blaze (Acer x freemanii), the sugar maples are more adapted to the alkaline soils of Colorado’s Front Range urban corridor.

Acer tataricum ‘JFS-KW2’ – Rugged Charm Maple   Ht: 28’ Wd: 15’

Compact oval form. More upright than the popular Hot Wings Tatarian maple.

Quercus macrocarpa ’Bullet Proof’ – Bullet Proof Bur Oak   Ht: 50-80’ Wd: 50-80’

This large oak sports a massive trunk, deeply furrowed, that supports corky ridged twigs on spreading branches that makes for a broad and rounded canopy. This variety is more resistant to the galls that can affect other Bur Oaks.

Quercus muehlenbergii – Chinkapin Oak   Ht: 40’ Wd: 40’

A durable and adaptable oak with narrow lustrous glossy dark green leaves and an open, irregular, rounded habit. Prefers well drained soil.

Quercus robur x alba ‘JFS-KW1QX’ – Streetspire Oak   Ht: 45’ Wd: 14’

Dark green leaves of this narrowly columnar tree are mildew resistant. Turning red in autumn, they fall to reveal stiffly upright branches. Similar to Crimson Spire, but does not hold brown foliage through the winter

Ulmus davidiana – David Elm   Ht: 40’ Wd: 30’

Medium sized tree, with vase shape. Resistant to Dutch elm disease.

Ulmus propinqua ‘JFS-Bieberich’ – Emerald Sunshine Elm   Ht: 35’ Wd: 25’

Grown from seed collected in China, this sturdy, upright-growing elm was selected for superior performance on the hot, arid, windswept plains of western Oklahoma. Handsome, deeply corrugated leaves emerge coppery-bronze and mature to glossy green.

Ulmus japonica x wilsoniana ‘Morton’ – Accolade Elm   Ht: 70’ Wd: 60’

Arching limbs and a graceful vase shape (similar to the American elm) characterize this hybrid elm selected and tested at Morton Arboretum. Glossy, dark green foliage changes to yellow in the fall and is resistant to elm leaf beetle feeding.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

The 4 Most Dangerous Trees for Colorado?

As gardeners in Colorado may well know, our climate and altitude make for challenging growing conditions. This doesn’t mean we are completely immune from invasive exotic plants making an unwelcome home here. We do not have the burden that gardeners in wetter and warmer states may have at stopping the spread of invasive plants, but there are a few species you should be aware of so you can help stop these unwanted guests from gaining a foothold in our landscapes.

Why be concerned about invasive plants? They crowd out native plants, propagate uncontrollably, and may reduce forage for wildlife. Some may have a negative impact on your garden plants. And research suggests that some invasive species may pose dangers to humans through the increased risk of flooding due to damaged waterways, or increased fire danger.

The two worst invasive woody plants for Colorado and the surrounding region are the Russian Olive and the Tamarisk. Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia), is native to western and central Asia. It was introduced into North America in the latter part of the 1800’s. It is not related to true olive plants (Olea europaea) but its fruit is edible but not very palatable for human consumption. It out competes native plants because its seeds are irresistible to birds which spread the seeds far and wide. The seeds have a low mortality rate, germinate readily in poor soil (it can fix its own nitrogen in its roots), reach maturity quickly and thus outcompete native plants. In Colorado, they often begin setting a foothold in riparian areas, and then spread from there.

Russian Olives invading a wetland in New Mexico.

Russian Olives invading a wetland in New Mexico.

Tamarisk (Tamarix ramosissima), which is more of a shrub than a tree, similarly starts its spread in the riparian areas of the Colorado and other southwestern states. It has been such a successful invader of wet areas, that it has overtaken huge sections of the rivers of the southwest. However, it is not as tolerant of cold temperatures as is Russian Olive, which restricts its spread to the warmer, lower elevations of the southwest. Tamarisk is tolerant of many soil types, and thrives in full sun. One of the concerns about Tamarisk’s effect on native landscapes is how they out compete native vegetation, altering the nutrient cycles of riparian areas. They also consume large amounts of water, and secrete large amounts of salt, both items further slowing the success of nearby native plants. A massive amount of resources and manpower are being directed at the fight to stop the spread of this plant through the wildlands of the desert southwest.

…the Siberian Elm is “one of, if not the, world’s worst trees…a poor ornamental that does not deserve to be planted anywhere”.


Closer to Denver and the urban areas of Colorado’s front range, there are two trees that are common pests. These are the Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila), and the Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima). Both of these trees release a profuse amount of seeds, and these seeds are very adept at sprouting in disturbed areas. They proliferate along transportation corridors and abandoned lots. Both trees prefer full sun, but Ailanthus can tolerate some shade allowing it to invade some mature native forests.

Young Ailanthus altissima

Young Ailanthus altissima

Although not directly related, Ailanthus trees (a.k.a. Tree of Heaven) are often mistaken as sumacs. In springtime they produce many flowers that have a foul odor which some say is similar to cat urine. It rapidly out competes other tree species, releasing an allelopathic chemical which inhibits the growth of other plants. Some researchers have extracted this chemical from Ailanthus trees, successfully using it as an herbicide. Not only is this tree toxic to other plants, there have been anecdotal reports of it being slightly toxic to humans and livestock. Ailanthus trees can grow quite rapidly, leading to weak, unstable branches.

Siberian Elms also have structural problems, with many weak or dead branches that can break off in heavy wind. Siberian elms have a short dormancy period which leads to early flowering in spring, and late leaf drop in fall. In Colorado that means they can become dangerously loaded with wet snow in our common heavy spring snowstorms, or the occasional fall snowstorm, leading to heavy branches falling on roofs and vehicles. In addition to the dangers of breaking limbs, the trees do not have a very favorable appearance, with an awkward branching pattern. One doesn’t need to search too long before you find many Siberian elm seedlings sprouting up in unwanted spots in the urban landscape. The sprouts show up in shrub beds where they are difficult to remove by hand and hard to spray with herbicides without damaging neighboring desired plant materials. Siberian elms are susceptible to damage from elm leaf beetles which leave the leaves looking skeletonized, but it doesn’t seem to kill the trees.  Notable horticulturalist Michael Dirr says the Siberian Elm is “one of, if not the, world’s worst trees…a poor ornamental that does not deserve to be planted anywhere”.

To be fair, I should mention that some people look favorably upon these four tree species, and say that in Colorado’s high desert climate (that is naturally and predominantly tree-less east of the Rocky Mountains), an invasive tree is better than no tree, especially in urban areas. I would beg to differ, noting that these trees are too difficult to control and remove, to the detriment of native flora and fauna. Please become aware of these invasive trees and be considerate about whether you want to allow these in your landscape.


This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

20 More Great Xeriscape Plants for Colorado

I wanted to revisit Matt’s post on the 20 Best Xeriscape Plants for Colorado, and add to his list of great low-water plants for Colorado landscapes.  As with Matt’s initial posting, this list of plants also offers a great variety of color, texture and form for your water-wise garden. Consider adopting some of these amazing plants into your landscape, and tell all your friends about the benefits and beauty of drought tolerant plants.


  • Chocolate FlowerBerlandiera lyrata  An intoxicating chocolate scent emanates from the yellow blooms of this low water southwestern wildflower from summer into fall.
  • Whirling butterflies – Gaura lindheimeri  Whirling Butterflies truly lives up to its name.  Growing 2-3’ tall by 18-24” wide, this perennial has a significant bloom time, sporting multiple flower stalks that whirl numerous small white flowers in the late summer breezes.
  • Creeping VeronicaVeronica spp.  A spring blooming favorite, creeping veronicas are somewhat adaptable to light and moisture conditions. The deep green foliage is often evergreen in winter and makes a nice backdrop to the abundant light blue to purple flowers that arrive in April.

Creeping Veronica


  • Sweet WoodruffGallium odoratum  No dry shade garden should be without this fabulous groundcover. If you have a dry shady spot under a tree, this is the plant for you. It is said that sweet woodruff is one of the few plants that will flourish under the shady canopy of evergreen trees. Small bright green leaves become decorated with tiny white flowers in late spring.
  • Orange Carpet Hummingbird FlowerEpilobium canum garrettii  If hummingbirds pass through your area consider this California native. It provides a stunning orange floral display in late summer that hummingbirds love, and is ideal to let cascade down a rock wall.
  • BlanketflowerGaillardia aristata Related to sunflowers, this is another North American native that is a great addition to the low-water garden. It blooms from June to September with  flower petals that transition from yellow to orange to red. Many cultivars available.  Easy to start from seed.
  • Silvery HorehoundMarrubium rotundifolium  This native of Turkey is a great xeriscape ground cover. It grows 2-4” high and 2-3’ wide.  Soft white hairs on the round leaf margins add an effulgent look to the plant.
  • Hens and ChicksSempervivum spp.  This familiar garden succulent from Europe is a hardy performer that will grow just about anywhere. Great for the small spots between other low perennials or rock gardens in full sun.  Another nice benefit is how easy it is to transplant the offshoots they provide. Several types are available, with some covered in charming white hairs.

Variety of Sempervivum, a.k.a. Hens and Chicks


  • SunroseHelianthemum This hardy low-growing perennial provides a delightful floral display starting in June. The profuse blooms hover over a thick mass of low branches that carry small, oval shaped leaves. The flower color is available in shades of red, orange, yellow, pink and white. Perfect for a rock garden or a hot and sunny border area.
Helianthemum Orange - Orange Sunrose

Orange Sunrose



  • Blonde AmbitionBouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’  This is a wonderful medium sized grass, 30-36” high and 30-36” wide. It provides multiple seasons of interest, showcasing the classic blue grama grass curled seed heads well into winter.
Blonde Ambition Grass

‘Blonde Ambition’ Blue Grama Grass


  • ‘Undaunted’ Ruby MuhlyMuhlenbergia reverchonii  A 2014 Plant Select introduction.  Discovered by Lauren and Scott Ogden, it hails from Oklahoma and Texas. The inflorescence (aka flower cluster) is composed of clouds of tiny pinkish flowers, creating a pink glow with back lighting.


  • Currant – Ribes spp.  Currants are medium sized shrubs that grow well in sun, and some species also grow well in filtered shade. This is a notable fact, as many shrubs that do well in part shade require more water than the currants do. Some species provide edible fruit, and some have fragrant flowers. The most notable fragrant currant is Crandall Clove Currant, whose flowers do indeed smell like cloves.
  • Dwarf Russian AlmondPrunus tenella  Native to Eurasia, this flowering shrub is said to be hardy to zone 2!!!  Abundant with pink flowers in the spring, one disadvantage of this shrub is the aggressive suckering habit which may make it hard to control, but this also makes it an attractive cover for wildlife. Size is 3-5’ x 3-5’.
  • Dwarf Pinyon PinePinus edulis  This slow growing selection of pinyon pine was introduced by Plant Select in 2014. Grows 20-30” height by 20-30” width in 10 years.
  • Mohican ViburnumViburnum lantana ‘Mohican’  Another great low water shrub that does well in either full or part sun, this viburnum grows 6’ by 6’.  White flowers in spring precede orange to red fruits that darken to black in fall.
  • Mountain MahoganyCercocarpus spp.  This western native is indispensable if you’re planning on creating a large native style landscape. Some species are semi-evergreen and one species Cercocarpus montanus the leaves turn a nice russet color in fall. Seeds provide a charming fuzzy appearance that looks great when backlit.
  • PeashrubCaragana spp.  A tough shrub from Siberia and China, the peas shrub is, just as the name indicates, related to peas. It produces edible (but not palatable) pods and edible yellow flowers that interest to salads. There are several different species and cultivars to choose from, which range in size from medium to large.


  • Bigtooth MapleAcer grandidentatum  Native to the inter-mountain West, and closely related to the sugar maple. Often growing as multi-stem, it likes full sun to partial shade and low to medium water. The samaras, or winged seeds turn rose color in late summer, and the fall foliage ranges from yellow to red. Grows 20-30’ high by 20-30’ wide.
  • Desert WillowChilopsis linearis  Another typically multi-stem small tree, it is hardy to zone 7 (0 to 5 deg F), but usually survives Denver winters, dying back to the ground each winter, and quickly sprouting new growth each summer. If given a sheltered spot, it may not die back to the ground. Distinctive pink to burgundy flowers with yellow throats. Drought tolerant, with watering being deep and infrequent. Grows 6-30’ high by 6-30’.

Desert Willow


  • Hawthorn  – Crataegus spp.   These flowering trees are cousins of roses, and bloom in spring with clusters of white flowers that produce long lasting red fruits that offer winter interest. Several species and cultivars have thorns on the branches. Grows 15-25’ high by 15-25’ wide, depending on species and cultivar.



The Criteria for this List:
– This list is for the Front Range of Colorado.  We are somewhere in the middle of zone 4 to 5 on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.

– I have only included plants that are very easy to care for, and have excluded plants that require a lot of water since that is a key component of Xeriscape.  The “best” plants, in my opinion, are those that are well adapted to the local climate and do not require much additional water and maintenance.  Of course there are occasions where the use of higher water-use plants is desirable, such as in drainage areas, however I have left them off of this particular list.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

20+ Great Plants to Attract Butterflies and Bees in Colorado

You may have heard recent dire reports about the health of bees and butterflies. Whether it’s the declining number of the amazing Monarch Butterfly or the constant reports of “colony collapse disorder” in beehives, these reports are alarming. One of the best and easiest things you can do to help these crucial creatures survive and thrive is to plant the perennials, shrubs and trees in your landscape that will give bees and butterflies the food they depend on. Help these pollinators while creating an inviting outdoor space for yourself. Or, if you are pondering the possibility of updating your landscaping in the near future, let Outdoor Design Group design a bee and butterfly friendly garden for you.

Below are listed several different perennials, shrubs and trees that provide food for bees, butterflies and other pollinators. While I’ve listed several pollinator friendly plants here, there are still many more to choose from. Consult the Xerces Society, a nonprofit organization that protects wildlife through the conservation of invertebrates and their habitat, or your local university extension agent for more suggestions of pollinator friendly plants that will grow well in your area.

Perennials for Butterflies and Bees

Asclepias species.  Commonly referred to as the Milkweeds due to their milky sap, there are many species in the Asclepias genus that are utilized by butterflies and bees. Many biologists believe that the decline in the Monarch butterfly population is directly correlated to the increasing use of herbicides used to kill Milkweeds in North America, because Monarch butterflies depend on Milkweeds as food for their larvae. There are many Asclepias species that grow in North America, but two that do well in Colorado are Asclepias tuberosa (showy milkweed) and Asclepias speciosa (butterfly weed).  Ht. and Wd. varies depending on species and cultivar, generally 15-60” Ht. x 12-18” Wd.

Butterfly and Sedum Todds Yard

The Mint Family (Lamiaceae).  Many familiar and popular garden plants from the so-called Mint Family are favored by bees. Some of these are culinary sage, Russian sage, mint, basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, lavender, lamb’s ear, hyssop, lemon balm, and bee balm.  Ht. and Wd. varies depending on species and cultivar.

Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’.  This tall stone crop flowers in mid to late summer (see photo above), making it a good late-season nectar source for pollinators when many other plants have stopped flowering. 18-24” Ht. x 12-18” Wd.

Datura wrightii  Although Sacred Datura may not always be a perennial in all parts of Colorado, depending on the severity of the winter, bees love it’s flowers which emit an amazing scent, so even if it is frost tender and may need to be regrown from seed in colder areas, it is worth it. The bees will thank you. 18-24” Ht. x 6-8’ Wd.

Shrubs for Butterflies and Bees

Buddleia alternifolia ‘Argentea’,  Silver Fountain Butterfly Bush.  This butterfly bush blooms earlier than the other species and cultivars of Buddleia. This large shrub does well in most soils and sites but doesn’t like its roots to stay wet.  12-15’ Ht. x 10-12’ Wd.

Caryopteris x clandonensis ‘Blue Mist’Blue Mist Spirea is also in the Mint Family, and is not a true spirea, but has flowers that resemble those of the spirea. It is a hybrid of C. incana x C. mongolica that was created in the 1930’s in England by Arthur Simmonds. There are several cultivars of Caryopteris x clandonensis that are good choices for Colorado and which bees and butterflies (see photo below) love.  3-4’ Ht. x 2-3’ Wd.

Caryopteris flower and butterfly

Mahonia. This genus has several members whose flowers will delight your winged friends. Mahonia aquifolium is a familiar shrub known as Oregon Grape Holly. It is evergreen, easy to grow and produces edible (but not tasty) berries from the yellow flowers that bees appreciate.  4-6’ Ht. x 4-6’ Wd.

Prunus bessyi,  Sand Cherry  4-6’ Ht. x 4-6’ Wd.

Philadelphus lewisii,  Cheyenne Mock Orange  5-7’ Ht. x 4-6’ Wd.

Rhus aromatica ssp. Trilobata,  Three leaf sumac  3-6’ Ht. x 3-6’ Wd.

Rosa woodsii,  Wood’s Rose  3-6’ Ht. x 3-6’ Wd.

Trees for Butterflies and Bees

Tilia cordata, Little Leaf Linden.  Linden trees perfume the air in springtime and offer up small yellow flowers (see photo below) for pollinators. I’ve heard that in Eastern Europe, a type of beer is flavored with the linden flowers.  30-50’ Ht. x 25-35’ Wd. (depends on cultivar).

Tilia cordata flower

Apple / Crabapples. The Malus genus offers many species and cultivars that are attractive to bees. In fact, if there were no bees, you probably would not get any fruit from your apple trees. Ht. and Wd. varies depending on cultivar.

Prunus armeniaca ‘Moongold’,  Moongold Apricot.  15-25’ Ht. x 15-25’ Wd.

Prunus nigra ‘Princess Kay’, Princess Kay Plum  15-20’ Ht. x 10-15’ Wd.

Catalpa speciosa,  Western Catalpa  40-60’ Ht. x 30-50’ Wd.

Cercis Canadensis,  Eastern Redbud  20-30’ Ht. x 20-30’ Wd.

Crataegus ambigua,  Russian Hawthorne  15-25’ Ht. x 20’ Wd.


This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

50 Ways to Save Water in Your Landscape

1)  Ditch the bluegrass turf lawn, completely or partially. Bluegrass turf uses far more water than alternative landscaping choices.

2)  Set your mower on its highest setting so turf grass is not cut too short. Longer grass keeps the soil cooler and reduces evaporation.


Consider redesigning your landscape so it requires less water and looks more interesting

3)  Use the mulch setting on your lawn mower so grass clippings stay on the lawn, which helps slow evapotranspiration and provides nutrients to the soil.

4)  Do not install bluegrass turf on slopes, especially south facing slopes, because much of the water will run off the slope and sprinklers will need to run for longer times to compensate. Instead consider planting shrubs or native plants with drip irrigation on a slope.

5)  Mulch your trees, shrubs and perennials to reduce water use. Mulch slows down the evaporation of soil moisture, reduces water run-off, and reduces weeds which can steal moisture from your plants.

6)  Consider replacing your existing high-water turf lawn with low-water turf options such as buffalo grass, blue grama grass or a fescue grass.

7)  Plant native plants that are more appropriate for the climate you live in.

8)  If you plant non-native plants, use ones that are adapted to your climate conditions, such as iceplant from South Africa, and Russian sage from Central Asia.

9)  Place your plants in groups organized by water use, so as to avoid overwatering low water need plants.

10)  Plant trees in your turf lawn to provide shade for the lawn and reduce evapotranspiration of the grass.

11)  Follow your water provider’s summer watering rules, and any watering restrictions that may be in place at that time.

12)  Don’t water during the hottest time of the day. It is best to water between 6 pm and 10 am. Watering during the hottest time of the day increases the evaporation of the water before it reaches the roots of your plants.

13)  Don’t water when it is windy. Just as watering during the hottest time of day increases water loss due to increased evaporation, so does watering when it is windy.

14)  When shoveling snow in winter, place snow piles where it will melt and water trees and shrubs that can benefit from extra moisture in winter.

15)  Install a rain sensor to avoid having your irrigation system run when it is raining, or the day after a heavy rainfall event.

16)  If you don’t have an automatic irrigation system, use a mechanical or digital timer with your sprinklers.

17)  If you have an automatic irrigation system, check it once a month or more often to fix any leaks or problems that may occur.

18)  Use drip irrigation to water your landscape plants. Drip irrigation is the most efficient form of irrigation because the water is not sprayed into the air which increases evaporation of the water before it reaches the plants.

19)  Avoid placing sprinkler heads against fences and hardscape.  Instead, install a strip of rock mulch between fences / hardscape and sprinkler heads.  In addition to reducing water waste, this minimizes water damage and the need for turf edge trimming.

20)  Improve your soils water holding capacity by amending the soil with organic matter.

21)  Make your landscape more permeable to keep storm water on your property. Instead of a solid concrete patio, install a unit paver patio to allow water to percolate down rather than running off.

22)  Divide watering times into shorter shifts to improve water absorption, and avoid runoff. This is sometimes referred to as the “cycle and soak” method.

23)  Direct gutter downspouts to planted areas rather than streets or storm water areas.

24)  Save rainwater from your roof for irrigating plants.

25)  Save indoor “grey” water for irrigating trees and shrubs.

26)  If local codes allow, hire a plumber (or DIY) to pipe your grey water to your landscaping.

27)  Use a mild/natural dish soap for washing dishes to keep this grey water safer for your landscape plants.

28)  Bathe your pets outside over turf areas that need water, using mild/natural soap.

29)  Wash fruits and vegetables outside over your lawn to allow wash water to irrigate the turf.

30)  Plant trees (adapted for your climate) to shade your turf area to reduce evapo-transpiration of the turf.

31)  Consult a landscape architect or horticulturalist to learn the best plants to use in your climate and growing zone.

32)  Before planting certain species of plants, do extensive soil preparations.  Some plants benefit from additional organic matter, while others will perform better if drainage is improved.

33)  Save fallen leaves in autumn and use as a mulch around trees, shrubs and perennials.

34)  Plant new perennials, shrubs and trees in fall when temperatures are cooler because it will take less water to establish them, as compared to planting in early summer.

35)  Cover water features, pools and spas when not in use to reduce evaporation.

36)  Check water features, pools and spas for leaks.

37)  Consider using pondless water features, where the water reservoir is hidden or obscured which provides less evaporation that a typical pond.

38)  Don’t use water to clean paving. Use a broom and dust pan.

39)  If you want to install a water feature, choose one that cascades or trickles rather than one that sprays in the air. Spraying fountains lose more water to evaporation.

40)  If your children want to play in the sprinkler, have them do this in an area of your lawn that needs water.

41)  Do not let your children waste water by spraying sprinklers on sidewalks, drive ways or the street.

42)  Place large rocks near shrubs, trees or perennials to keep the soil below the rock cool and moist.

43)  When refreshing your pet’s water dish, don’t discard the old water in the sink,  pour it on plants outside.

44)  If you have ice or water left in a take-out cup, or in re-usable glasses, pour it on your landscape plants outside.

45)  Don’t discard used ice and water from a cooler in the sink, but throw them outside on your plants.

46)  If you wash your car at home with a hose, use a shut-off nozzle so water is not running in between soaping and rinsing the car.

47)  Wash the car in a lawn area so that you water the grass at the same time.  Use a mild/natural detergent when doing this.

48)  Don’t use a hose to clean out your gutters. Consider using a leaf blower or a long handled rake specifically made for the job.

49)  Replace old spray nozzles on your irrigation system with newer, more efficient rotary nozzles. They reduce runoff and evaporation. Your purchase and installation of these nozzles may make you eligible for rebates from your water provider. Contact them for more details.

50)  Consider hiring a landscape architect to analyze your property and re-design it to require less water and maintenance.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

20 Trees to Plant for Amazing Fall Color in Your Landscape

The Colorado Front Range has some of the best fall weather to be had in the United States.  When it comes to interesting fall foliage color however, Colorado lacks the abundance of color that can be found in other parts of the country.  But with the right choice of trees you can enjoy some wonderful foliage fireworks in your own backyard.

Serviceberry Fall ColorServiceberry

Serviceberries are beautiful tree-like shrubs. They offer great spring flowers, edible berries that attract birds and beautiful fall color.  They are also good choices for water wise landscapes.

Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry – Amalanchier x grandiflora  12’ Ht x 10’ W

Shadblow Serviceberry – Amalanchier canadensis  12’ Ht x 10’ W


The popular ornamental trees are renowned for their their spring flowers, but these crabapples provide excellent fall interest as well.

Indian Summer – Malus ‘Indian Summer’   Orange-red fall color. 18’ Ht x 18’ W

Lancelot – Malus ‘Lancelot’   Yellow-gold fall color. 10’ Ht x 8’ W

Prairiefire – Malus ‘Prairiefire’   Orange-red fall color.  20’ Ht x 20’ W

Spring Snow – Malus ‘Spring Snow’   Yellow fall color.  20’ Ht x 20’ W

AshAsh Fall Color

Autumn Purple – Fraxinus Americana  As if it glows from within the center of the tree, this Ash is a sight to behold. The color is a mixture of gold to bronze-purple.  50’ Ht x 30’ W

Fall Gold – Fraxinus nigra  The bright yellow gold of this tree is great against a crisp blue Colorado fall sky.  40’ Ht x 25’ W

Ornamental Pear

You can find these often planted along streets and in commercial landscapes.  They provide spring flowers and fall color in relatively compact form.

Autumn Blaze – Pyrus calleryana ‘Autumn Blaze’ Orange red fall color.  30’ Ht x 25’ W

Chanticleer – Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ Orange red fall color in an upright form.  35’ Ht x 15’ W

Cottonwood Fall ColorCottonwood

Just like their cousin the Aspen, Cottonwoods are known for their yellow gold leaves.  Although they are not recommended for residential yards due to their size and tendency to sucker, they are wonderful in large areas with native planting schemes, especially in wetter areas like drainages and ravines.

Plains – Populus sargentii  60’ Ht x 50’ W

Narrowleaf – Populus angustifolia  75’ Ht x 40’ W

Lanceleaf – Populus acuminate  50’ Ht x 30’ W

MapleAmur Maple Fall Color

These maple trees will provide great red to orange-red color for your landscape.  The Autumn Flame is gorgeous, but it can suffer chlorosis in our alkaline soils.  Amur and Tatarian are the most fool-proof choices for our soils and climate.

Amur – Acer ginnala  20’ Ht x 10’ W

Bigtooth – Acer grandidentatum  25’ Ht x 25’ W

Autumn Blaze – Acer x fremanii  ‘Autumn Blaze’  50-40’ Ht x 30-40’ W

Tatarian Maple – Acer tataricum 25’ Ht x 20’ W

Oak Fall ColorOak

Several of the Oak species are wise choices for Colorado Front Range climate and soils.  And a few of these offer nice fall foliage as well.

Chinkapin Oak – Quercus muehlenbergii  Yellow fall color.   35-50’ Ht x 35-50’ W

English Oak – Quercus robur  Golden yellow fall color.   40-60’ Ht x 30-40’ W

Northern Red Oak – Quercus rubra  Bronze to wine red fall color.  40-60’ Ht x 40-60’ W

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

The 5 Hottest Current Trends in Landscaping

Some interesting trends have emerged this year in landscape design.  In this article I describe the 5 hottest trends we are seeing –  Which of these ideas will you incorporate into your landscape?

Outdoor Stone Fireplaces

Outdoor fireplaces have been around for a long time, but in the last few years they have really gained in popularity.  They can serve as a focal point in the design of a backyard landscape, while providing the functional warmth of a fire adjacent to an outdoor patio.

Outdoor Stone FireplaceHere in Colorado, where the summers are dry and there are few mosquitoes or other insects, cool summer and fall evenings are perfect for gathering outdoors with family and friends.  Outdoor stone fireplaces can add to the ambiance of your outdoor space.

Design Considerations:  Outdoor outdoor fireplaces are typically gas burning, unless the property is in a rural area with low fire danger where wood burning is allowed.  They can either be custom built using a combination stone, masonry, brick, stucco, or stone veneer; or they can purchased as a prefabricated insert that is put in place and then faced with stone or another decorative material.  A combination of decorative stone or concrete caps, mantels, and hearths can also be incorporated, resulting in an almost endless variety of design opportunities.

Due to the increased popularity of outdoor fireplaces and firepits, many municipalities are updating codes and ordinances to provide more specific restrictions and design guidelines.   The required distance between the fireplace and any structure may vary between 15 to 25 feet.  Always make sure your landscape architect or contractor has checked with your local building department on the current rules and regulations.

Pondless Water Features

Water is one of the building blocks of life.  Water features can add a calming effect to your landscape through the sounds and movement of water.   They can also mask unwanted noise and bring a peaceful calm to the hustle and bustle of urban living.

The problem with most water features is that they are high maintenance.  While a natural looking pond can be beautiful, they are difficult to construct and can require quite a bit of maintenance.  If that maintenance is neglected, or the pond is not constructed correctly one is left with pond that leaks, one does not look natural, or lacks the proper balance of plants, fish, and filters to keep the water clean.

“Pondless” water features solve most of these issues, and are the hottest trend in water feature design.  In a pondless water feature, and underground basin in purchased and installed below the ground to hold the water that is circulated through the feature.

A grate is often placed over the basin, and covered with rocks to allow the water to run through to the basin below.  The water is pumped from the basin over a decorative rock or sculptural feature.  The sound of water is achieved not only from the above ground feature, but by the water splashing through the rocks and into the basin below.  And because the basin below ground is shaded from the sunlight, algae will not grow in the water.

Design Considerations:  Depending on the size of the feature and how often you intend to run it, you may opt to install a filter and an auto-fill valve connected to a water supply to keep the feature full.  You may also opt for an on/off switch for the feature at the home so you can easily turn it on or off.   Don’t forget to plan for lighting the feature at night.  And finally, when selecting a pump always error on the side of a larger pump, because the flow of water can always be dialed back but can never be increased.

Natural Lawns

As water prices continue to rise, homeowners and businesses are looking for alternatives to the traditional bluegrass lawn.  As I have written about in the past, there are many advantages to making your landscaping more efficient, and reducing the amount of bluegrass lawn is the best way to do that.

thyme lawnThere are many types of plantings that can be used to replace a traditional lawn, but in each case the general principles are the same:  plants with reduced watering requirements that require less maintenance.  This can we achieved with alternative turfgrasses, Xeriscape plantings, edible garden plants, monocultures of spreading shrubs or perennials, native plants, non-natives, natural meadows, or a combination of these elements.

Another driver in the popularity of the “natural lawn” concept is the desire of individuals and organizations to move away from using pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers in large quantities- for the benefit of the environment and human health.  Children often play on lawns and in our parks.  So in addition to replacing traditional lawns, some people are turning to more organic and natural methods of lawn care.

Design Considerations:  It is important to realize that less maintenance does not necessarily mean easier maintenance (at least initially).  What I mean by that is a more complex planting such as a Xeriscape with many types of plants, or a natural meadow, will take more analysis and careful monitoring than a simple lawn.  However, this monitoring and analysis will be more than made up for by the savings in time and resources by avoiding all of that mowing, edging, aerating, fertilizing, etc. that a traditional lawn would require.

Covered Outdoor Patios

Covered outdoor patios work great for blending indoor and outdoor living space.  Over the last decade outdoor patios and gardens have been increasingly utilized as an extension of indoor space.

covered patioThe latest trend is to build a waterproof roof structure over the top of an outdoor patio space.  The roof structure is multi-functional, providing shade from the hot afternoon sun as well as protection from the rain and snow.  Overhead roof structures also create a more intimate feeling space, creating an outdoor room at a much lower cost than adding a fully enclosed indoor room to a dwelling.

Another benefit to a covered outdoor patio is that outdoor amenities can be protected by the weather.  Flat screen televisions, ceiling fans, outdoor kitchens, bar areas, speakers, and lighting can all be incorporated into this outdoor space.

Design Considerations:  There are numerous design decisions that need to be made when designing a covered outdoor patio.  Will the cover be attached to the home, or free-standing?  Support columns for the roof structure can be designed with stone bases.   The “ceiling” of the enclosure is also an important design element that should be carefully considered as it will probably be the main surface that you will see when using the space.

Urban Gardening

As the farming industry continues to get more commercialized and corporate, there has been a pushback in the form an increased demand for local farmers markets.   And there is no place more local than one’s own yard.

urban garden produceAs individuals strive to have more control and knowledge of where their food comes from and how it is grown, many are turning to growing their own produce.  Growing a garden is nothing new- however today’s gardens are getting larger and taking up a bigger percentage of the yard.  In some cases, urban gardening is being used for an entire backyard or a good portion of a front yard.

The urban gardening trend jives perfectly with the “natural lawn” trend.  While some people are replacing their traditional lawn with decorative Xeriscapes, others are replacing their lawns with edible gardens.  But even edible gardens can be beautiful- there are many decorative herbs that get showy flowers, and some produce such as bright red and yellow peppers can add visual interest to the landscape.

Design Considerations:  If you are considering expanding or adding edible garden space there are a few aspects to be mindful of.   If you have a homeowner’s association, remember to check their rules on gardens.  Consider using decorative paths between your beds, and attractive raised planters can be utilized to keep the space looking a little more organized.  Finally, be mindful of pests and rodents that may be attracted to the garden.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

14 Programs That Pay You Money to Install Water Efficient Landscaping

You may have heard that you can save big bucks on water and maintenance by renovating your landscaping to be more water-efficient.

water efficient landscaping

But, did you know that Cities across the country will pay you cash to do it?

As water supplies dwindle and populations rise, many municipalities are offering great incentives for reducing water use in the landscape.  When property owners, businesses, or managers factor in the payback from these rebates along with the water and maintenance savings, a landscape renovation can make a lot of sense.

The 2 Main Types of Rebates

Generally speaking, incentives for reducing water use fall into two categories.  The first category is paying customers to remove landscapes that have high water use and replace them with attractive low water use plantings, and the second category is to provide rebates for purchasing and installing irrigation components that reduce water use and that are more efficient than older systems.

As we have discussed in the past, the real water savings (as well as the largest rebates) come from replacing high water use lawns and landscaping, with new plantings that require less water and are more adapted to the local climate.  There are many benefits to this approach- see The Top 10 Benefits of Making Landscaping More Water Efficient.

14 Specific Examples of Rebate Programs

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $0.75 per square foot for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates for smart controllers, rain sensors, rotary nozzles, and equipment for removing sod and placing compost.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates of up to $150.00 are also offered for rainwater collection systems, and with the installation of a rainwater collection system the incentives double to $1.50 per square foot.  Residents may also receive a $20.00 credit for attending a water efficiency class.

Salt Lake City, Utah

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates for smart water controllers, weather sensors, and moisture sensors for single homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates include 50% of the purchase price for valves, and $75.00 per drip zone installed.

Aurora, Colorado

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $1.00 per square foot, up to $10,000 for single family homes, and up to $25,000 for multi-family or commercial properties.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates are also available for removing old hardscapes, and for seeding areas with native grasses.

Denver, Colorado

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $18.50 per 1,000 gallons of water saved for multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive $2.00 per efficient nozzle and $100.00 for weather-based smart controllers with rain sensors.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive $2.00 per efficient nozzle, and 25% of the cost of a smart controller.

Boulder, Colorado

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $1,000 for installing smart controllers and rain sensors.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive up to $5,000 for installing smart controllers and rain sensors.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates are also available for rotary nozzles, mpr spray heads, pressure reducing drip valves, and backflow prevention devices specifically made for drip systems.

Louisville, Colorado

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $0.25 per square foot for installing drought tolerant Buffalo Grass for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates of $50.00 for moisture sensors, and 50% of the purchase price of a drip irrigation system are available for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Castle Rock, Colorado

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $550.00 for installing smart controllers, rain sensors, and rotary nozzles.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive up to $3,550.00 for installing smart controllers, rain sensors, and rotary nozzles.

Additional Program Notes:  Rotary nozzle rebates are available for up to $200.00 for single family residential, and up to $2,000 for multi-family or commercial properties.  Rebates are available for 50% of the purchase price of smart controllers and rain sensors.

Peoria, Arizona

Incentives for Removing Turf:  Rebates of up to $1,650 are available for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates of up to $250.00 are available for installing  smart controllers.

Chandler, Arizona

Incentives for Removing Turf:  Up to $3,000 for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $250.00 for installing smart controllers.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive up to $1,250.00 for installing smart controllers.

Additional Program Notes:  A minimum area of 1,000 square feet of turf must be removed to qualify for turf removal incentives.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $1.50 to $1.00 per square foot, up to $300,000 for single family and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  50% of the cost of smart controllers, and $25.00 for rain sensors for single family and multi-family or commercial properties.

San Diego, California

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $1.50 per square foot up to $3,000 for single family homes, and $1.50 per square foot up to $9,000 for multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $400.00 for installing smart controllers.  Multi-family or commercial properties can receive $25.00 per station up to 68 stations ($1,700) for installing a smart controller.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates of $0.50 for every gallon of storage capacity up to 400 gallons are offered for rainwater collection systems.

Santa Clara, California

Incentives for Removing Turf:  $0.75 per square foot up to $2,000 is available for for single family homes, and $0.75 per square foot up to $20,000 is available for multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates are available for smart controllers, rain sensors, rotary nozzles, and dedicated landscape meters.

Additional Program Notes:  Rebates of $1.50 per square foot up to $30,000 are also available for commercial properties through a “cost sharing areas” program.

Austin, Texas

Equipment Rebates:  Single family residential customers can receive up to $375.00 in equipment rebates.  Multi-family properties can receive up to $500.00 for new equipment.

Additional Program Notes:  Rain water harvesting rebates of up to $5,000 are available for no-pressurized or pressurized systems.

San Antonio, Texas

Incentives for Removing Turf:  Rebates of up to $400.00 are available for reducing water bill for single family homes and multi-family or commercial properties.

Equipment Rebates:  Rebates of up to $3,200 are available for installing smart controllers, rain sensors, and rotary nozzles.

Additional Program Notes:  Incentives are offered for capping irrigation zones and/or converting existing irrigation systems to drip.


These incentive and rebate programs are typically limited to a maximum allowable rebate amount based on the area of the project, and the purchase price of the irrigation components.  Many of the programs also are only available on a first come first serve basis.  With limited funding many municipalities exhaust their funds in the first few months of the year.  Other program requirements include selecting plants from specific drought tolerant or native plant lists, percentage of plant area coverage, and the make and model of irrigation components.

Because of the complexity of the projects and the paperwork involved, it may make sense to have a landscape architect assist you for a moderate fee.  These professional consultants can prepare any plans that are needed, submit applications, gain approval from local building departments and HOA’s, and maximize the potential rebate amount you will get back.

In addition, most states require a licensed landscape architect to prepare plans for any major renovation on a commercial or larger residential property.  The fees for these services are often offset by the savings that come from having a good plan that can be accurately bid and installed by contractors.

So, if you are looking to make your property more sustainable, update it’s image, and save on maintenance and water, look into what programs may be available in your area.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

The 10 Best Evergreen Xeriscape Plants for Colorado

Evergreens are important Xeriscape plants for Colorado landscapes.  Since lawn areas are often limited in Xeriscaping design, evergreen plants can step right in to provide rich green color all year long.

Evergreen plants also provide great contrast with other plants, particularly with the the foliage and seed heads of ornamental grasses, and as a backdrop for flowering shrubs and perennials.  And evergreens can often be utilized to effectively create privacy and screen or block undesirable views in the landscape.

I am limiting this top 10 list to evergreen shrubs.  Another very interesting category of plants are the so called “semi-evergreens”, which are deciduous plants that keep all or part of their foliage throughout the winter.  I will do a future list of the top semi-evergreen Xeriscape plants. I am also excluding large trees from this list, as they are a category unto themselves and many people are already familiar with evergreen tree choices.

Although this is a Colorado list, most of these plants can be used in many places throughout the world depending on the local climate.


  • Panchito ManzanitaArctostaphylos x coloradoensis ‘Panchito’   Panchito Manzanita is a low growing woody shrub with shiny, oval, dark green leaves that persist throughout the winter. It gets small, pale pink flowers followed by small red berries- but it’s best characteristics are the evergreen foliage and the fact that it requires little care or water.  The only time I have had an issue with this plant was when it was placed in an area with very poor soil and poor drainage- even then, the plant looked healthy, it just didn’t get any larger.
  • KinnickinnickArctostaphylos uva-ursi    Since the Mock Bearberry and Panchito Manzanitas have become some of my favorite plants, I started taking a second look at their cousin the Kinnickinnick.  This plant has been around for a long time and thrives in the eastern U.S.  Here in Colorado, it needs full to partial shade and requires a little more water.  It stays a little smaller than the other Manzanitas, but since there are so few evergreens that thrive in shade it is an invaluable plant.

Oregon Grape Holly

  • Oregon Grape Holly Mahonia aquifolium    I consider Oregon Grape Holly to be an evergreen plant, even though that may not be botanically correct.  It has large, glossy leaves that persist through winter, turning bronze-red, and gets clusters of small yellow flowers in the spring.  It can handle a ton of different conditions, from partial sun, through full shade, and doesn’t seem to mind the toughest clay soil.  This plant is a true staple of the Colorado Xeriscape.  Oregon Grape Holly gets about 4-6 feet wide and tall, with the “compacta” variety staying about half of that size.
  • YuccaYucca ssp.    Native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico, Yuccas are another plant that is not generally thought of as an evergreen.  But they are just about the perfect evergreen plant for a Xeriscape!  Yuccas provide really good steady green foliage that can blend in with other plants or be used as a statement with it’s unique form.  A tall stalk of white flowers appears in summer to make these plants all the more interesting.  All that, from plant that is native to Colorado and requires no maintenance or no supplemental watering!  Note: Red Yucca is another great plant that gets red flowers instead of white.  It’s scientific name is Hesperaloe parviflora.

Agave parryi

  • AgaveAgave parryi    Agaves are very similar to Yuccas, and provide many of the same benefits.  They tend to grow slower, and are a little smaller, so I recommend using them closer to pathways so their foliage can be enjoyed.  Agaves only flower once every 25 years, sending up a very tall flower stalk.  After they flower, the parent plant dies, and is replaced bu suckers from the root.
  • Dwarf Globe Blue SprucePicea pungens ‘Glauca Globosa’    Most people would not consider this a true Xeriscape plant, but I am including it because I have had very good luck with these plants in Xeriscapes.  Being a spruce, they do require a little more watering until they are established.  However I have seen these plants used in low water use landscaped on the same drip zone as true Xeriscape plants and they have thrived.  The blue color and the fact that they stall relatively compact are characteristics that cannot be found with any other plants that I am aware of.

Mugo Pine

  • Mugo PinePinus mugo ssp.    Mugo pines can provide very good dark green color, and are perfectly adapted to Colorado’s climate.  They are a perfect accent to boulders and flowering perennials.  Be sure to give them plenty of room, they are slow growing and are usually pretty small at the time of planting- however most of the varieties will get quite large over time.
  • Spreading JunipersJuniperus horizontalis ssp.    Junipers have been given a bad name, as we have written about before, but creeping or spreading junipers require little maintenance and can be very valuable parts of a well designed Xeriscape.  These plants work well when mixed with a variety of flowering and deciduous plants and grasses.  They can provide good ground coverage and green color to break up large mulch areas and as understory between shrubs.  Varieties such as “Youngstown” and “Blue Chip” offer a variety of green to blue-green hues.

Upright Junipers in Xeriscape

  • Upright JunipersJuniperus scopulorum ssp.    These upright shrubs can work well as vertical elements in a Xeriscape (as seen above), or to provide screening of utility areas.  Some of the varieties stay very narrow, which can be invaluable in tight spaces where evergreen trees would get far too wide.  Be wary of limb breakage in very heavy snows, especially with very narrow varieties such as “Skyrocket”.  Junipers are native to Colorado and require very little water, care, or maintenance.
  • Compact Tanyosho PinePinus densiflora ‘Globosa’    Compact Tanyosho Pine is a unique large shrub or small tree that has a very nice dark green color and requires minimal maintenance.  It is one of the rare evergreen trees that stays very compact, yet requires little water unlike many of the other dwarf conifers.  It also has an interesting form, with one or multiple bare trunks at the base with the needles forming a mound at the top.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects. For more information about our business and our services, click here.


Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

5 Ways to Use Landscaping to Enhance Your Christmas Decorations

The other night I watched the classic holiday comedy, Christmas Vacation.  Clark Griswold provides endless laughs in the course of his struggle with ladders and Christmas lights.  Occasionally, the lights actually work and at one point Clark has the following exchange with “Aunt Bethany”:landscaping and christmas decorations

Aunt Bethany:  Is your house on fire, Clark?
Clark:  No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights.

While anyone can load their house up with a gazillion flashing holiday lights and plastic reindeer, there is a lot of planning and work that goes into decorating a home tastefully for the holidays.

Ideally, the entire curb appeal should work together to create a scene that enhances the building and looks like it belongs there.  The shrubs, trees, and other landscaping (along with the structure) are important elements to the scene you are creating.

So, how can landscaping enhance the holiday decor?  Here are 5 ways to plan your landscape to work well with holiday decorations.

1.  Select plants that have good winter interest

Try to use a variety of plants that not only look good in the summer, but also have good winter interest.  There are many trees and shrubs available that have interesting bark and stem color (think red twig dogwood).

Utilize ornamental grasses, shrubs, and perennials that will catch the snow on their stems and branches.  On a cold day or night the snow will glisten in the sunlight or from the glow of holiday lights.

Also, use a mixture of evergreen and semi-evergreen shrubs.  Semi-evergreen shrubs are those such as Fernbush and Broom that have green stems and whose leaves may persist into the winter.

Read more…

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

The 2 Common Types of Rebates Available for Renovating Your Landscaping to Save Water

Landscape rebates are becoming popular across the county as water conservation becomes a bigger issue and more people look for ways to save water.

Population growth is straining Photo of renovated landscapewater supplies and delivery systems, causing many water providers to provide great incentives to reduce water use.  Homeowner’s, businesses, and HOA’s are also looking for ways to trim their budgets and increase their long-term sustainability.

But landscape renovations can get expensive.  Thankfully, there are some great rebates out there that you can take advantage of to help offset the costs.  When you factor in the rebates, as well as significant water and maintenance savings, a landscape renovation can make a lot of sense for your property.

Irrigation Upgrades vs. Turf Removal

Most of the rebates out there focus on 2 main areas: Irrigation Upgrades and Turf Removal.

Irrigation upgrade rebates are offered to water customers to increase the efficiency of their irrigation systems.  Rebates are often offered to install more efficient spray nozzles, rain sensors, and controllers.

The rebates for these items are usually calculated per item installed, for example, $5 per efficient rotary nozzle, and $50 for a rain sensor.  For larger commercial properties there are often limit to the maximum rebate that can be obtained.

Turf removal rebates are geared toward removing areas of high water-use landscaping (usually lawns and turfgrass) and replacing those areas with low water-use landscaping.  The replacement landscaping can consist of  Xeriscape, native plants, and a variety of colorful shrubs, perennials, trees, and ornamental grasses.

Read more…

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

The Best Plants for High Altitude Landscaping

After getting great feedback on my 20 Best Xeriscape Plants for Colorado post, which included a few follow-up requests, I have decided to publish a list of the best high altitude plants for landscaping.

Photo of Blue Globe SpruceThe Challenges of High Elevations

When landscaping at higher elevations, there are many challenges to consider.  The plants themselves are often limited in how cold of winter temperature they can withstand.  And there are also the challenging microclimates, wind, and levels of moisture that can occur at high altitudes.

Grazing deer and elk are also a common problem at higher elevations.  All of these factors should be carefully considered in the design of the landscape.  Consult the USDA Plant Hardiness zones for your local area, and consider working with an experienced landscape architect or garden designer.

It would be a great idea to do some nature walks in your local area to observe the native plants that are thriving naturally, and are well adapted to the various microclimates that can be found in your area.

I have decided to limit the list to plants that I feel will do well above 8,000 ft.   There are several plants that are advertised to do well above 7,500 ft, but I am not comfortable recommending all of them, so lets go with 8,000.

Deciduous Trees

  • Quaking Aspen    Populus tremuloides
  • Canada Red Cherry    Prunus virginiana ‘Canada Red’
  • Russian Hawthorne    Crataegus ambigua
  • Ginnala Maple    Acer ginnala
  • Apple and Crabbaple    Malus (several types)
  • Alder    Alnus tenuifolia
  • Tartarian Maple    Acer tartaricum
  • Birch    Betula (several types)
  • Mountain Ash    Sorbus aucuparia
  • English Oak    Quercus robur

Read more…

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

5 Reasons to Reconsider your Hatred of Juniper Bushes

Juniper bushes are the most despised landscaping plant in existence.  I know this to be true, because 75% of the time that I talk with a homeowner or property owner about renovating their landscape, they say something like “those Junipers have GOT to go!”.

Photo of typical overgrown Juniper bushes

Juniper bushes are common in older landscapes. Here they were not given adequate room, so they have been sheared off along the walkway.

Why is this?  I think there are a few main reasons, aside from the fact that they are prickly beasts that we have all tangled with a one point (either landing in one while playing as a kid, or getting that annoying rash on your arm while trimming them) :


1) They were simply overused in the past.  People are just tired of them and want something unique and new.  And since they live for ages and rarely die, they are often the only living survivors guarding the front doors of homes in any older neighborhood.

2) They were not planted with enough room to grow.  Many of the varieties get quite large after say, 20 years, and quickly outgrow the planting bed.  Because they grow too large for their setting they require excessive pruning to keep them at a manageable size.  This pruning then exposes all of the dead old growth inside the base of the plant- ugly!

3) The aforementioned prickliness.   And good luck getting the baseball you were tossing around out of the center of that green monster.

Given these negatives, why then should you consider using Juniper plants in your landscape?

Read more…

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

The Top 10 Benefits of Making Landscaping More Water Efficient

Converting an outdated landscape into landscaping that uses less water is not as hard as you might think.  And there are many benefits!

One of the best ways to do this is to convert your high water-use landscaping into a Xeriscape (pronounced “zeer-escape”).  This can be done anywhere-  from a small home landscape, to a large commercial property.

Many people have an image of Xeriscape as a “sea of rocks, with a few cactus plants”.  But Xeriscape can also be a lush, green and colorful landscape that is interwoven with flowering plants, textures, and beauty throughout each season.  In my opinion it is much more beautiful and interesting than “traditional” landscaping.

The Top 10 Benefits Are:

10.  Less Maintenance
9.  Use Less Water & Better for the Environment
8.  Prevent Water Damage
7.  More Beautiful, Colorful & Unique
6.  Better Wildlife Habitat
5.  Less Fertilizers & Pesticides Needed
4.  Better Suited to Your Site’s Unique Conditions
3.  More Winter Beauty
2.  Better Prepared for Drought
1.  Saves You Money

Now I will discuss each benefit in greater detail and explain what each one can mean for you:
Read more…

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

The 20 Best Xeriscape Plants for Colorado

I often get asked to recommend Xeriscape plants for Colorado landscapes.  This is a difficult task because there are so many to chose from, and I would hate to limit anyone’s pallette to a limited number.  After all, it is the variety in color, textures, and form that makes Xeriscaping so attractive.

That being said, I do think a small list can be helpful to people who are new to the area, or are not familiar with the available plant choices and may be overwhelmed by a catalog of thousands of plants.   Although this is a Colorado list, most of these plants can be used in many places throughout the world depending on the local climate.

  • FernbushChamaebatiaria millefolium    Fernbush is a medium sized shrub with interesting fern-like leaves that persist throughout the winter.  This shrub requires little water or maintenance, and produces clusters of small white flowers in the late spring through early summer.Double Bubblemint
  • Agastache – Agastache ssp.    Agastache, or hummingbird mint, is a fragrant group of colorful perennial herbs that is available in many colors mostly ranging from orange to pink.  The plants are covered with beautiful tubular flowers from mid-summer to fall.  Hummingbirds absolutely love these plants. Read more…
Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

Simple Landscape Maintenance Tips for Winter

winter landscape

Brrrrr… It’s cold out there!  The last thing you are probably thinking about is landscaping.  Or, if you are like me you already have the itch to get outdoors and are counting the days until spring.  Whether you are a restless home gardener looking for reasons to get outside, or you are performing maintenance on a commercial property and want to do all you can to have it look great some spring, there are many tasks that can be accomplished over winter.  Get the hot chocolate ready!

Key Dates

  • Late February:  Stop any pruning from this point on- spring is right around the corner, and woody plants are developing buds and preparing for the new season.
  • Late March:  Plants will begin to emerge for spring at this time.  As plants (especially Xeriscape plants) emerge and show signs of new growth, begin to remove any heavy mulching that was done to protect them over the winter.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Apply tree wrap to the trunks of young trees, early in the winter.  This protects the bark from sun-scalding and damage from harsh winter winds.
  • Watch for any heavy, wet snowfall.  This can break off branches of trees and do a lot of damage.  Shake heavy snow from trees and shrubs that are bending and showing stress.  While this can be a threat throughout winter, trees are particularly vulnerable in early spring when buds and leaves are beginning to emerge, because this creates more surface for the wet snow to stick to.
  • Hand-water your trees and shrubs if dry periods persist for a month or longer and the ground is not frozen. Keep in mind that areas facing the south and west will need water more than areas with northern exposure where snow will stay on the ground longer. Water in the middle of afternoon when temperatures are warmer (above 40 degrees Fahrenheit). You only do this about one time per month, and only if dry conditions persist.
  • Make sure you have plenty of mulch around trees and shrubs-  this helps maintain moisture and keeps the soil from drying out over the winter.
  • Finish any pruning of trees and shrubs in January.  When pruning trees, look to remove branches that appear likely to grow into each other or rub against other branches.  When pruning shrubs, always try to maintain the natural size and growth habit of the species.  Always use the right tool for the right cut.

Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

  • Leave spent stems and seed heads on grasses and perennials until spring, to enjoy their winter beauty and to provide cover for birds and wildlife.  If ornamental grasses and perennials have “flopped over” due to repeated snowfall, go ahead and cut them back now to achieve a neater look- otherwise, wait until early spring.
  • Late in March begin to remove any heavy mulching that was done in the fall/winter to protect the plants and preserve moisture.  We usually receive plenty of precipitation in March and April in the form of wet snow and rainfall.  If there is too much mulch around the base of perennials and ornamental grasses (especially Xeriscape plants with low water-use requirements) then stem rot and root rot can occur if the mulch is too thick in the spring.


  • Minimizing traffic on lawns will help to keep from damaging the grass, especially if it has been a dry winter or the ground is frozen.

Winter Weather Considerations

  • January and February are the driest months of the year (in terms of precipitation) for the Front Range of Colorado.  Watch soil moisture closely, and hand water your plants if you receive little snowfall.  In March, the level of precipitation generally picks up quite a bit.


  • If you are feeding birds, try to keep your feeders full as birds can become dependant on this source of food in winter.
  • If it has been a dry winter, when you are plowing or shovelling snow strategically place snow around the base of trees and shrubs to provide added moisture.
  • Start planning for design changes to your landscape for summer.  Now is a good time to get your plans in order, and spring is the best time to establish new plants-  so get ready early, because it will be here before you know it!
  • Finally, sit back and wait for SPRING!  A cozy fire and a warm drink will make the wait more bearable.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts:

Landscape Maintenance Tips for the Fall Season

fall landscapeFall.  When the morning air turns crisp and cool and the leaves begin to float softly to the ground.  Not only is it my favorite season, there are many maintenance tasks to be accomplished in the landscape.  The info below includes tips on what I have found are the most important and useful tasks-  so get out there, have fun with it, and enjoy the autumn weather!

Key Dates

  • Early October:  It is a good idea to winterize your irrigation system and blow out the lines.  Many landscape maintenance companies will provide this service for less than $50, or it is pretty simple to do it yourself.
  • October 15th:  Don’t plant any grasses or perennials after this date.  Many of them won’t survive, and you will have much better luck in the spring.
  • November 1st:  Don’t plant any evergreens (especially trees) after this date.  Some deciduous trees and large deciduous shrubs can be planted later if they are balled and burlapped (B&B), but I would recommend waiting until spring when you’ll have much better success.

Trees and Shrubs

  • Prune trees and shrubs to remove dead branches or to control their size.  Fall is the best time to do this for the health of the plants.  Consider consulting with an arborist before any major pruning on trees, or at least do a little research on techniques.  When pruning shrubs, always try to maintain the natural size and growth habit of the species-  Avoid over-pruning or sculpting unnatural shapes, unless you are creating a specific look such as a hedge.  Instead of using power shears to lap off shrubs on a straight line, consider using hand pruners to thin the interior branches to maintain a healthier more natural look.
  • Remember to check soil moisture, and water if needed.  Even though you may have your irrigation system shut down for the year, fall often brings some warm, windy days that can really dry things out.  Pay special attention to anything that was just planted this year.
  • Make sure you have plenty of mulch around trees and shrubs-  this helps maintain moisture and keeps the soil from drying out over the winter.

Perennials and Ornamental Grasses

  • Prepare tender and semi-hardy perennials and shrubs for the upcoming cold winter.  I like to let a few of the fallen leaves that tend to build up around the bases of these plants remain there for the winter-  they will provide insulation around the base of the plant from the cold.  This also saves you some leaf cleanup now that you can do in the early spring.  If necessary, place additional wood mulch around the base of these plants for more insulation- pay particular attention to areas with northern exposure.
  • Leave spent stems and seed heads on grasses and perennials until spring, to enjoy their winter beauty and to provide cover for birds and wildlife.  Or, if you must have a neater look you can cut them back now, to a height of about 6-8″ off of the ground.
  • Dividing:  Some plants can be divided in the fall and replanted in other areas.  Other species don’t like the fall division/planting though, and I think that spring is a much better time to do it.  If you decide to divide, remember to water the plants well for a couple of weeks.


  • Rake those leaves!  If left on the lawn they can smother it and cause issues such as mold and fungus.
  • Consider aerating your lawn.  Aeration allows greater movement of water, fertilizer, and air which stimulates healthy turf.  Aerating also increases the speed of decomposition of the grass clippings and enhances deep root growth.  Compacted soil especially benefits from core aerating.
  • You may want to fertilize your lawn or use a “weed and feed” type light pre-emergent herbicide in the fall for maximum growth the following spring.  Don’t over do it though, because fertilizer and herbicide can wash off of your lawn and the runoff can be harmful to water supplies and wildlife.
  • Assess the size and configuration of your lawn, and how much water you used this year to keep it green (or, brown?).   Consult with a landscape architect about how you can redesign your landscape to make it more attractive, sustainable, and functional.

Fall Weather Considerations

  • The days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler.  Keep an eye on the amount of precipitation we are getting-  Fall can have extremes of hot and cold, dry and wet.  Be observant.  If you have heavy rain for a couple of days then turn off the sprinklers for a week or so to compensate.  And if you have several days of warm, sunny weather then your landscape will certainly appreciate an extra drink.


  • Disconnect and drain hoses, but keep a hose handy for winter watering.  I also like to wrap insulation or put insulated covers over the exterior faucets as an added protection from freeze damage (I once had a pipe freeze and break UNDER my porch, and had to take apart the porch to fix it!).
  • Collecting seed:  Stop deadheading late in the year and allow the seedheads to dry on the plant.  Then you can collect the dried seeds to plant next spring.  Store them in a cool, dark place in a container that does NOT have an airtight seal, such as an envelope (it’s also a good idea to label the container so you remember what plant it is next spring).  Another option- leave the seeds on the plants and some perennials will re-seed themselves naturally.
  • Start planning your spring bulb garden now.  Spring-blooming bulbs are planted in the fall to provide the chilling time required for spring blooms.  Remember to prepare the soil and plant bulbs at the appropriate depth listed on the package for the species.
  • Start planning for design changes to your landscape for next year.  Fall and winter are the best times to get your plans in order, and spring is the best time to install the changes-  so get ready early for next spring, because it will be here before you know it!
  • Take a break and toss the football around.  Afterward, enjoy some warm apple cider with cinnamon.  Finally, rake your leaves into a giant pile and take turns jumping into them with the neighbor kids!

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

Be Sociable, Share!

Related Posts: