Here in Arizona we’re going through the 10th or so year of a drought. I mean, no water. Nothing. My next door neighbors are in denial about this. They water their lawn and their flower bed constantly. Their front yard is perfectly manicured.
And that hasn’t bothered me too much. I talk to them. I wave hello when I’m getting the morning paper. But, they seem to have taken an exception to the way I’ve cared for our lawn. I, on the other hand, am allergic to bermuda grass, and simply refuse, on principle, to maintain the kind of yard that would easily grow elsewhere in the world — but that simply doesn’t belong in the desert. I’ve vowed that no water shall fall onto our property that doesn’t fall naturally from the sky.
But this approach to landscaping seems to have soured any neighborly feelings the couple next door have ever held towards us. For instance, the other day, when the husband was shaving down all errant blades of grass along the border between our yards, I tried to say hello and he simply turned his back and walked away. Less than a week later, we received a notice from the city of Tempe saying our lawn was “slumlike” and that we had 30 days to improve its condition or face a $75 charge.
This had us quite upset, as you can see in this video taken by our friend Joe during a visit from Vermont:
Well, I’ll admit it. We gave up. We had looked for some landscapers but their quotes were either way too high — or, in the case of Pedro and his band of undocumented workers, their practices were suspect. So, we simply kept the idea in mind, thinking that the right opportunity would present itself. Well, it never presented itself. The people we called either didn’t call back, or we were too busy to get any additional quotes. However, armed with this new urgency from the city, we were looking again.
We posted to Craig’s List, we pulled out the old quotes and were almost ready to bite the bullet and pay 12 grand to a guy named Auggie to get the work done. However, last week, while taking Rigatoni on her morning walk, I decided to approach the driver of truck that was parked outside a neighbor’s house and had the business name Tom’s Landscaping on the side of the door. I could not have had better luck.
It turns out Tom was a licensed master gardener from Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden. And I’m totally in tune with his approach. It’s like we see eye to eye on the whole desert plant thing. So, over the the next month we’ll be working to transform our front yard. We’ll be selecting desert plants… palo verde, lantana, accacia. And I’ll be learning, first hand, what goes into creating a desert lawn.
Here’s a sketch that I made today outlining our initial plan for the front yard:
We’re planning to put in lots of lantana, two hedges: one Arizona Yellow Bell, the other Langman’s Sage. We’ll be putting in a Palo Verde and an Accacia so people can smell the citrus-like blooms from the entrance to our house. We’re also planning to put in lighting and a wide fieldstone pathway to welcome guests.