Spare Meets Oasis

People from greener parts of the world often comment on my rare post showing a more intensive planting.

Limited water, lean soils, and low humidity plants rarely support a lush mix of layers and high density. That requires more expense, irrigation, and maintenance plus richer soils, which we know are unlikely on my projects and many others’.


Hesperaloe funifera above on a toasty west wall; Dasylirion wheeleri below on a slope to direct unwanted foot traffic. All massed with the space and spaced for maturity.


Wild plants usually space themselves apart to limit competition.

In the garden, that gives room to see the plants and especially the space. Even where drip irrigation is needed to establish or even sustain, it’s often a good strategy to apply that more sparse model.

Not to say we don’t get drawn into the oasis via shading and sparseness, pointing the way to the bosque of desert trees.


That simple allee of Parkinsonia spp. with an unplanted ground plane works. Every inch of ground doesn’t need to be filled with plants that die, especially in the rigors of a public space. The oasis is overhead shading everyone and in the background.

It’s true!

Mostly local and desert southwest-native species were used.


This simple groundplane is punctuated with not riparian plants by the low, circular drainage feature, but rather, by a trio of agaves, arroyo plants, and a single tree.


The openness with (very) ephemeral drainage actually functions per reality, as many agaves are more upland and foothill species than desert floor. They appreciate some flash washing of their root zones.

I appreciate this Ten Eyck office’s take on a xeriscape demonstration garden for the low desert.


I’ve moved to Scottsdale, Arizona for several months, so not only do design sensibilities increase with the temperature in this case, but so will some different gripes and praises. All important!


4/25/19 weather:
98F / 65F / 0.00 or 37c / 18c / 0.0