The Multiverse + Craigslist Patio Round-Up

Have you taken a look at the April issue of National Geographic?  If not, you’re missing out on a fancy removable insert depicting the progression of our universe from the size of a golf ball to its current detectable size (the edge we’re aware of is 47 billion light years away).  They also throw in the idea that we may be part of a multiverse, and that “our cosmos may be one in a sea of others just like ours – or nothing like ours.”  This stuff simultaneously freaks me out to the point of hysteria and completely calms me to the core.  I’m trying to grasp and maintain the latter stance for now.  Helps me realize that A. if we blow it on this version of Earth, maybe we really can get a do-over elsewhere, B. I’m glad I have plenty of opportunity for distractions so I don’t go crazy thinking about the multiverse, and C. next time I get to feeling bad about the million-odd things that have gone wrong so far in my short life (I want those hours of reading a Nicholas Sparks book back – seriously) I can meditate on the fact that we, meaning all of us and all of everything, were smashed together into a golf ball glob at one point and attempt to feel the warm fuzziness of that experience.


What about you?  Does space give you the jeebs?  Given the chance, would you take a space holiday? (nope)


Okay, so here are a few delights from the Tucson craigslist interwebs this week.  Some are awesome, and I want you to invite me over for a cocktail party when you have purchased them.  Others will be snapped up by yours truly.


“Real Art From Prison” – $100

I’m going to start off with a bang, because why not.  The only thing I’m going to say is that I found this by searching “plants” in craigslist, so surely some wires were crossed when this listing was posted.  Rather than insert my own commentary, let’s let this guy do his own explaining: “I have these 2 peaces of art they r drawn on a new sheet with a pen my roomate drew them when i was in prison they are verry detailed of naked wemen and weed plants dnt wana get rid of them but wife wont let me hang them up i Want a 100 for them.”  Anyone want to go in on this?  I love that these ladies are lazing about in a pile of weed foliage!  Brilliant.

prison art



1960s Furniture Set – $230

Love this set.  And I think the price is pretty fair, right?  Perfect for a small patio on a hot summer night.

wire furniture



Tulip Table – $495

Obviously I’m a sucker for Mid-Century furniture, but this looks like it’s in really good restored condition (8 new coats of paint?!?) and the ad says they typically go for more than double this price.

tulip table



Gothic Lamp – $295

Look at this fantastic lamp!  It has six different colors of stained glass and I find it totally enchanting.  I imagine you need a series of bolts and hooks to support the weight (they think it came from a church at some point), but I think it would look so nice amongst some creeping vines and potted plants.

gothic lamp



6′ Tiki Statue – $150

I’m not totally joking around on this one, just like I wasn’t joking with the dragons from a few weeks ago (those are still available, by the way).  I think if you’re going to go for some garden art, really just go for it.  One huge piece that attracts some attention is so much more pleasing than a bunch of trinkets spread around like flies on cow patties (all that buzzing is distracting).  So if you’re in the market, why not this guy?  Tuck him in with some shrubs and boulders and forget the BigLots metal butterflies.

tiki statue



Patio Lamps – Assorted Prices

I really enjoy a good estate sale, especially when they feature large and mysterious collections of unrecognizable (to me) objects.  What I do recognize, though, is that I love lamps and I will probably need all of these lamps at some point in my life.  A table lamp (or 4) really brings a touch of romance to a covered patio, and even more so when they’re old and rusty.

patio lamps



“Death Chair” – $1

Again, I happened upon this mysterious ad as I was searching for “house plants.”  I imagine it’s a hazard of trolling craigslist.  Well, whatever this project was supposed to look/function like, it’s now up for grabs if you can scrounge up a 12 pack of Bud Light to trade.

project gone wrong



Happy weekend deal-hunting everyone!  I’ll be heading to the Tucson Botanical Gardens tomorrow morning to take a look at the Grow Down competition.  Head on over if you’re looking for backyard design ideas, should be pretty great.

The Quest for “Lush”, “Green”, and “Colorful” Landscapes in Arid Regions

I get these requests all the time, and actually part of me is going for the same thing in my own space, but with a different set of parameters in mind.  Lush, green, and colorful can all be achieved in the arid West, but they come with some asterisks.  I mean this in the nicest way possible, but if you’re looking for tropical foliage, dark green grass, and ever-present blooms, I hear Hawaii is real nice.  How about we all go soak up the rainforest for a couple weeks, take note of the vastly different ecological conditions, then come back with renewed appreciation for our lovely deserts and western landscapes!  You pay, I’ll blog about it.

Now, I also want to get something else straight.  I keep hearing about the California drought on the radio, and the conversations invariably boil down to residents either having grass (old model) or cactus (new model) as landscape plants. Check this index if people need the best landscapers.  People can read and learn more about commercial landscaping design here. I’m going to take two minutes to expand on that today, but more in relation to southern Arizona (though plenty applies to CA as well…along with most of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah…you get the idea).  Yee haw! People can also check this contact form, if they need goo landscape services.

lush desert

 Lush: We can do lush.  In fact, the Sonoran desert in particular has some very lush areas, including those in and around Tucson.  If you were to take a walk in Greasewood park, on the west side of Tucson, you would see bountiful vegetation.  The mix includes saguaro, foothills palo verde, triangle leaf bursage, jojoba, hopbush, prickly pear, ocotillo, mesquite, acacia, creosote, and dozens (hundreds?) of other plants packed together.  It is far from the iconic wind-swept dunes of the Sahara.  And it’s a variety of plants that is infinitely more interesting than whatever you can import from other climates that may or may not survive long-term.  The key to achieving this type of lush look in your outdoor space is to reintroduce complexity, by which I mean nooks and crannies, a small bit of topography, passages for water to flow through, and a mix of rocks of all sizes.  I’ll hit on that in another post because it’s a biggie.  But trust me, we can do lush.


 Green:  Being the plant nerd I am, I took my Behr paint color book outside and checked out the actual hues of green in my yard (p.s., I don’t work for Behr, I swear, but they make some great paint like ones at Archute services.  You don’t even need to get the paint + primer they offer, just go for the normal flat finish and you’re in business.  Low odor, zero VOC, the whole nine.  Plus, you can get a color sample book for free!  Behr, call me, I will work for you).  Our plants tend to be olive green, gray green, and other shades that are better at deflecting some of the sun’s potent rays.  You might get some of the traditional grass-green color in small bits, or on plants that thrive during the monsoon and then fade back into brown.  So we all just have to adjust our expectations of what we mean by “green” and come to appreciate “Mother Nature” (actual Behr color that matches many of my shrubs).

prickly pear color

Colorful:  We’re never going to have the same brand of color as you see in botanical gardens across the Pacific Northwest, Midwest, South…I guess actually most of the rest of the United States.  The scenario we have in the West is much more subtle, with pops of ridiculous color here and there as plants gain the energy to put on a show.  You will definitely see hot pinks, rich yellows, saucy oranges, and every other shade you can think of, but they will come and go as seasons and patterns permit.  You have to soak it up here and there – orange globe mallow this month, yellow palo verde blooms next month, white Saguaro flowers in May and June – the colors are fabulous and somewhat fleeting.  So yes, we can do color.  Not the azalea and dahlia kind, but a palette that is strictly ours that reminds us of the seasons and the sun.

That’s all for today, folks.  Riveting, I know.  Tune back in tomorrow for some craigslist high jinks!

Year-Round Dipping Pools + Bionic Backs

It’s about that time of year where I’m dreaming of some kind of major back-muscle intervention.  I’m thinking we just take out the whole latissimus dorsi, seen below, and replace it with Spider-Man webbing.  Surely someone in the world is working on this, and I’d like to volunteer to be first in the trial run.


On a related note, wouldn’t a year-round dipping pool be so nice?  I don’t think we’ll ever take the full plunge into installing either a hot tub or swimming pool (so much water and maintenance), but it would be really awesome to have a well-designed vessel that can be used as a replacement for both.  Heated in the winter (some achieve this with a wood fire!), left as-is in the summer (add ice if needed when 110 degrees), and emptied when not in use (into a basin with trees, of course).  I guess I’m talking about an over-sized outdoor bathtub, but with a  nicer look and function.  I would love to hop in one tonight and give the Icy Hot a rest.  It’s starting to get a little stink-tastic in the house with all that menthol in the air.

Anyway, feast your eyes on these gems:



Outdoor bathtub





#4 (not that glamorous but pretty affordable…we could jazz this up a notch)


#5 (okay this one is a little bigger than what I’m picturing, but it’s rad, and it looks like it can dump into the happy trees around it)

Trees are really vital for they give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilize the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They also provide us with the materials for tools and shelter. I suggest not to cut them away, let’s just trim them with a tool like axes for splitting and chopping woods so they can still stay for some more years.

Do you also dream of something like this?  Once June arrives (or April if we’re being really honest) we’ll all be wishing for one.  If you’ve already got some good ideas about this kind of thing, hit me up!  I’m ready to work out the details.

Have a great day, everyone.  I’ll see you tomorrow (unless it turns out I head in for a full musculoskeletal transplant).

Sad Tuba Pruning – Desert Spoon

For those of you who have not spent some serious time watching The Price is Right over the last four decades, here’s what I’m talking about with “sad tuba.”  It works well with any given defeat, but I’m going to use it for this new blog segment that focuses on the horrors of bad pruning.  And let me tell you, there are some true atrocities going on in this town!  I’m sure it happens everywhere, but with desert plants it’s just so much more obvious and painful. Our vegetation doesn’t just shoot up an extra 12′ after being hacked back like it might  elsewhere in the country (there are plenty of places where not enough pruning might lead to a total takeover of your property – not even close to true in the Sonoran desert).


The first casualty we’ll take a look at is the desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), which gets chopped and decimated all over the place.  This native plant is supposed to have a lovely spherical shape made up of toothed leaf blades that taper to a point.  After many years it begins to lift off the ground as the slow-growing trunk forms.  It’s a beautiful and tough plant, and if you want to buy one that’s close to full size (without a trunk) you’ll drop somewhere around $100.


desert spoon 1


I’m not sure what the motivation is, but with increasing frequency you’ll see these fellas pruned in to all kinds of crazy shapes.  I think it must start innocently enough – trim off a couple dead blades on the bottom, even it out a bit so it looks consistent, take off some of the more ragged points, take off all the points so the blades match, cut everything back just a bit to hide the unevenness – and before you know it the whole darn thing has been trimmed to look like a flattened pineapple top!  You’ve instantly lost more than half the plant.  And it’s never coming back.  Ever.  Those blades are a one-shot deal.  I’ve mentioned before that the desert doesn’t just give out free shows – it has a system, and now that system has been disabled.  So you potentially had a  beautiful multi-hundred dollar plant, and now you’re left with something totally silly and bizarre.


desert spoon 2


Nauseating, right?  It’s just too sad for words.


calvin and hobbes

So let’s all agree to hire landscape professionals that know what native plants are supposed to look like.  And feel free to pull over and give a small lecture if you see this happening in real time.  (Or just throw food from the car.  Soft stuff – like cake or bananas or something).  Save the desert spoons!



Lookin’ Fly : Cactopia #1

lookin_good 4


Good Monday morning to you!  And happy St. Pat’s day, if you’re into that sort of fun.  While I’m no fan of drunken green-beer debauchery, I could definitely go for some corned beef and cabbage at any given moment.  What about you?  Traditions in the works?


So I think it’s actually still a little early to start talking about cactus blooms, but I’ve been out and about this past week and have spotted some of the most gorgeous flowers and couldn’t resist.  Cactus bloom season is amazing.  The flowers around these parts are so intricate and wildly colorful and they pretty much beat the pants off anything you’ll see anywhere else in the world.  So now that that’s settled, away we go.


Clockwise from top left:


Argentine Giant – Seriously, how can you beat that?  Can you even imagine that a flower of this size (up to 7″ across) pops out of a regular old cactus?  It’s completely insane.  And they come in an assortment of fabulous colors like white, light pink, salmon, and yellow.  I’m willing to replace everything in the yard with thousands of these cactus just to experience the week or two that they bloom.


I don’t know what this is, please tell me! – I spotted this at the Mission San Xavier last weekend.  I think it’s fair to say that this is the most magical flower I have ever seen, ever.  Look at that bright orange with the pale yellow and the medium pink bits and a splash of perfect green in the middle!  It’s wondrous.  I honestly can’t stand how amazingly lovely this flower is.  In my next life I want to be this flower.  So if you can identify it, I will be indebted to you forever.


Aloe (vera?) –  Oops, not actually a cactus.  But still pretty, and nearly unmatched as far as toughness and reproductive ability go (they make tons of new plants each year, so after one initial plant you’ll quickly end up with a large clump).  I love pairing aloe with yellow barrel cactus, orange globemallow, “dinner plate” prickly pear, and palo verde trees.  I’m totally drawn to orange + yellow + green color palettes, and aloe does a nice job of tying it all together (comes with both yellow and orange flowers).


Purple Prickly Pear – The big prickly pear flower show is just about to start, and this guy is on the early end of things.  Such a nice monochromatic yellow set against the purple of the cactus pads.  The crazy thing about these flowers is that they open for just one day!  Such a brief moment of beauty.  That’s the great thing about cactus – they’re not just going to give you a free show for months on end.  You have to wait it out, get your timing right, and savor the moment when it comes up.  It’s so worth it.


Have a great day, comrades.  See you back here tomorrow for some adventures in pruning (oooo, exciting!).



The Sunday Snatch featuring Teddy Bear Cholla

cholla 1


I realize that some of you are going to need at least a little convincing with today’s Snatch.  You’re mostly thinking “ouch” and that this plant belongs in natural desert settings where you can stay far away from it, right?  I used to agree wholeheartedly, but now it’s one of my absolute favorites.  Why?  Their beautiful yellow spines and light green flesh catch the sun unlike any plant I know – it’s other-worldly.  Their flowers are incredible (more on that when they bloom).  They develop a sturdy and upright single trunk, meaning they don’t form a sprawling thorny mess that traps trash (like some forms of prickly pear).  And, they serve lots of native birds and other wildlife with their fruit and protective cover.  Just try one clump and see how it goes!  Put it in a spot where you can move around it and not accidentally bump into it – away from your house, utility meters, a tree you have to trim regularly – you get the idea.  Also, pair it up with stuff from the last three weeks!  Teddy bear cholla, purple prickly pear, yellow striped agave and a pot of pedilanthus will really jazz up an empty space in your yard.  Maybe I’ll post pictures of that very combination next week.


cholla 2


Alright, so there’s not a lot of new information about how to complete this mission, but let’s review anyway.  First, hit up a friend with some desert property – I’m pretty sure taking cuttings from public desert parks is illegal  (but, do what you may).  Second, get out the trusty (long-handled) snippers.  Cut off a chunk at a joint and have a bucket ready to catch the winnings.


cholla 3


Let the cuttings scab over for a day or two, then plant the chunks in the ground.  That’s it!  Then just wait for some glorious new growth to emerge, which might happen in the next month or two (or it may just spend some time adjusting to its new home  for a while).


cholla 4


Eventually you can surround your new friend with soft and fluffy stuff like creosote, triangle leaf bursage, and brittle bush and you’ll have an excellent sampling of beautiful desert vegetation that requires very little input.


cholla 5

Have a great day, everyone!  I’m headed out to Sabino Canyon to soak up some sun and check out the pretty plants.  I’ve heard that there’s still some water in the pools, so that’s always exciting.  Any fun plans in store for you and yours?

Gardens as Therapy vs. Therapy as Therapy (go for both)

I know I told you yesterday that today’s post would be much more pertinent and/or interesting, and I’m really not sure that this fits the bill.  So actually tune back in tomorrow if you’re counting on that criteria.


I once found myself in a romantic relationship I fondly refer to as “The Mr. Bojangles Show” (obviously his real name).  Bojangles played the main and all-consuming role in the story of us, while mine was a bit part that came on and off stage in flashes that barely registered on the screen.  On paper this pairing looked perfect.  He was an architect (ooo, ahh), was hugely intellectual, came from a wealthy family, had an ivy league background (again, ooo, ahh), was equally musically and artistically inclined, had athletic abilities way beyond me, and had an intense attention to detail that I could relate to.  Sounds awesome!  The big kicker, though, were that in a full year of being together not once did the words “how are you,” “how was your day,” “what do you think about ____,” or “tell me about ____” come up.  WHAT.

So I enlisted in some therapy and started by asking “what can I do to make this better?”  I was lucky enough to find a therapist who spoke directly to my soul, and after one session of learning my brain mis-wirings (in this case causing me to be magnetized towards  a narcissist), I changed my tune to “adios, this is so boring and sad and totally weird!”  Pretty good, right?  I’m unbelievably happy that I didn’t do 20-to-life in that supremely unfulfilling tango.  Incidentally, I now have superb radar for anyone who takes up more than their fair share of space in any given scenario and I steer my ship about 100 miles around them when possible (and it’s almost always possible).

Around the same time as the Mr. Bo-J debacle, my mom told me “if you don’t write your own story, there are plenty of people who will step in and do it for you.”  Isn’t that a gem?  So true, mom!  I carry that with me daily and it has influenced so many decisions. (On a related note, once when I was about 19 I flooded out her car by leaving the sun roof open during a multi-day storm, and she said “if you don’t take care of things you won’t have anything at all.”  ZING.  I can’t wait until my girlfriend and I have teenage kids – instead of disowning them when they wreck stuff like functional vehicles, hopefully we’ll come up with some of these prize statements.)

Now I’m in a relationship that weaves together two sets of ideas, dreams, goals, interests, and daily successes and failures.  Obviously that has its own set of complications (I’m definitely not saying that it’s all Candyland and fuzzy kittens), but we’re two people sitting equally at the table of life, and generally it’s pretty awesome.

So my point is:  therapy rules!  And moms have some irreplaceable words that help along the way.

Anyway, here’s my next point: gardens and landscapes can have huge therapeutic effects and taking help from Bradford Landscaping to maintain and clean it on a daily basis can be much more soothing to the soul.  There are at least a couple different sides to this.  One is the physical participation in gardens, like sledging out concrete, digging in the dirt, and cultivating plants, and the psychological benefits these activities bring.  The other includes the positive mental and physical implications gained from just spending time in a space that is beautiful and natural which you will see it here in any garden always.  Both of these “therapies” may bring about relaxation, release anger and negative feelings, and give the mental space needed to move beyond a particular hurdle.

I have a friend who works at a neighborhood elementary school as a counselor/environmental educator, and he uses the school’s garden spaces built by Twinwood Farms to help children deal with grief and loss, quarrels with peers, and the normal frustrations that come up in life. Schedule a consultation, and you will know how wonderful the garden can turn out to be. It’s a pretty fantastic approach, and gives the kids a whole new set of tools to cope with stuff in a holistic manner.  Let’s do this at every school!

So to wrap it up today, here are some photos of therapy, healing, and meditation gardens fit for a variety of ages and user groups.  Is this already the way you treat your outdoor space?  Or do you dream of your own therapy garden?  I know I want one, so my first move in that direction has been establishing as many trees as the yard can handle (I think we’re up to about 20 so far).  Check back with me in about a decade when they’re really doing their job.

Farewell for now, friends.  I hope you’re going to have some moments of relaxation this fine Saturday on planet Earth.

therapy garden 2-01

 Harrison Hospital roof garden

healing garden



therapy garden 1-01

What does your day look like?

container ship


I’ve had plenty of different employment experiences at this point in my life; cashier, bagger, nanny (tons of that), desk jockey, bar-tender, researcher, jewelry-slinger, teaching assistant, hospitality clerk, and the list goes on.  So far I haven’t regretted any of it – the more you know the more you know.  The worst places for me, as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, were the desk gigs.  Whether landscape architecture-oriented or something completely inane (I’m talking to you, For Rent Magazine…boooo), the ol’ desk is like a prison cell for me.  I know, dramatic.  But there are some things I look back on with a twinkle in my eye.  Refreshing my coffee/hot chocolate/tea/various combinations therein every half hour, followed by trips to the restroom every half hour.  Looking up flights to anywhere all day long and thinking of where I might go next (nowhere, really).  Writing my serious bosses silly and lengthy emails.  Keeping an ever-rotating stack of snacks in my desk drawer.  Giving my coworkers and myself nicknames like “Balla,” “Shot Calla,” and “High Rolla.”  I don’t know, it was a 2004 thing.  Anyway, you get the idea – the “fun” stuff that keeps you afloat when you’re bogged down by the daily grind.


Here is how my days go now:  drive to a client’s house, think of five new and hilarious blog posts on the way, forget them promptly when I arrive.  Dig a bunch, like a LOT.  Just tons and tons of digging.  Poke myself on various sharp plants and say unpleasant things out loud, over and over and over like Groundhog Day.  Install trees, shrubs, cacti, water harvesting stuff.  Take 3 seconds to eat half a sandwich, giving just enough time so the bread momentarily lodges in my throat (quickly freak-out).  Drink a gallon or two of water in between shovel-fulls.  Listen to 8 solid hours of NPR, sometimes requiring me to place my $2 radio 4″ from my body to receive a clear signal  (I might need some kind of harness where I can just strap it to my chest – ?).  Go home and snarf a bunch of food, work on the blog, complete a new landscape drawing, and pass out on the couch watching The Americans (am I the only one?).


Ta-DA!!!  (tappety-tappety-tappety-tap).  Don’t be jealous, now.


At the end of the day I am so tired that I dream of an ambulance arriving to pick me up.  They can just wheel me out on a stretcher, insert an I.V full of a life-giving concoction and painkillers, turn on the hoses to remove the top layer of dirt, and pull through any Mexican drive-thru so I can eat 7 cheese enchiladas before arriving home.  That would be ideal.  Just imagine the scene at the end of The Burbs, where Tom Hanks has lost it.  Love that movie.


So obviously there are ups and downs to every line of employment.  But it’s nice to be doing something where the time becomes fluid and early morning eases into afternoon without a gimmick or even as much as a glance at the clock.


On the topic of horrifying jobs, though, I just listened to this bit on the super jumbo container ship “Maersk McKinney Moller.”  Holy moly – biggest in the world.  Now, I’m not sure if the movie “Captain Phillips” was truly a good piece of cinema or not, but I soaked up every second of it and promptly added “container ships” to my specialized Google news feed.  There’s a surprising amount of news out there on these beasts of the sea!  And it’s almost never uplifting.  So I’m going to go ahead and stick with what I’m doing right now and not look into becoming a large-vessel sea captain.


How does your day look?  Do you have implementations to help pass the time?  Are you happy with the benefits-to-horrors ratio?


That’s all the blathering for today, folks.  More pertinent and interesting information coming up shortly.  Have a fantastic Friday night!

Mo’ Money Mo’ Plants

It’s Thursday and it’s never too early (or late?) to throw in a B.I.G. reference.  I keep trying to hum the main chorus and my girlfriend keeps asking me if I’m humming the Star Trek theme.


Alright, now that we’re on a roll with talking about the financial parts of landscape changes, let’s get into a tiny bit of detail about the plants.  I’ve often thought, “oh, I just want a few plants to throw in the yard, nothing too crazy.”  Fair enough, right?  So, looking at this photo below, what’s your guess as to the total cost?  (I know you can’t see it all, but it’s generally a mix of yuccas, agaves, barrels, desert spoon, and some perennial flowers).






Well, you’re looking at 2 Gs worth of wonderland plants.  That’s right, $2,000.


Now, there is a slim fraction of people who say that sounds about right, or, oh, I would have thought more, when the topic of plant costs comes up.  Most people (including me) go in to some kind of shock that feels like a baseball bat to the chest set to the sound of a slot machine jackpot, except each “cha-ching” of the money coming out is actually the money being sucked from your wallet.  It’s nutso.


But, then I take a step back and I realize that they must have been growing most of this stuff for years – honestly, a very long time.   Because I bought my own 1-gallon desert spoon (the one you can see in the back right, below, which sells for $100) for $6 from Home Depot 5 years ago, and I actually think it’s smaller today (about 6″ diameter) than when I bought it!  No joke.  It has not done a single tiny bit of growing.  So you’re paying for someone’s patience and care and the ability to keep something alive in a pot for an unreasonable amount of time.  After pondering that factoid 100 bucks a pop doesn’t sound all that bad.


Of course there are other plant options, and other ways of making your space look good over a stretch of time.  A friend mentioned yesterday that you can get great, structural plants through the Tucson Cactus and Succulent Society (you go on a ‘cactus rescue’ and get the chance to come home with really cheap ocotillo, fishhook barrels, saguaros, and other fun stuff).  There are always ways you can pull things together.


Anyway, these plants pictured have now filled an entry garden to the house shown, maybe 400 square feet total, and they look stunning (if I do say so myself).  More photos of the final arrangement coming soon.




Enjoy your day!  See you tomorrow, everyone.

Running the Numbers on Landscape Design and Installation


running the numbers


Sometimes I get questions about what a person can get for $100 in relation to landscape stuff (design, plants, hardscape, whatever).  I’m totally with you on this, and the answer isn’t exactly “nothing.”  You could make some pretty decent changes to either your front or back space (not both – let’s not get too silly now) on a very limited budget.  So I’m going to break down a few financial thresholds and throw out my opinion on how you can start to make some changes to your space.



Okay, for 100 smackers I would say this:

*Start participating in the Sunday Snatch (you’ll like it, it’s fun).  You can amass a small (or large, if you’re like me) collection of low-water high-impact plants without spending a dime.

*Throw a plant exchange party that goes like this: invite 10 people to a beer + nachos + plants extravaganza.  Each person has to bring 10 of one type of plant that they can get out of their own yard (prickly pear, agave, pedilanthus, you name it) to donate to the cause.  Each person then goes home with 10 new specimens.  Bang-a-dang.

*Check out a bunch of library books on water harvesting and native plants.

*Draw yourself a plan as best possible (print out an aerial photo of your house).

*Do a whole bunch of digging to make basins and paths – this part is free!

*Buy yourself three 5-gallon shade trees ($35 each) and get them planted.  If you already have trees, buy a bunch of 1-gallon desert shrubs ($7 each) from a local nursery.



*Bring someone in (*wink*) to create a front or back yard plan for you.  Mine come in the $350 range, based on a typical 10 hours of work.  I definitely know designers and landscape architects who charge as much as $120 an hour and graduate students who might go as low as $15, so there’s a range to consider.  The plan gives you freedom to add to your space as you have the means, and also gives you the vision of a complete composition over time.

*Still do a whole bunch of digging on your own.

*Spend the remaining $650 on 15-gallon shade trees ($80-ish), 1-gallon desert shrubs, some do-it-yourself gutters (water harvesting), and a shade sail that can be mounted at least partially to your house (rather than using 4 steel beams).

*Still participate in The Snatch, and probably a plant party or two.



I would say the $3000 mark is where you can gain a bit more freedom, creativity, impact, and the ability to not do every ounce of the digging.

*Bring someone in to do the front or back plan.

*Hire someone (*winkety-wink*) to do 20-30 hours of knowledgeable labor including basins and water courses, plant shopping and placement, actual planting, and potentially some flagstone or decomposed granite pathway creation ($700 – $1050)

*Still put in a bunch of 15-gallon trees and 1-gallon desert shrubs.

*Add some high-dollar stuff like agaves, barrel cactus, ocotillo, and yuccas.

*Don’t forget the shade sail – though it still might be DIY.


$5000+ (+++)

Now we’re getting to the point where you can start to think about things like seat walls, contractor-installed concrete or block, fences, irrigation (though that wouldn’t be my first choice – more on that in the near future), shade sails, lighting, and nice plants.  Though, honestly, not all of those things at once, and still definitely not including both the front and back yard at once (unless you have a micro yard).


And, something else that might be of interest (and which I’ll talk about more in the future), if you end up hiring a general contracting landscape company, you can plan on spending 2-3 times as much as the numbers I’ve mentioned.  Maybe more.  I’ll give a recent example soon.


Hopefully this doesn’t scare you off.  It’s nice to have an idea of what things might cost before you begin a landscape change.  Plus, now you know you can definitely do something with your $100!  Time to start digging, my friend.


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