Friday, June 14

Arizona Giving Private and Public Spaces Alike Environmentally Friendly Landscaping Makeovers

According to one recent survey, people garden for a variety of reasons: to spend more time outdoors (44%), to enjoy beauty (42%), to escape life’s pressures (39%) and to get exercise (35%). Gardening is typically associated with lush greenery, but Arizonians are proving that gardening using native plants can accomplish all these goals in both private and public outdoor spaces that aren’t particularly green — but this type of gardening is actually more “green,” since it effects less of a drain on the environment.

“Xeriscape came up as a water-saving principle,” landscape contractor Chris Niccum told the Arizona Daily Star’s Jan. 17. “[But] I believe it has developed into a landscaping style.”

According to the University of Arizona, about half of the per-capita water use in urban Arizona is used for residential outdoor purposes, meaning that saving water in the yard can lead to significant water savings statewide.

In Arizona, xeriscaping (based on Greek roots to mean “dry landscaping”) means using desert plants that have low water needs, but that doesn’t mean a lack of visual interest or even a lack of color. Low-water green plants can be mixed with desert flowers for visual interest, and desertscapes can incorporate a wide variety of textures for a complex and engaging look.

“Water efficient doesn’t mean you don’t have any plants,” Niccum clarified. “Plants are selected more intelligently.”

Smart Public Spaces

While no specific statement on landscaping choices has been made, it appears these environmentally friendly principles will be applied to the five patches of currently unused land in the Fiesta District that officials have announced will be made into “micro parks” this year. In more than one case, grass will be removed for more desert-friendly materials.

The parks are already focused on improving air quality; city officials have said these small parks will offer shade, color, seating and bike securement racks as part of an effort to make the area more pedestrian- and cycling-friendly, and to allow for safer and more comfortable exercise.

Construction is slated to begin in March and will take about six months.

The makeover project will cost about $2.2 million. Approximately $1.8 million of that will come from a federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement grant, and a Mesa street-sales tax will contribute the remaining $380,000.

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