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The great outdoors

by Susie Steckner on Aug 2, 2017

If you have already pick out the perfect new house, you know what comes next: planning the ideal front and back yards. Think trees, shrubs, plants and more to create the look and feel you want for your home. 

But a blank slate can be overwhelming. The first step?

Get expert help

“Call an expert,” said Kris Madsen, a general manager for Moon Valley Nurseries. “Proper placement of trees is very important to the longevity of the landscape,” Madsen said. “With the amount of time, money and effort you put into landscaping, doing it right the first time is the best way to do it.”

Check and CC&Rs

If your home is in a community with a homeowner’s association, expect another important step. 

“Homeowners will want to check the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs) as well as any design guidelines,” said Mark Stapp, executive director of the Master of Real Estate Development program at the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

“Many times there is a list of specific plant material that can be used and/or [a list of] prohibited plants.”

Plan ahead

As you begin planning, make note of the home's orientation and relationship to the surrounding area, Stapp said. Shade, reflective sunlight, drainage and visibility are all key elements in this phase. Take time to read up on xeriscaping and indigenous or adapted plant material.  

“Awareness of the space to be landscaped is critical,” Stapp said. “Avoid using plant material simply because you’ve seen it at other homes. Be realistic  and understand how the plant material will mature.”

Identify goals

As important, Madsen said, think about your goals for the landscaping. Is privacy and issue? Where do you need shade? Do you want flowering trees? Are citrus or fruiting bushes important? 

Consider the style and color of the house as well to seamlessly blend the home and landscaping. “If you have a Spanish-style house, you want a landscape to go with it,” Madsen [of Moon Valley Nurseries] said.

When it’s time to make your selections, ask whether the trees and plants have been acclimated to survive in the Valley. Madsen noted that Moon Valley Nurseries grows all its own trees in areas with temps that match those in the Valley.

“Everything is acclimated to the Phoenix weather,” he said. “We don’t bring trees in that are going to collapse.”

Create a comprehensive budget 

In creating a budget for your landscaping project, include what you will need beyond trees, shrubs and plants, Stapp [of Arizona State University] advised. Other costs could include hardscape, an irrigation system and any associated electrical work for an irrigation system. If needed, ask about financing through local nurseries, Madsen said. 

Finally, Stapp said, the Arizona Department of Water Resources is an excellent source of information on drought-tolerant and low-water-use trees, plants and shrubs. Find out more at

Expert Tree Advice

Searching for new trees for your Valley home? Here are four top picks from Kris Madsen, a general manager for Moon Valley Nurseries:

Indian Laurel. This droughttolerant ficus tree has a wide-spreading canopy making it perfect for shade and privacy.

Tipu. This tree is fast-growing, offers plenty of shade and features cheery yellow flowers all summer long. It is also drought-tolerant.

Citrus. Favorites to plant in Arizona, citrus trees provide a range of fruit — from tangerines to lime to grapefruit — for eating and juicing. [Just be sure to check with your HOA to see if they’re allowed.]

Museum Palo Verde. This tree is thornless and extremely droughttolerant. It features a green trunk all year long and bright yellow flowers. 

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