Commercial Landscape Trends for 2018


While 2018 is sure to bring with it a new wave of fashionable landscaping trends, 2017 surely introduced some designs that are going to stick around for a while. Paying attention to the most recent fads helps a business stay relevant and attractive. It’s important to keep in mind that the most up-to-date outdoor designs often make a business look more modern, sleek, and professional. Be sure to incorporate some of these designs for your commercial landscape.

1. Functional spaces

More work is being done outside than ever before, largely because people are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits of exercise and fresh air throughout the entire day–not just at quitting time. Technology also makes working outdoors more convenient, so it’s important to make the most of “in-between” or vacant spaces, such as pavilions, gaps between buildings, and other unused spots. More companies are now offering green roofs, wireless zones, and outdoor sitting areas.

2. Energy efficiency

Net-zero energy buildings, or those that do not contribute back to the country’s energy usage, are becoming more popular. Commercial building owners are now thinking differently about how buildings are designed and looking for more ways to increase energy efficiency. As a result, commercial landscaping now utilizes more fuel-efficient equipment and accessories, such as using solar lights versus electric ones. More commercial landscape architects are also utilizing green methods to create a superb outdoor space.

3. Drought-tolerant plants

Responsible water use has become a hot landscaping trend, especially in more arid areas like here in Arizona. Mediterranean-style landscaping, which utilizes drought-resistant plants like jasmine and rosemary, has become popular, as have succulents and other water-saving plants.

4. Native plants

In addition to drought-tolerant plants, plants native to each region have become extremely helpful in lowering maintenance costs and increasing water conservation. Which works out great since succulents such as desert agave are both a native plant of Tucson and the rest of Arizona, and are drought tolerant. Plants like this already naturally thrive in your area, meaning less work, and can help attract birds, butterflies, and other helpful creatures that add to the tranquil environment of the outdoor space.

5. Responsive irrigation

Many commercial landscapers have been incorporating sensitive rain sensors that adapt to weather conditions and only provide irrigation when absolutely necessary. These systems help conserve water and energy, and avoid saturating over-wet plants.

6. Distinctive designs

More buildings are incorporating open designs with contrasting colors and unique stylistic features. Landscaping architects are utilizing shapes and designs to add new dimensions to formerly bland, flat spaces. While color has become increasingly popular in commercial landscaping, incorporating pops of vibrant hues where before there would have just been brick or stone. Concrete for spaces between parking lots and stores is now often mixed with unusual colors, such as blue or yellow, instead of a dull gray.

7. Green roofs

Commercial properties are taking advantage of this hip, environmentally-friendly way to enhance the urban landscape. Green roofs are partially or completely covered with plant life, many of which can be harvested for added benefit. Green roofs absorb water and regulate heat loss and energy consumption from the building as well.

8. Placemaking

More landscape architects are utilizing placemaking to help create commercial designs that are both attractive and useful. Placemaking involves the creation of a comfortable, appealing space with fountains, sculptures, seating, and a relaxing ambience in a space that would normally consists only of a hectic spot between businesses. Placemaking is about the creation of a space where people would like to gather.

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PVL Tree Removal at Apartment Complex

The Arizona Cypress Tree


The Arizona Cypress Tree

The Arizona Cypress Tree, scientifically known as the Cupressus arizonica Greene, is a very dense evergreen with an upright cone shaped crown. Its leaves are bluish-green, silvery, and grayish-green with reddish-brown bark. The Cypress tends to grow 50 to 60 feet tall and 15 to 30 inches in diameter. It does best when grown under elevations of 3,000 feet, and is naturally found in dry conditions such as rocky mountain slopes and canyon walls.

The Arizona Cypress Tree requires very little maintenance. It thrives in full sun environments. Watering is critical during the spring growing season with deep watering every other week. Throughout the remainder of the year it requires just 10 to 12 inches of water. Another benefit to choosing the Arizona Cypress tree in your landscape design is its quite tolerant to pests and potential problems when planted in low humidity climates. In Arizona, the Cypress tree has performed well as a windbreak in desert areas.

Fall Planting and Tree Care

While spring is the ideal time for planting trees and shrubs the fall offers the same opportunities if the soil is still warm. This will give your beautiful new tree the time needed for ideal root growth. The Arizona Cypress will have the chance to get established before the winter cold sets in. It is also recommended to avoid pruning that will open the stump to sunburn on the south and west sides.


Looking for additional advice for fall plant and tree care. Call us today at (602) 200-1749, or click here to email us!

Read the USDA NRCS Plant Fact Sheet here.

Smart pergola make the great outdoors even greater

Pergola Roof

Smart Pergola

BRIDGEPORT. W. Va. (WDTV) — Ginger Darrough doesn’t spend much time inside her house these days. She’s usually enjoying her back patio under her new smart pergola.

Courtesy: Angie’s List

“I’ve had work parties out here. I’ve even had employees come and work here for the day, so it’s just been a hit. Everybody loves it. Very few people have ever seen it, but they love it,” said Darrough.

Regular pergolas have been around since ancient Rome, but only recently did they become “smart” – equipped with moveable louvers that let you control the amount of sunlight that filters through.

“You can have shade any time of day because it doesn’t matter where the sun is. You can rotate the louvers at 150-degree rotation, so you can create shade but maintain an open roof,” said Anna Bertolini, of the Smart Pergola.

With the louvers open, the heat of the day escapes instead of getting trapped underneath. And if the weather turns wet, the adjustable aluminum slats close completely. Built-in sensors can do this automatically, even when you’re not home.

“It’s rain-tight, has the gutter system that goes all the way around that collects the water. And that’s taken away in a downspout that’s inside one of our columns,” said Bertolini.


Smart Pergola


“A new trend we’re seeing is smart pergolas, which allow you to enjoy your outdoor space even when the weather isn’t ideal. They can be placed near your home or even out in the yard, but remember when talking to your contractor, they may require a building permit to install,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List.

Ginger’s 800-foot structure took over a week to install – longer than expected, but well worth the wait.

“It looks good, it feels good. It’s still very open. I just love it,” she said.

Pergola Patio Covers and more

Pergola Ideas

Pergola: Latin meaning a protective eave, gazebo or and extension of a building that would serve as protection for areas between pavilions and open terraces.

Pergola is a steel or aluminum frame that is used mainly used as a gardening feature that create shaded walkways, passageways and sitting areas. By using the cross beams as a sturdy open lattice you can train vines, woody vines and a select species of tree to grow around it and produce shade.

Pergola’s should not be compared to arbours since they are constructed in wood and the structure is much smaller with smaller openings.

Pergola is used in place of the old plastic and aluminum patio covers, enjoy the look of real wood without the maintenance and deterioration, plus it is very durable and easy to clean.. Pergola Patio Covers work well in Arizona with it ability to withstand the heat without the typical sag of natural wood and aluminum awnings. We can custom design you a Pergola structure for any use you want, so please call us or set up an appointment and let us help you with the design and installation of your dream yard!.

Trust your licensed contractor!

Click Here For A Free Pergola Estimate

Some Pergola Ideas we have for you:

Warm Weather Plants

Watch the video below to learn about a select few desert plants that love the warm Arizona weather; The Luscious Bananarama and Luscious Marmalade (Lantana).

Luscious® LANTANA ‘Bananarama’ From Proven Winners® Spring Trials 2014

  • Saturated, solid yellow flower color
  • Mounded habit
  • Extreme heat drought tolerance
  • Low seed set for less mess on the bench and longer flowering
  • Use in 4.25 Grande™ containers, monoculture hanging baskets, or in combination with other medium-vigor varieties
  • Height: 18-30 inches; Spread: 18-36 inches
  • Full sun
  • Vigor 3

Luscious® LANTANA ‘Marmalade’  From Proven Winners® Spring Trials 2014

  • Two-toned flowers in warm orange with yellow highlights
  • Mounded habit
  • Extreme heat drought tolerance
  • Low seed set for less mess on the bench and longer flowering
  • Use in 4.25 Grande™ containers, monoculture hanging baskets, or in combination with other medium-vigor varieties
  • Height: 12-18 inches; Spread: 18-36 inches
  • Full sun
  • Vigor 3

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The Truth About Turf

The grass can always be greener, but should it be real or faux?

In the not too distant past, the arrival of summer could be defined by the growl of the lawn mower and the sweet smell of freshly cut grass. Later in the year, the scent of manure used in installing a winter lawn was a harbinger of the change of seasons. Nowadays—especially in the arid Southwest— many verdant yards have given way to xeriscape or rock. But plenty of homeowners harbor a love affair with lawns and still want a grassy patch in the yard, whether for aesthetics, for kids to play on or for pets to enjoy.

Faux Turf
A backyard remodel included switching out real grass for artificial, which in this case, saved water.

The question is simple enough. Be real or go with the faux? The answer is a bit more complicated. There is no one best choice—both options have good points and drawbacks.

On one hand, who can resist walking on fresh green grass in bare feet? It smells good; feels sublime between the toes; gives off oxygen, which acts as a natural air conditioner; and is organic and, well, real. On the other hand, a grass lawn (also called biological or natural turf) can be expensive to install and requires a fair amount of upkeep. It must be mowed and watered on a regular basis and fertilized periodically; some types even need to be dethatched seasonally for aeration. Unless you are using a manual push mower, lawn care equipment requires maintenance and uses gasoline or electricity, which contribute to air and noise pollution. Clinical fertilization can be harmful to groundwater, and in drought-prone areas such as Arizona, the water used to keep the lawn healthy and green can be considered environmentally wasteful. Real grass can also harbor pests, such as ants and ticks, and grass pollen can trigger a host of allergies and asthma.

Alternatively, faux grass (also called synthetic turf or artificial grass) does not require the continual upkeep of mowing, watering or fertilization. It is weed-, pest- and pollen-free, can be hosed down or blown off when necessary, and it can be brushed upright when flattened. It also keeps 20 million rubber tires out of landfills every year.

Artificial grass has come a long way since buzz-cut AstroTurf, which made its debut in the early 1960s. Visually, today’s faux lawns can be virtually indistinguishable from the real deal. Like carpet, it is available in a range of colors, pile heights and densities. Most are made with UV-resistant materials, making them impervious to discoloration from the sun. Faux turf can bring green to areas where real grass would be impractical, such as rooftops, enclosed courtyards and patios.

While the cost of installation can be high compared with real sod, the initial investment is generally recouped within 8 years. High-quality synthetic turf has a lifespan of 15 to 20 years.

Despite the ecological benefits, synthetic turf has its disadvantages. The green color is derived from chemicals and dyes, and as a petroleum-based product, pollution and waste are created in the manufacturing process. It is non-biodegradable, so at the end of its lifespan it cannot be recycled. And no matter how beautiful it is to look at, faux turf can never replicate the tactile sensation of real grass. It will absorb the heat of the direct sun and feel hot to the touch.

When shopping for artificial grass, look at sample swatches with varying blade counts and see how they look where you intend to install. Inquire about drainage and warranties and ask to see actual installations, where you can look for seams, gaps and ripples. As with any investment, it pays to shop around.

The perfectly manicured lawn is attainable, whether you decide to go natural or “fake it.”

Cathy Babcock is the director of horticulture for Boyce Thompson Arboretum, located in Superior.

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Trees To Avoid In Landscaping Entries

Willow Acacia

Pictured below are a few Acacia Salicina, AKA “Willow Acacia”. I took these particular pictures in Gilbert, but it is not unusual to see them used throughout newer (1-20 years old) developments in Mesa, Chandler, Scottsdale, and others, both residential and commercial. Very often, I would say 1/3, or more, they look like the ones above. For some reason they are used as parking lot and street trees a lot. I just don’t get it.

Willow Acacia

OK, so before I go on breaking down just how bad of a choice planting these Willow Acacia trees in Arizona Landscapes can be -especially in above mentioned situations- let me say that every tree has it’s place and I am not knocking the tree, the way in which it is used. The trees don’t choose where and by whom they are planted !

Willow Acacia

Cons to Acacia Salicina for city use:

1. Require a lot of trimming/maintenance (which also means lots of man-power, dump trips, etc)
2. Branches are quite likely to break in the wind because of rapid, erratic growth
3. VERY shallow (and invasive) root system (you can see the surface root top left, just waiting for a combination of rain and wind – hmmm… Arizona Monsoons? This is one of the most common trees you see blown over during “micro bursts” or even moderate storms)
4. Inconsistent growth rates, inconsistent structures in general. Not a plus for a city street tree or providing shade.
5. Consistently produce pollen, pods, cycle through leaves, creating a need for more maintenance, clean-up, gas blowers, dump trips, etc. (mess level – 8.5/10)

So after all this hard work, keeping it in line, cleaning up, dealing with emergency service bills ($) for broken branches and fallen trees, here is the toughest part to swallow…….drum roll……
A lot of these trees, after all the investment our tax dollars (or personal dollars) and the energy of the maintenance crews put in….. A very large amount of them will have to be replaced, thus requiring costs of removal -labor, hauling, dump again, costs of buying a new tree, labor to plant it. And finally our city’s or our neighborhood’s maturity and character (which is SO essential, especially in the rapidly growing, culture struggling to keep up Valley we live in) starts all over after all this work ! And it’s quite possible the replacement could be another Salicina !

Now I am feeling bad for harping on the tree. It didn’t decide to come from Australia to Arizona. Somebody realized they were easy to grow, fast growing, and inexpensive. ($$) This is similar to what seems to have been a Eucalyptus craze in the eighties. And the more current Sissoo over-use 🙂

I will end with some pro’s: fast growing, beautiful weeping look, great for farms or riversides, especially in Australia 🙂 See, isn’t that better !

Adam Bruce

PS – I don’t want to be cynical often in this blog, but this has been bothering me for about a decade. Please hire a professional to help you select trees and locations, it makes a big difference for all of our futures.

PSS – Another culprit with strikingly similar issues is the Chilean Mesquite (there are many types of Mesquites that grow well here and are reliable, it’s just this particular one and it’s over-use that is many times a true waste of resources)


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“Cereus” -Two Interesting Arizona Cacti

"Cereus" -Two Interesting Arizona Cacti

Pictured below are two of my favorite cacti for Arizona landscape design. To left is a Mexican Fence Post Cactus – Pachycereus, marginatus – and to the right is a Totem Pole Cactus – Pachycereus schottii f. monstrosus. They are columnar cacti which means they grow vertically, and have “spears” as you can plainly see. Cereus is the genus of both and any cacti with that the genus are generally going to be columnar and upright growing.

The Mexican Fence Post pictured at left was planted as part of a xeriscape design in Scottsdale.  These columnar cacti are great for those people who may not “love” cacti as much as I do. They are not very thorny, (only small spines on the edges but I can grab them with my bare hands easily) they are usually quite symmetrical and balanced, and they have a darker green color with an interesting white stripe. Definitely unique and great for a focal point or as a tree substitute in a smaller landscape. I really love to cluster boulders around them along with some Angelita Daisy or other small flowering plant.


The Totem Pole pictured at right was planted as part of a desert landscape design in Fountain Hills, Arizona. This “cereus” cacti is great for the quirkier of folks. Its is thornless, which is a plus for those that are just starting to appreciate cacti. It has very random shapes and really no two ever look alike. Totem Pole are also a great focal point, great near the house, and again I like to surround them with boulders and small flowering plants.

Both of these cacti are so useful in Arizona landscapes. They give character, size, and a really unique shape to work with. Both are very low water use and can also be maintained easily by removing “spears” as they get too tall or wide. Cuttings of these cacti are easily harvested and transplanted around the yard or given to friends and neighbors. Cereusly, try them out.

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The Acacia Anuera


The Acacia Anuera the tree from Australia

The Acacia Anuera, also called Mulga Acacia, is truly one of the most functional and reliable trees to use in arid landscapes.   Native to the the dry outbacks of Australia, it is no stranger to rocky soil, long droughts, below freezing temperatures and extreme heat. For most homeowners, the heat of the Arizona summer is generally the main concern for plant choice- while the cold winters are overlooked.  Rightfully so, we all dread the summer and 115 degree temperatures !  Many plants, however, tend to have more issues with the cold that the heat here in the desert.  A few nights of of freezing temperatures and the Phoenix Valley Landscaping  phones are ringing off the hook with calls about “coastal” trees like Ficus, Jacaranda, Orchid and many more.  They die back considerably (sometimes 50-75%), losing many years of growth, water and resources in one night.  The sanity of the homeowner is also at stake; trying to rig up lights, blankets, small fires to combat the frost.  I have seen many methods of protecting trees, mostly Ficus.

Now, moving on to the Acacia Anuera.  This tree is fearless to both extremes.  In below freezing temperatures  every leaf remains in tact, on the tree, and with no frost damage.  In 115 temperatures, it’s the same story.  It is very rare for a true evergreen tree to remain in tact throughout the season.  In fact, there really are only a handful of them.  So to add to that, this Acacia is also clean, virtually maintenance free, very drought tolerant, and can provide some nice shade without a very invasive root system.  They also add a nice contrast to a design, both in color and texture.

This tree is perfect for residential use or commercial use.  Whether in a parking lot or shading a driveway, they perform consistently for us time and time again.


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