Landscape Design Tips for Sedona can also be a list of things to avoid. Sometimes by simply avoiding common mistakes, your landscape will end up appearing more professional and not appear like you did it yourself with questionable results.

Those who live here in Sedona, especially those fortunate to have property with great views or back up to National Forest lands, obviously appreciate the natural landscape that surrounds us.

Development in Sedona is guided by the Land Development Code which serves as an ordinance and a set of guidelines to insure that structures including landscape are sensitive to the natural environment by lessening the impact of development.

Apart from citing regulations and policies, I wanted to share some ideas and things to avoid that I feel are appropriate to consider when creating a new or remodeling an existing landscape or outdoor space.

1) Functional swales vs. decorative dry streams

Many homes have some kind of drainage that flows across their property or from the roof. The use of rock swales is often used to guide the water to the street or existing washes.  If you truly need to control erosion, the use of rip rap Sedona Red rock is much better than using the smooth and rounded river rock. Rip rap will lock into place and do a better job of slowing down the runoff.

Many people use river rock to create a swale from downspouts to the street. These can dominate the landscaped areas and is often not needed if underground drainpipes are used instead. On a relatively flat or gentle grade, using river rock for a swale usually gets filled up with sediment because there is not enough speed to wash the sediment downstream. If you want drainage swales for relatively flat areas, just create a swale and cover with the surrounding gravel. It will function better and not look cluttered or artificial as does river rock when used outside of a true riparian environment.


2) Use Sedona Red crushed native rock to cover disturbed areas

In Sedona, the soil is red and the rock varies from a dark red to light tan. Using decorative gravel that is different than these natural choices can only take away from the intent of blending in with the surrounding area. The use of ‘Madison Gold’ which is very prevalent in the Phoenix area since it does mimic the surrounding desert floor color is not appropriate in the Sedona area in my opinion.

3) Preserve the native trees by designing around them

As a landscape designer, I am frequently at odds with the interests of other professionals including the Sedona fire department, insurance agents, real estate agents who all seem to be more concerned about the threat of fire because the trees are too close to the home or that they block the red rock views. A native tree on your property is valuable. It is unfortunate that so many people do not revere trees but rather see it all as ‘overgrown brush’.  Trees are extremely valuable as elements in a landscape and that is why I view them as sacred.

4) Remove all the ‘green meatballs’ in your yard

When plants are placed in inappropriate locations or the wrong plant is selected without understanding its size at maturity, it becomes overgrown and either should be removed or pruned back. What happens is when a shrub is constantly pruned by giving it a hair cut with hedge trimmers, it ends up as a ‘green meatball.’  Although many people actually like this neat, controlled groomed look, most all landscape professionals abhor the practice.

Shrubs should be ‘selectively’ pruned whereby certain stems and branches are cut back to the trunk or main stem rather than uniformly cutting back everything as in trying to give the shrub some kind of unnatural ‘shape’.

Scrub Oak, Rhus, Barbery, Euyonomous, Cotoneaster and many other species planted around Sedona in a typical front yard are planted in the wrong locations, too close together and have not been replaced with appropriate species. Many people just don’t realize that poor design choices were made in the past and just don’t know what to do to make the garden look more natural.

Summary of Sedona Landscape Design Tips

As a landscape professional, I perhaps am much more sensitive to what I see people doing with their landscapes. Much of the criticisms I have are simply because the owners choose not to prioritize having a decent landscape. Money is also a big factor as many do it yourself gardener designers choose not to employ a professional to do it well. The use of the cheapest material also contributes to the unprofessional look.  The more expensive the home, the more likely the landscaping will be a high priority.


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