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From unused lawn to shady oasis; a year later, this Tucson garden teems with wildlife.

From unused lawn to shady oasis After 15 years of growing lawn for their children to play on, Tucson residents Linda and David Nathanson wanted to retire the mower and transform their garden into a shady oasis for entertaining and relaxing.

Inspiration for the new garden came from the lush riparian habitat and huge rock outcropping of nearby Sabino Canyon. Transplanting the idea into a modest-size back yard required the help of landscape architects Paul Serra and The WLB Group. Just a year later, the garden teems with birds and other desert wildlife.

Undulating mounds make garden rooms

To give depth and form to the rectangular garden and divide it into a series of outdoor rooms, Serra brought in truckloads of soil and sculpted the land into mounds and berms. As you move through the garden, every curve reveals a new vista.

Part of the appeal of Sabino Canyon is the sound of running water falling into rocklined pools. To replicate a natural pool, Serra created a curved spa and edged it with handsomely shaped boulders hand-picked by the Nathansoms. For the waterfall behind it, flat rocks were meticulously arranged to create the sound of gently flowing water. Ivy, butterfly iris (Dietes bicolor), and aptenia grown in pockets between rocks and cascade into the spa.

On the opposite side of the garden, Serra added a large brick patio for entertaining and family gatherings. A wooden ramada provides filtered shade for sunny days.

A lush look without the water use

Although the Nathansons like the lush green look of a riparian habitat, they didn't want a water-guzzling garden. By using less-thirsty plants, such as dwarf oleander and Caesalpinia pulcherrima on the edges, and Trachelospermum asiaticum in the shade of the Arizona ash (in California, substitute Raywood ash), they were able to imitate the look while using little water.

To minimize water use further, they mulched the ground with granite> trees, shrubs, and pots are watered by drip irrigation on three separate schedules.
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Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Mar 1, 1991
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