Plant Perfection with Shearon Design Collective

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Plant Perfection with Shearon Design Collective

Photography by Kultur Agency

Planting a beautiful, sustainable garden in the desert is a breeze with advice from Arizona landscape expert Phil Shearon of Shearon Design Collective.

Growing a full, lush garden in the middle of the desert is no easy task. The harsh Sonoran desert in which we live means that many plant species from other parts of the globe don’t have what it takes to survive. In Arizona, our native climate is amenable to a variety of flora and fauna that flourish in the extreme temperatures and arid atmosphere. Just go for a visit to the Desert Botanical Garden to brush up on the native species that call Arizona home, and learn a bit more about our beautiful state!

There’s something to be said about surrounding yourself with greenery. With all of the recent studies on biophilic design, it’s no secret that being around nature has a positive impact on our mood and psyche. Creating a sanctuary space full of plants is a great way to recharge, relax and even be more productive. So, it’s no surprise that gardening has surged in popularity, offering a sustainable and enjoyable hobby to city-dwellers and desert-dwellers alike.

Renee Dee-I-Y: Plant Perfection with Shearon Design Collective

So, how does one create a beautiful garden in the desert? We looked to local landscape expert, Phil Shearon of Shearon Design Collective, to give us some tips on designing a sustainable outdoor space full of wonderful plant textures and colors. 

To start planning your garden, look down! This might be the most obvious place to start, but consider how you want the “base” of the garden to be filled in. Looking for some ground cover? Shearon recommends foxtail ferns, which “spill over and look really soft so you don’t see a lot of rocks or dirt.”


Another great option to consider in Arizona, is strategically using synthetic turf to balance an outdoor space and save on water consumption. If one side of your space is getting a lot more sun than the other, you can have synthetic turf installed just on one side, to create symmetry and cohesion for most of the year. And, of course, this benefits planet earth too, saving a ton on water usage.

Next, consider separating your garden spaces, whether that is designating seating areas, paths or groupings of different plants. Hedges are a simple and beautiful way to create that separation visually. Shearon suggests Star Jasmine, which is easy to maintain and adds a lot of greenery and an incredible smell in the spring months. Another great option is Dwarf Olive, which has a smaller profile, making it an ideal choice for smaller outdoor spaces; its evergreen nature means that it keeps its leaves year-round.

A garden wouldn’t be a garden without the beautiful eye candy of colorful florals. But, not all flowers thrive in the Arizona sunshine. Iceberg roses are a popular choice in the Valley, known for their fragrant white flowers. These roses have the ability to store water, similar to succulents, and require less water compared to other flowering plants. With their year-round blooming cycle, they thrive in full sun or partial shade, adapting well to varying seasonal conditions. Other pops of color you can add to your desert garden include Wedelia for yellow flowers, Russian Sage for purple flowers and Cape Plumbago for blue flowers. If you want more of the delicate varieties of florals, just place them strategically in the garden, like for example, underneath the shade provided from a larger tree, which can offer a reprieve from the desert sun. 


“The first approach is layers. So, we want to think about things in terms of lower, mid, high and sometimes extreme highs,” Shearon says. “Sometimes we have really tall buildings or even 40-year-old trees, we want to think about how we connect everything from top to bottom.”

At the same time, we want to bring in some color. You can do this with pots, where you can put different annuals, giving you different colors throughout the seasons,” Shearon says. 

This story is sponsored by our friends at Shearon Design Collective.

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