Summer is coming, and I promise, it will be here sooner than you expect. No matter how hot it gets, it seems that we still can’t get enough of being outdoors in this dry heat. Thankfully, Tucson homes come equipped with some fantastic outdoor views and sparkling blue pools, which make being outside in our backyard a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Of course, that’s is if you are lucky enough to find a home with an outdoor space that meets all your needs.
If you have a beautiful home that is in need of a boost of energy or has an outdoor space that feels undeveloped, one of the most exciting ways to lift it up is to upgrade your backyard is with some natural materials. These types of materials give any space an organic feel and style and are perfectly suited to the Southwestern aesthetic.
There are so many backyard styles to choose from, particularly here in Tucson where our cultures, unique ground quality, and access to Southwestern stones and lumber make finding natural yard materials a breeze.
Whatever your style, you’ll find inspiration for creating an outdoor space that suits your lifestyle and entertainment needs just by looking at the stunning surroundings in your local community, parks, and favorite high-end areas. Including local natural materials in your backyard design is an excellent way to tie in your personal design style with the natural beauty of the land all around you.
If there’s one thing that you are unlikely to find much of in southern Arizona cities like Tucson, it’s wooden decks. The year-round sunlight that we get in Tucson and Phoenix impacted even treated and sealed wood decking to warp and wear far quicker than in other climates.
Though there are some ground-level versions of traditional wood decks to be found in the Old Pueblo, we use lumber and in some cases timber to build great vertical outdoor spaces that protect our yards from the sun while providing grow space for vines.
Adding wood materials to your backyard is always a great idea. Pergolas with strong, sturdy beams make perfect locations for hammocks and swings, while arbors provide flow from one backyard space to another. Trellises perform double duty in backyards, creating shaded, private spaces while giving your backyard the vertical space needed to grow a large variety of vining plants with stunning flowers and leaves including grape ivy, bougainvillea, honeysuckle, wine grapes, creeping figs, and desert snapdragons (to name a few!)
Concrete has been a popular choice for centuries, and much of the original Roman concrete still exists today. This oh-so-versatile material complements any desert backyard, which is why it is also extremely popular in Southern Arizona yards. Though concrete is a human-made material, it is created by combining natural materials and water, which makes it appropriate with organic surroundings.
When finished correctly to suit our hot climate, poured concrete will not soak up too much heat (making it suitable to walk on barefoot), making it a common choice for surrounding pools, creating porches, and fashioning deck spaces. Mediterranean and South American-style homes, famous here in the southwest, make great use of concrete in their design both indoors and out.
Another standard concrete item that you’ll find all across southern Arizona is concrete pavers. Typically used to create patio spaces that extend beyond the house, concrete pavers are extraordinarily attractive for fire pit seating areas, outdoor cooking spaces, and decks. They are also popular as stepping stones throughout rock and grass gardens.
Beating the look and feel of stone materials is hard. They surround us everywhere we look, from the Catalina Mountains to the Santa Ritas, and we simply cannot get enough of this natural material in our backyards. Available in a variety of textures, shapes, and sizes, and used to accentuate and build outdoor spaces, the stone is hands-down the hallmark of the southwestern landscape alongside the desert sand itself.
Stone elements can be added to outdoor spaces in so many different ways that it is hard to name them all! Stone walls with running waterfalls that make swimming pools feel like spring-fed watering holes, boulders placed as natural barriers creating a distinguishable divide in outdoor spaces, surfaced stones as beautiful side tables and centerpieces – the list goes on and on.
With its extensive color and size variety, flagstone is one of the most popular stones used in backyards. Entire outdoor spaces can be created from flagstone, or they can be used to designate an area for a particular use. Travertine pavers, natural rock, are also very popular choices for shaded outdoor areas like lining gardens and creating border spaces.
Decomposed granite is a favorite type of small stone that creates a rustic aesthetic, while pea gravel is more commonly used near koi ponds and fine sand gardens often seen in Asian-inspired outdoor spaces. If you have a water feature or are looking to accentuate the landscaped areas around your pool, river rocks are unbeatable in their smoothness and visual appeal.
With so many ways to bring the beauty and natural elegance of the southwestern landscape right into your backyard, the design possibilities are endless.