January 26, 2017

This past November, after months of planning and hard work, the Drab to Fab Backyard Rehab Xeriscape landscape install was finally completed! By the second weekend in December, our winner, Lisa O., was celebrating with friends and family with a backyard barbecue at her Avondale home!

And that, my friends, is what having a beautiful and functional backyard landscape is all about. To get there, keep in mind that the design of our outdoor living spaces requires the same attention to detail as any room in your house. Instead of flooring, you decide on pavers or granite selections. Instead of curtains you might use vines to soften the harshness of a block wall. The layout will define functional areas for gardening, a shady hideaway for relaxing, or help create spaces for cooking and entertaining.

In our 10th and final episode, Donna DiFrancesco from the City of Mesa was able to chat with Lisa about the journey that it took to complete the project.

Did we say ‘complete’? Don’t forget that a landscape is a living, growing, seasonal and dynamic habitat of plants, trees, wildlife, and more. Trees will grow, plants may be added or die out, and flowers will blossom or go to seed, attracting countless birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, and pollinators. But, Lisa also has some personal items to add to the project. A custom-made water feature (for the wildlife and to mitigate noise from a busy nearby street), and some furnishings for the yard and patio. She’s also working on getting soil to fill her planter boxes so she can plant them with herbs year ‘round for one of her favorite activities… cooking!

Abbie is happy with the new landscape!

The family dog, Abbie, a beautiful Belgian Tervuren, is also getting accustomed to her new space and fun new elements she’s finding in the yard. Now she has paths to run on and plants and rocks to jump over. Luckily, Abbie is well behaved and doesn’t dig or pull items out of the ground. However, she has taken to grazing on the peppermint and spearmint plants in the side yard. We see that as a win-win. There should be no bad dog breath with this dog, and well… she’s helping to keep them pruned back and looking fresh. This brings up an important consideration when choosing plants if you have pets that have access to your yard. Some plant’s leaves, flowers, or pods can be poisonous to animals.

When asked to share her main takeaway from this process, Lisa says that finding a good designer and getting help with that aspect was something she found to be tremendously helpful. Lisa expressed the frustration she had when she would call landscapers out to her home to talk about the backyard, but most had little to offer for design ideas. That can be the difference between hiring a ‘landscape installer’ versus hiring a ‘landscape designer’ or ‘landscape architect.’ A designer/architect is someone with the knowledge and experience with our desert plant palette as well as with hardscape material options. It’s also important to hire a pro who understands grading and drainage considerations and the option to harvest rainwater to benefit the plants and lower your water bills.


  • Get design ideas and determine your themes, goals, and functions before you get started. Find some great guidance on our Plant Now for the Future page. The booklet, Xeriscape: Landscaping with Style in the Arizona Desert also includes great design ideas.
  • Consider rainwater harvesting and diverting rains properly into your landscape to avoid flooding by visiting our Rainwater Harvesting page.
  • Select easy care plants that are well adapted to our desert climate. We’ve already picked out over 200 of our favorites. Visit our page on Arizona Low-Water-Use plants.
  • Hire a landscape professional if you need help. Learn about steps to take to find certifications and skills needed on our Hire a Pro page.
Lisa, our Drab to Fab winner had a sign made showing the number of entries for the contest (did you notice it’s a palindromic number?)

The fun part of this video is that we have great time-lapsed footage of install day. But, you might have missed Videos 1 through 9 of our series where all of the real work and planning takes place. Visit our Drab to Fab page to meet Lisa and watch as she begins the process of transforming her yard from Drab to Fabulous! The best part… now you can watch from start to finish.

It may be hard to imagine what the ‘before’ can look like. A landscape professional can help you paint that picture!


At the end of video 10, we recognize all of those who took part to make this project such a great success. A special thanks to our promotional partners, ABC15’s Sonoran Living Live, the Arizona Nursery Association’s (ANA) PLANT SOMETHING campaign, the Arizona Landscape Contractors Association (ALCA), and Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply. ANA members who donated plants included Treeland Nurseries, Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, and Western Tree Company. Harper’s Landscape and Gardening Centre hosted a visit and participated in Video 3. ALCA member’s, Waibel & Associates, provided the beautiful and amazing landscape design, and Cutting Edge Curbing Sand & Rock provided granite, rock, and pavers. In the video, we also gave a shout-out to ALL of our Water – Use It Wisely partners who participated and, of course, we can’t forget Wayne Drop, our Water – Use It Wisely mascot! Oh wait, there are two more people we’d like to recognize. Thanks for the great production, directing and videography from Dan O’Boyle from O’Boyle Copy & Concept and Brian Goddard from Brian Goddard Photography & Design.