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Clever Ways to Beat the Arizona Heat with a Shady Retreat

Summer is coming. As the days get longer and the temperature rises, one thing becomes increasingly precious in our back yards: Shade. We want to enjoy our back yard retreats in the warmer seasons, and shady spots help us sustain our outdoor enjoyment.

Of course you could opt for a tried-and-true patio umbrella, but there are much more innovative and creative ways to create some outdoor shelter from the scorching sun. We’ve listed a few of our favorites below.

Tiki Umbrella Bar

What’s better than a patio bar? A tiki bar that offers a shady shelter from the sun with a sprawling thatch-work tiki umbrella! When you’re not cooling off in the pool, head to the tiki umbrella bar to cool off with an icy beverage.

Canvas Patio Awning

Simple, portable and elegant – a canvas patio awning provides a wispy, colorful accent ceiling to your patio while furnishing a wide area of shady shelter for relaxing. Place a few lounge chairs under the awning or even a hammock and enjoy a breezy afternoon outdoors without all the sun.

Poolside Cabana

Not only does a pool side Cabana offer reliable, sun-busting shade for any size pool deck, it adds a resort-style accent to your pool area that turns your back yard into a vacation spot all its own. Available in stationary and mobile varieties, you can place them just about anywhere you need shade.

Dress Up the Pergola

Wooden pergolas are a stylish addition to any patio, back yard or pool deck. They’re also ideal for ‘dressing up’ with canvas awnings, sail shades and even simple bed sheets to create an elegant cover from the sun. You can improvise with coverings you already have on hand or procure specialty coverings designed for shady solutions.


One of my favorite back yard retreats is the trusty Gazebo. You can do so much with a Gazebo, and they look so beautiful in any back yard – but they also provide shade and even a shelter from the elements if you end up outside during a summer squall. The center of your gazebo can house anything from seating and lounges to bars and kitchens.

What are you doing to create your shady retreat this summer? Let us know!  Don’t forget, we can help you set up just about anything in your back yard, and Dream Retreats serves a huge span of Arizona with Landscaping and Back Yard projects, in Phoenix, Gilbert, Scottsdale and more!

Is Your Arizona Landscape Design Ready For A Green Spring?

If your unsure on how to successfully transition your Arizona landscape design from winter to spring and eventually the hot summer your not alone!  Now is the time to prepare your yard for the change to warmer seasons.  When the nighttime temperatures are 60 – 70 degrees that’s the signal to get started in your preparations.


  • Scottsdale Landscape Design

    Scottsdale Landscape Design

    The height of winter turf should be reduced by 1/2 inch every week for the next few weeks to help kill off winter rye and encourage the development of summer Bermuda grass.

  • Growth of Bermuda improves when sunlight is allowed to get through the grass canopy.
  • Once the winter rye is choked out, spread a nitrogen-rich fertilizer to boost the Bermuda root system.


  • In the spring, water for just a few minutes in the early morning 3 to 4 days a week.
  • Many homeowners water their turf more than what is needed.  Too much water can result in rotting roots and pest invasions.


  • Prep your soil to make it safe and disease-free prior to planting.
  • Preparations can include soil amendment, vitamin B and other nutrients and/or treatment with fungicides.
Scottsdale Landscape Design

Scottsdale Landscape Design

With some effort now and over the next couple of months, a lush green lawn can be yours by the time summer comes around!

Arizona Summer Lawns

Now that summer temperatures are here, summer lawns should be growing and green.  A lawns transition from winter grass to summer grass should be coming to a close.  If your lawn isn’t very green and is lacking in growth there may be a couple of things that can be done to improve the condition of your lawn.

First, lawn watering should be adjusted for the warmer summer temperatures.  As a lawn transitions from winter grass to summer grass it’s recommended to water each lawn zone for 10-15 minutes 3 times per week.  It’s also best to water a lawn during early morning hours.  Spot watering is best for the occassional brown spots in the lawn.  If brown spots continue to persist,  check the irrigation system to ensure that the water is covering all areas of the grass.

Second, if a lawn is a little behind on color, lawn fertilizing could be the solution.  A balanced lawn fertilizer can be purchased at any local garden center.  With a  slow release fertilizer expect to receive 6-8 weeks of results.  Repeat lawn fertilizing every 8 weeks. 

Lawn watering and lawn fertilizing are important steps to take to ensure a healthy and green lawn during  Arizona summer months.   Give us a call if your lawn needs a new irrigation system to keep your lawn and plants healthy and green.

Maintaning a Backyard Pond

water-weekSeries Part 3:Pond Maintenance

When it comes to filtering the water elements of your garden, there are three basic methods of filtration: biological, mechanical and chemical. The following advice demonstrates why you need to filter your garden ponds, pools and other water features, and explains the various methods employed and which might work best for you. Also included are tips to clean your water features when simple filtration devices are not enough.

Filters will keep your water clean and attractive-looking. A clean garden pond will allow you to keep greater numbers of fish healthy. Cloudy, stagnant water is seldom pleasant to behold, and a filtration system will rid your water of debris, fish waste, rotting plant detritus that becomes toxic, and so forth. For a healthy garden pond – fish or no fish – you have only to benefit from filtered water.

A biological filter is often preferred by strict organic gardeners. Biological filters allow for aerobic bacteria to convert harmful ammonia into less toxic substances; this system is referred to as the nitrogen cycle. This is the closest to nature a gardener can get without leaving the pond to Mother Nature completely – which is not effective in manmade garden conditions. Basically, as fish and plant life is converted to ammonia, the bacteria in the biological filters first convert the harmful substance in nitrites and then finally into nitrates, which are beneficial to pond plants as a fertilizer. Keep in mind, these filters require oxygen-rich conditions, so the more plant life in your pond, the better these work.

Mechanical filters are simple enough. With this type of filtration, pond water passes through a medium such as a sponge, gravel or some kind of synthetic material and the wastes are trapped there. Generally, these wastes are then removed by back-flushing them into a drain. These are quite popular and there are many varieties available from online or local garden centers. Simply choose one that is most adequate for the size of your water feature.

Chemical filtration is frequently chosen for new ponds that have not yet achieved a good water balance, but it can be used for mature ponds as well. A substance such as Zeolite in the form of chippings made from Calcium and Aluminum is added to the water. As water passes through the chips, the harmful ammonia becomes absorbed. This is generally how chemical filters work, but you will also find variations available.

Of course, part of maintaining a garden pond or other water element usually means testing the water from time to time. It makes sense to test to see if your pond is sporting an adequate balance and to see if your chosen filtration system is doing its job. Testing kits will allow the gardener to check levels of pH, ammonia, nitrite, nitrate and protein. Anything out of whack can then be dealt with – the sooner the better. In such cases where your water testing kit indicates areas that need change, you can then apply a water treatment that will generally cure such problems as sludge, algae or surface foam and restore your water to a proper balance. These too are available to be purchased from online and traditional garden centers.

There are other devices available that will help gardeners perform routine pond cleaning. Pond vacuum cleaners are not miracle workers when it comes to cleaning up a real mess, but they are helpful at removing silt, sludge and detritus. A simple pond net is necessary to get at floating debris, and pond scissors will allow the gardener to cut through dead or overgrown plants and pond weeds, which can be great hazards to the health of your garden pond.

Occasionally, your water pond may simply need a complete overall, although most experts say that with a good filtration system and proper maintenance, this should not be necessary. However, emptying your pond is not unheard of, and if it is needed, it is just part of the routine of caring for your water garden. The best time of year to empty and dredge your pond in order to clean the liner is between mid to late fall. In the case of a concrete pond, this is the time to check for hairline cracks that should be resealed with waterproof paint. Then it’s time for a good scrub (be careful not to cause any tears if your liner is a flexible one) and start anew.

Of course, you will have to store your fish in such cases for a week or two in large containers with the old water until the new pond water has a chance to settle. This is seldom convenient and never appreciated by your fish – it is traumatic for them – but they may have less chance for survival in a mucky pond. Your pond can be refilled by plain tap water using the hose, and this is the ideal time to get your filtration system kicked in so emptying will not be necessary down the road.

Article provided by J. A. Young as seen in

Design Elements for Arizona Landscapes: Pergolas

Pergola image taken from Wikipedia

Pergola image taken from Wikipedia

Pergolas are almost as much fun to say as they are to have in your yard. To put it simply, a pergola is a garden feature forming a shaded area using pillars that support cross beams and a sturdy open lattice. The lattice is not always present, and anything can be used as a top to provide shade.

A pergola is a much sought after element for many Arizona landscapes, where shade in your yard is at a premium. The shade can be used to provide a play area for kids or if part of your garden requires more shade than the rest. Once you do have one installed, they can be decorated with vines or any number of plants to give an almost unlimited number of looks.

Most commonly, pergolas are built from red cedar, but any weather resistant wood will work and they are also commonly painted or stained for an extra level of protection from the elements. This is essential in Arizona, as we may not have the rainfall, but the extreme sun can be just as damaging when it comes to unprotected wood structures.

The pergola is so popular when it comes to landscaping, since it is such a versatile structure. A landscape contractor may use it as a focal point for an entire backyard design, or a homeowner may build their own to use as shade for a small porch swing. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. As far as complexity goes, pergolas can range from a weekend project for most homeowners to large scale landscape contractor jobs. Drop us a line in the comments or on our home page with questions about pergolas or if you would like an estimate on any sized project.

Drought Resistant Plants for Arizona Landscapes

Image of Geranium taken from Wikipedia

Image of Geranium taken from Wikipedia

A garden is a perfect addition to any outdoor landscape, but this can be a difficult thing to manage in Arizona or any other dry, desert climate. With an average annual rainfall of only 9.2 inches in Gilbert, a garden of drought resistant plants can help bring your yard to life while not being a drain on your resources such as time and water. Drought resistant plants also hold up better to the extreme heat of Arizona summers and tend to be hardier and sturdier plants in general. While many people assume drought resistant plants mean dull, boring or even dangerous (think cactus), there are numerous plants you can find of this variety that are vibrant and colorful.

If you are looking for plants to add to your garden or anywhere around your yard, drought resistant plants are an easy way to add life and give your landscape that “professionally designed” look.

Generally, drought resistant plants should be heavily mulched, as this will help them retain water during the dry, hot Arizona summer days. Flowers are one type of plant that is not usually synonymous with drought resistance, but you would be surprised as to how many different varieties there are. Whether you are looking for flowers to help spruce up a front yard flower bed or to devote a garden entirely to them, there is no shortage from which to choose. Some varieties include:

  • Dahlberg daisies
  • Baby’s breath
  • Geraniums
  • Lupine
  • Sunflowers
  • Alyssum
  • Zinnia
  • Statice
  • Lavendar

There are also different herbs that are especially drought resistant if you are looking to add a nice scent to an area of your yard. Thyme, oregano and mint are just a few varieties that are sure to be found in many gardens and landscapes across Arizona.

While these flowers and herbs are just a handful of things that can liven up an Arizona garden or landscape there are many others species and varieties of plants that could work. Have you had success gardening or designing your landscape in Arizona or another desert climate. Let us know in the comments!

12 Common Swimming Pool Maintenance Mistakes

If you have your own swimming pool, you are one of the lucky ones. Here in the East Valley of Phoenix, some people use their swimming pools all year long. Swimming pool maintenance doesn’t have to be difficult, but knowing how to properly maintain your pool will make it last longer and be a safer place for family fun.

12 Common Swimming Pool Maintenance Mistakes

1. Not checking your pool’s chemistry often enough. Check the pool’s chemistry twice per week in the summer and once per week in the winter. By doing this you can make minor adjustments to your water chemistry instead of big adjustments that create a wild up and down graph of activity.
2. Allowing pH to get above 8.0. At 8.5 chlorine is only 10% active. At 7.0 it is about 73% active. By just maintaining pH around 7.5 the chlorine is 50-60% active. Keeping the pH in check will allow you to use to the full potential the chlorine that is already in the pool.
3. Not keeping alkalinity between 80-140 PPM. Low or high alkalinity can affect water balance and ultimately a sanitizer’s ability to perform.
4. Not checking TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) or calcium hardness on a regular basis. Check TDS every 6 months and calcium hardness every month. These also affect water balance which is different from sanitation, although related.
5. Not cleaning the cells in salt water systems (chlorine generators). Corroded or calcified cells will produce little chlorine.
6. Backwashing sand or DE filters too often. If you do this, the filter can never reach its cleaning potential. If you backwash on a regular basis for no reason, you are wasting water. Most filters require backwashing when the pressure gauge rises 8-10 PSI from clean.
7. Not cleaning the skimmer basket and/or hair and lint pot in the pool pump often enough. If these are full of debris you will get little flow resulting in poor circulation, potentially creating a big problem.
8. Adding chemicals, especially liquid chlorine, during the day. Try to add chemicals in the evening after the sun has set. You will get more out of them.
9. Not brushing the walls and tile down often enough. If your circulation system is suspect, and many are, brushing down the walls will help eliminate algae problems. Keeping your tile clean will save you money. Once the tile gets calcified it becomes like plaque and will take a specialist to get it off.
10. Make sure that you keep the space between the bottom of the cantilever on the deck and the top of the tile in check. If this cracks, then put in some silicon. You do not want water migrating from the inside of the pool out under the decking.
11. Not running pumps long enough. You should run your pump about 1 hour for every 10 degrees of temperature. This assumes you have a decent circulation system. It is ALL about the FLOW! Circulation IS the key to a low maintenance swimming pool.
12. Not replacing broken or missing drains or suction sources. This a real and dangerous hazard. The same could be said for defective door/gate closers and fences in disrepair.

At Dream Retreats Landscaping, the East Valley’s Premier Arizona landscape design and contracting company, we specialize in pool decks and can help you with all of your pool needs to make your Arizona landscape perfect. Check out our pool deck landscape gallery.

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Using Rocks in your Arizona Landscape Design

Rock in Arizona Landscape

Using Rocks in Arizona Landscape

Rock Waterfalls

You see them around in people’s backyards and the entrances to communities, and they can give the landscape a cool refreshing feel. What are they? Rock Waterfalls! And the coolest thing about them here in the Arizona desert is they have water! Rock waterfalls are a landscaping feature installed by a professional Arizona landscape contractor and add a richness to your landscape design. We can give you some great examples of water features we have added for our clients.

Another Arizona landscape design feature that most of us will incorporate into our desert landscape, is landscaping rock or gravel, available in a variety of shapes and sizes. Prices vary, beginning with the less expensive grey rock. When choosing colored rock, consider your home’s exterior paint color. What may look beautiful in your neighbor’s yard, might be garish and unsightly when paired with your house’s color.

While it is common to use the landscape rock or gravel as a ground-cover in our desert landscape, larger rocks or boulders are also used as interesting accents. Boulders and large rocks can add interest when placed next to trees and shrubs or used as benches or just a place to relax and enjoy the beauty of your landscape design.

Don’t forget landscaping with Flagstone and Artistic Pavers. These stones add beauty, durability, and provide a clean area for walkways and patios. Check out our examples of stone walkways.

Contact Dream Retreats Landscape Design and Contracting Company to get a professional landscape design including rock waterfalls by calling us at 480.507.8872 or visiting our website at:

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