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Landscape Design Program

Plan today for the Water-wise Landscape of tomorrow!

Water Conservation offers free professional water-wise landscape designs to Aurora Water customers.

Take advantage of this free program and switch from high water, high maintenance bluegrass monoculture to a biodiverse low water landscape by signing up below.

There is no in-person component to this program. We consult through phone, email, pdf, photo and aerial mapping.

Before registering, consider which area will be your landscape project area. Choose either front yard, front and side yard, front and curbside or curbside or backyard. Please limit your design area to 2,500 square feet maximum.

To register for this service, please enter your phone number, street address and project area by clicking the button below.

Staff is here to help, so if you have additional questions, call 303.739.7195 or email [email protected].

Why make the switch from turf grass to a water-wise landscape?

In addition to water use, water-wise landscapes require less maintenance, like fertilizer, mowing and aeration. Water-wise plants generally require spring cutback and minimal supplemental water. Homeowners can incorporate native plants in their designs which enhances vitality and supports our local bees, butterflies, moths and hummingbirds. Changing from bluegrass to water-wise landscapes contributes to holistic environmental sustainability.

How do I find which plants to use in my landscape?

Visit the Aurora Water-wise Garden. With way-finding and interpretive signage, the six-acre botanical space guides visitors through the principles of water-wise landscaping. Plants are labeled for guests’ convenient recognition. You can check out Plant Select, High Country Gardens, and our plant list.

What are the landscape program’s design limitations?

For 2024, the Landscape Design program will be accepting project submissions for residential Aurora Water customers. We will not be accepting commercial properties for landscape designs unless they are non-profit entities.

Our designers can incorporate pathways, patios, vegetable gardens, retaining walls and benches into your design. We cannot incorporate outdoor kitchens, hot tubs, playgrounds, putting greens, etc. Projects that require such features should seek the services of a landscape architect or landscape design firm. 

Can I design and/or install my own landscape?

Yes! Check out the themed plant lists with mock designs, below, and Aurora Water Conservation’s free classes.

Is there a program that can help me with costs?

For qualified Aurora Water customers, GRIP is available. Learn more here.

I have received my final design. What do I do next?

If you are interested in the Grass Replacement Incentive Program (GRIP), read through the program manual. GRIP is a separate program from the Landscape Design program and requires approval to participate. Submit your application and the program manager will contact you to confirm whether or not your landscape has been approved.

If you are not pursuing the GRIP, contact several landscaping companies to receive a quote for your project. How you implement your design is up to you and your budget – going DIY can be a great way to save money. Check out our videos and in-person classes for tips on how to install your landscape on your own.

What if I want to substitute plants in my design for other plant(s)?

Designs that are not participating in the Grass Replacement Incentive Program (GRIP) are free to substitute plant material. We recommend your substitutions be similar in size, shape and texture to be consistent with the original design. For those participating in the GRIP, substituting plant material after you have made your final changes with our designer and received approval of the design will result in disqualification unless you have received approval for the substitution from the rebate manager.

Where can I purchase plants?

There are many local garden centers in the Denver Metro Area and online which carry water-wise plant material. We recommend first checking out local nurseries like Nick’s, Echter’s, Tagawa, Harlequin’s and others before you look at online options such as High Country Gardens. Keep in mind that not all plants for sale meet the city code’s standard size of one gallon for perennials and five gallons for shrubs. For the GRIP, plants must meet those minimum sizes.

Who can help me?

While we cannot provide specific recommendations for contractors or landscaping companies to use for your project, below are landscape professional search tools to help you locate a qualified professional.
• Qualified water-efficient landscaper professional search
• Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado’s find-a-pro search
• Irrigation Association’s find a certified professional.

What should I do about irrigation?

Depending on your current system, your design, your budget and your preferences, here are some options:
• Continue to use your existing spray/turf irrigation even though it’s inefficient. Not only will you be watering the open space between the plants, but as your plants grow, they will also obstruct your spray heads.
• Keep your spray heads and upgrade to high-efficiency rotary nozzles. You’ll still be watering open spaces between plants and obstruction will still occur, but it’s still better than the first option.
• Convert your system to drip irrigation. There are a few methods for this process. If you’re interested in DIY, take our Build Your Own Drip System class and watch instructional videos from Rain Bird, Orbit or other irrigation manufacturers.
• Or, reach out to a qualified irrigation contractor. Rebates are available for irrigation efficiency upgrades, including converting spray to drip. See more details here.

What soil amendments do I need?

Unlike an annual vegetable garden, perennials don’t require heavy amendments because their life cycle is longer and we aren’t pushing them to produce. Initially, you will want to help get them started with a little compost, but as their root systems grow larger, contact with native soils is important. We recommend that you amend your soil with compost as you plant. Compost is an organic soil amendment, which means it is derived from something that was once alive. These amendments provide many benefits to the soil, such as increasing organic matter, improving soil aeration and the soil’s ability to hold water and nutrients. Inorganic soil amendments are man-made or mined. Types of inorganic soil amendments include expanded shale, mason’s sand and pea gravel. For an organic option, use only Class I or Class II compost. Pea gravel or angular sand may be used as inorganic amendments. We have recently discovered the benefits of bare-root planting. Typically, plant material we purchase from a garden center or big box store is grown in a soil-less medium. This means that it is mostly compost and other amendments, like vermiculite or perlite, peat or coco coir. Rinse this by dipping the plant’s roots into a bucket of water. As the soil-less medium falls away into the bucket, we recommend scooping it out, adding it to the planting hole by thoroughly mixing, then planting your landscape plant. We don’t recommend this with trees or shrubs. If you know your soil type, you will have a better understanding of which amendments—organic or inorganic—you may want to apply to your new landscape. Learn how to tell what soil type you have in our video called Take Our Soil Personality Quiz. More soil info: CSU Extension Choosing a Soil Amendment Fact Sheet.

Where can I purchase mulch?

Whether you are looking for organic (wood mulch) or inorganic (rock mulch), there are a variety of landscape supply companies providing bulk or bagged mulch products. Discuss delivery or pick-up options.
• Pioneer- Aurora: 463 Airport Boulevard, Aurora, CO 80011; 303-340-1440;
• Nick’s Garden Center: 2001 S Chambers Rd, Aurora, CO 80014; 303-696-6657;
• The Home Depot: Multiple locations;
• Lowes: Multiple locations;
• Tagawa Gardens: 7711 S Parker Rd, Centennial, CO 80016; 303.690.4722;
Alternatives to a landscape supply company include:
• ChipDrop: an app for locating free wood mulch delivered to your home. Large quantities only. Learn more here.
• City of Aurora Free Loader Days: provides free mulch on several days throughout the spring and summer. Learn more here. You can use mulch calculators to estimate how much you may need for your project, below are two options.
• Scott’s:
• Home Depot:

How do I remove an existing lawn?

Depending on your timeline and budget, several options exist for removing your existing grass. See below for options and refer to Water Conservation’s Installing a Water-wise Landscape class for more details on these options. Chemical: Using glyphosate (non-selective herbicide) to kill the grass. Follow the directions on the label and wear protective clothing for effective, safe use. Mechanical: Rent a sod cutter, which is a gas-powered tool that physically removes the grass in strips. Smother: As the name suggests, smother the grass with layers of cardboard, newspaper and mulch to block light and warmth. You can also use .6mil plastic to smother the grass.

How do I care for my new landscape? What sort of maintenance does each plant need to keep it healthy and tidy?

The absolute best thing you can do to learn what your new landscape requires throughout the year is to become familiar with your plants: what they should look like, how likely are they to go to seed and spread, what their growth habit is, what pollinators they attract, etc. And the best place to become familiar with the plant material is the Aurora Water-wise Garden. You can receive hands-on experience, consulting expertise and practice what you have learned. We love our volunteers and we’re always accepting new ones. Contact Amanda at [email protected] to learn more about volunteering. Most water-wise landscapes require the heaviest maintenance in the spring. This means cutting back old, dry material down to make room for new growth. The best time for that is after daytime temperatures have been consistently above 55 degrees. We also recommend cleaning up any fallen leaves from around the plant. For more information on perennial maintenance, check with your local CSU Extension office.

Water-wise Design Examples

There are many water-wise design resources online, but below are nine design examples that comply with Aurora city code. Each example is associated with a garden theme that address a specific challenge, like ample shade, or a particular aesthetic, like a prairie garden. Additional water-wise design resources from Plant Select, Colorado Springs Utilities and Resource Central are included at the bottom of the page.
Plants that attract a variety of pollinators (bees, butterflies, hummingbirds, etc.) to your landscape.
Low water needs for the shade or partial shade areas of the home landscape. 
Look of a landscape that would transition from plains to mountains.
Design templates from Plant Select, a western plant introduction program dedicated to creating smart plant choices inspired by the Rocky Mountain region.
Utilizes plants typically resistant to deer and rabbits.
Utilizes plants under 26" in height to create an aesthetically pleasing curbside. 
A landscape with plants that require no additional water use necessary after establishment.
Plants showcasing Colorado's native beauty.
Four season interest and appeal of a diverse mix or native and non-native, colorful water-wise plants.
Tough plants that thrive in sunny, windy landscapes like eastern plains.
Garden In a Box offers professionally designed, water-wise garden kits tailor-made for Colorado yards with plant-by-numbers map and other plant care resources.
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