The words “arid” and “tropical” and, indeed, the concepts behind them, may seem antithetical. Arid makes one think of dry, brown and prickly, while tropical implies wet, green and lush. But in the world of garden design, an illusion can be created that meets the criteria of low water usage with the beauty of foliage that at least feels tropical.

The actualization of this concept can best be illustrated with pictures, so rather than write the proverbial thousand words, take a look at the pictures that follow with their descriptive captions.

Contrasting colors with dramatic forms. Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ in the foreground with Phormium ‘Guardsman’ behind.   Asparagus meyeri in the foreground with Aloe ciliaris climbing a fence in the background.   The flowers of Arctotis ‘Pumpkin Pie’ echo the colors found in Coprosmia Coprosma ‘Tequila Sunrise!’
Astelia chathamica ‘Silver Spear’ looks good but wants little water and casual care.   Calandrinia spectabilis blooms all spring and summer with airy purple flowers.   Holly Ferns are tough, low water usage ferns with holly shaped, leathery foliage that will grow almost anywhere.
Another great combination of Aeoniums. The ever popular ‘Zwartkop’ combined with smaller companion ‘Kiwi’.   An Aloe marlothii craddles a grouping of Aeonium ‘Sunburst.’   Drama in form with contrast in color. Agave ‘Blue Glow’ with Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ and Phormium ‘Yellow Wave.’
Full of colorful flowers yet miserly with water, this clever combination features purple Calandrinia spectabilis and orange Anigozanthos.