The Future’s So Bright, We’re Going to Need a Lot More Succulents

The world is getting warmer — and landscape architects want to be prepared. Luckily for all the succulent lovers out there, it’s a stunning, if a bit prickly, vision of the future.

Desert City — in the Spanish town of San Sebastián de los Reyes, 12 miles north of Madrid — foreshadows a trend in landscaping and gardening as climate change heralds less water, hotter temperatures, and alarming droughts, as featured in a glorious spread last week on Co.Design.

Part botanical garden, part plant nursery, part laboratory, and part educational teaching facility, the “destination for nature lovers” designed by Spain’s Garciagerman Arquitectos mirrors the drought-tolerant, low-water landscaping trends in xeriscaping and succulents already being adopted by many architects, designers, and DIY homeowners in the Southwest and California — where regular city and county water restrictions and droughts are already a fact of life (as I know all too well being a DIY landscaper and homeowner in Austin, TX). Even when water is available, it’s at a premium, so eco-friendly yards just make good sense — and cents — despite the political and scientific debates of why our climate is the way it is.

Boasting “the largest variety of plants with low-water needs” in the world, Desert City is a 5,000 square meter interactive garden project that began in 2015, where visitors can learn and be inspired by over 400 species of drought-tolerant plants from five continents, according to its website — or become ensconced in the philosophy of xerophilism or Xeropaisajismo, of which its creators call themselves pioneers. The cult of the cacti “consists of uniting the art and the technique of using in our environment plant species that need little water, recreating the same nature, contributing textures and relief” as traditional landscape designs.

More than just a concept garden, this Spanish mecca of modern eco-friendly landscaping or “billboard building” is smartly positioned next to a major Madrid highway, and was designed as a hybrid greenhouse, cloister garden, and conference center in which “to [house] an array of leisure activities such as presentations, small conventions, workshops or exhibitions,” with a restaurant, shop, storage, and office areas in addition to the extraordinary, visionary expanse of futuristic plantings.

Without taking a trip across the pond, it’s easy to become enthralled by Xeropaisajismo through this photo tour on Co.Design and through the architects’ own promotional video .

Learn more at



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