It looks pretty dead right now, but in the fall, I think my yard looks great. All of the plants are around 2 years old now and they are getting big. I worked really hard on the yard. I picked all of the plants out myself and even grew some from seed. It is my little baby project and I will miss it when I move out to my rugged, spiny cactus land next week where everything is prickly. I didn't plant anything with thorns on purpose. Well, I take that back. The rose bushes do have some thorns and the Lantana have little hairs that can be iritating. But for the majority of the plants, I chose prickly-free options.
I spent a lot of time researching drought and heat tolerant plants for my area. The gardening sites on the web were very helpful. I payed close attention to what was planted in the road medians and in front of businesses. I wanted plants that would be tough but pretty. I hauled in all of the dirt and rocks and gravel and moved it to the backyard with a bucket and shovel. The gravel was the hardest part. I was out of work at the time so I had plenty of spare time to cart rocks. I would estimate that the whole yard cost me $500 not counting my own labor.
This is what it looked like last fall. Buying small, fast growing plants was a good idea. They have filled in nicely and will continue to grow. The most expensive plant that I bought was a $35 Chitalpa (hybrid between desert willow and catalpa tree). Unfortunately it died but I replaced it last summer with a $6 desert willow tree from my electric company. They sell drought tolerant shade trees for only $6 to encourage people to plant trees to cut down on their electric bills in the summer.
I am collecting as many seeds as I can so that someday when I have more water available, I can grow some nice thornless plants out on my property. Of course I will need a wall around them because the deer, javalina, bunnies, etc... will probably also love whatever I try to grow.