I often get questions about what kind of plant is best for a given area or for someone's yard. I'll query them about planting conditions to help answer their questions. Eventually, though, I'll get around to asking the person the biggest question of all: "what kind of gardener are you ?" The question is usually met with some puzzlement, but I ask this on purpose to jog someone's mind a little. Knowing what kind of gardener you are helps in selecting and growing plants well.
One school of gardening thought is that gardens should be self-sufficient, require no water or fertilizer, and all plants should flower constantly. I call this method of gardening "zero-phytic" gardening, modeled after the popular word "xeriphytic" referring to drought-tolerant or low-maintenance plants.
There are many plants suited for dry or low-care conditions. Both exotic and native plants can fill this bill, but do some homework on whether the plants live in our soil and rain and local climate before you buy them. Specialized irrigation, good plant selection, and scheduled neglect can add up to a great low-care garden. Just don't expect a lush tropical paradise with this style of gardening ! (Low-care gardens have a more subtle appeal.)
Drip irrigation can be a real boon for low-water need plants, delivering small amounts of water to just those plants that need it. Rock gardens are excellent venues for zero-phyte gardeners, although it takes some design effort to have plants in flower constantly. Many succulents and flowering bulbs need a winter dry period, or "programmed neglect" to flower at their best. Fortunately this type of growth fits our climate, where we get rather little rain in the short-days, often comically called "winter". Advance plant research, some thought about landscape design, and knowing what kind of gardener you are can add up to having a great landscape that fits your style needs. Next: The Constant Gardener.