This is my dad's yard. He wants to pull out the grass and put in low water use plants. The yard is against a canyon to the east, so full sun in the morning. There is a Pine tree in the southeast corner that drops needles in the yard. It casts a small shadow across the yard in all but the very middle of summer.
Our biggest concern is the Chinese elm shown on the left of the picture. It keeps the yard in full shade after about 10 or 11 in the morning. It can be pruned back periodically to allow for more sun exposure. Our biggest concern is the amount of debris that it drops. If you are not familiar with these trees, there is only about three months of the year that it isn't dropping something. Pollen in the spring, then seed, then about six months of leaves. That's a lot debris to rake from around plants.
We imagined mulching around the plantings, but the seeds that drop will need to be collected or we'll have baby elms everywhere. The only thing I can think of is scratching the idea of mulch and bringing in decomposed granite to cover everything. Then he'll be able to rake.