Xeriscaping or xeric gardening is a concept first developed in Colorado with the idea of creating gardens that are both water use efficient and attractive. The actual word “xeriscape” comes from the Greek word xeros meaning dry and scape which literally means “scene”. Although this requires utilizing plants that are drought resistant, or adapted to naturally occurring hydroperiods and precipitation levels, it does not mean that your yard will be barren, arid or only consist of rocks or gravel. Xeric gardens are often lush and usually very attractive and full of seasonal color.
There are several design techniques utilized for xeric gardening which can make the landscape both unique and water use efficient. First, think of designing an “oasis” area into your xeric landscape. The oasis will be an area, ideally closest to the home, which will have the highest water utilization with cool, lush plantings. In this philosophy water consumption reduces with distance from the oasis.
The next idea embraced in xeric gardening is the limitation of turf areas, lawns do not need to be eliminated entirely as it provides benefits for family and wildlife. However, a truly water efficient landscape turfgrass can be minimized and replaced in low use areas with more drought resistant, maintenance efficient groundcovers.
Irrigation systems play an important role in regulating water usage on your property. Contemporary systems are very efficient and can be modified and designed specifically for your property. Use bubblers or drip hoses, placed appropriately around trees and near shrubs for low volume, deep soakings. Turf areas should have separate valves and timers so frequency and length can be strictly controlled. Additionally, consider using mulch to help retain moisture and regulate soil temperatures.
Next choose plants that are preferably native, adapted to your hardiness zone and exhibit drought resistance. Resist overplanting and install plants in such a way that irrigation, soil amendments and pest management can be easily performed. Existing landscapes can be altered for increased water efficiency, consult with your arborist regarding design, plant choice and optimal sites for installation.
Although xeriscaping in the southwest is critical, many of the aspects of this philosophy can be implemented anywhere in the country for optimal water use efficiency, mitigation of disease and pests, erosion control and stormwater management. Conserving water is becoming vitally important for the environment and for human communities, but it can also save money and reduce efforts to manage your landscape during times of variable precipitation. Contact your arborist for more ideas about how to make your landscape water efficient, help with choosing native, drought resistant plants and appropriate sites for installation.