The word Xeriscape comes from an amalgamation of the Greek work for dry (Xeros) and landscape, but don’t let that fool you into summoning images of rocks and cactus. In essence, Xeriscaping is not merely a style or category of landscape design (Formal, English, Cottage, or Japanese, for example), or just about saving water. It is an all-encompassing idea that places the landscape in harmony with the site, wherever that may be.
There are seven principles on which Xeriscaping is based:
· 1)Planning and design
· 2)Soil analysis
· 3)Practical turf areas
· 4)Appropriate plant selection
· 5)Efficient irrigation
· 6)Use of mulches
· 7)Appropriate maintenance
While these work for any landscape anywhere in the world, people who are interested in the concept of Xeriscaping generally come from arid or semi-arid climates and are looking to install a landscape that is not so water hungry. At the same time they want to see some color. There’s nothing worse than a minimalist landscape of bland rock and cacti dotted around in an attempt at interest.
Planning is essential in Xeriscape gardens and the rest of this article will deal with the concept of the “three zone” approach to design.
The idea of zoning creates a water efficient landscape that is beautiful, functional and sustainable. Appropriate plant selection and location are key, taking into account the property’s own “micro-climate”. The arid zone, for example, would be located on the southern or western side of the house where the sun has greater effect; the oasis zone on the cooler northern and eastern sides.
Arid Zone: This is located farthest away from the house in areas of the yard that would receive little or no irrigation. Plant selection in these areas would be limited to native species that are very drought tolerant. Arid zones would also include high traffic areas that might even be left in their natural state with native plants interspersed for dashes of color and texture.
Transitional Zone: As the name implies this area would be between the arid and oasis zones. Planting beds of low to moderate water use plants could be separated by walkways or pathways to lead the eye and add texture and contrast. Plant selection in this area is a little wider as passive drip system irrigation can be incorporated into the beds, but remember that native species will do best.
Oasis Zone: This is a chance to create a lush area close to the residence that will accentuate features such as pergolas, porches, decks, formal areas, entryways, pathways and even pools. A small lawn area can be used in conjunction with the flower beds, but make sure to install a drought tolerant grass such as Buffalo or Bermuda. The drip system irrigation can be fueled from rainwater collections systems around the house. You can find more information of rainwater harvesting by following the link at the bottom of the page.
Plant selection in Xeriscape gardens is paramount and is different for every area. Always check with your local county extension service or the city department that encourages water conservation landscaping. You never know, there may even be rebates up for grabs!
Finally, while Xeriscape gardens are low maintenance, it doesn’t mean you get a pass on basic upkeep. Once a year it is best to do the trimming and pruning to get rid of overgrowth or dead. Also it is very important to keep adding mulch to the landscape. Not only will this discourage unwanted weeds, but it will degrade naturally over time and add compost to the soil, enriching your garden with essential nutrients.