Xeriscaping – it’s not just rocks!

One of the garden concepts that is making news again this season is xeriscape design, and for good reason!

Many regions are facing unpredictable precipitation. More and more people are becoming aware of using less water for non-essential/ornamental landscaping both for environmental reasons and to save money. Xeriscaping is a great way to plan an ecologically and economically sound garden.

Xeriscaping combines the use of ground cover, appropriate plants, and choices about how you want to use a space. Xeriscape landscapes or gardens will require less work to keep happy, and they are more likely to prosper. Doing some research and selecting plants that three in your climate can save you a lot of money, time, and energy.

Here are the basic concepts to get you started.

Ditch the lawn (or significantly reduce it)
The North American suburban dream was to have a house with a thriving, lush green lawn reminiscent of the manicured greens of a golf course. Unfortunately these grasses require a lot of water during hot, dry months, frequent application of fertilizer and weed control. Re-think the front yard. Few of us ever use the grassed area in the front of the house (and many people do not even allow their children to play in the front yard). Large lawns are a waste of your time and money – however if you have kids or pets it may be appropriate to include a small turf like area.

Plan your Space
Many people think flat & boring gravel when they hear the word Xeriscape – well think again. Xeriscaping DOES incorporate mulch (for retaining moisture) and ground cover (for minimizing weeds/water/work) BUT it also uses texture, colour and structure to make an interesting garden space.

When you are planning your space consider where water runs (down spouts, water holding tanks), where you want paths or parking and if you want a seating area or patio. Replacing thirsty lawns with either patios or ground cover can cut your water use by 80% or more. Once you have an idea of HOW you will use the space you can begin planning out your garden beds for perennials or shrubs.

Choose your plants
Xeriscapes use drought tolerant, water wise plants that are endemic to your climate or specimens that grow in similar environments. Think perennials and shrubs rather than tropicals and annuals. These plants will need less water and will thrive year after year, saving you time (which is something we all are striving for) and money.

Mulch and Ground Cover
Mulching (using bark or other organic materials) around the base of your plants helps to conserve water, keeps the ground an even temperature, and help protect root systems in the winter. Ground cover reduces weeding, creates pathways or patios and includes materials such as pebbles, rock, pavers, wooden walkways, and even concrete. Xeriscape gardens can take any shape or style – whether you want a cottage style garden, Mediterranean style garden (a big trend for 2023 and beyond), modern minimal or almost anything else. You aren’t limited to the vast expanse of rocks with a dusty old wagon wheel of early xeriscape design – use your imagination! We do love an old wagon wheel though so feel free to add garden art and interesting objects.

The primary concept of xeriscaping is to conserve water – how and when you water is important! During the first two summers, thorough watering at regular intervals will allow plants to develop the deep root systems they need to become strong.
Drip or soaker hoses are more efficient than overhead sprinklers. Ensuring you are not watering the driveway or fence and getting the water directly down to the plants is the goal. Consider water collection options such as rain barrels or directing water from you eaves into the garden with a river bed design. Group plants according to their water needs to keep them happy.

Some plants to consider for Zone 3 Xeriscaping

Echinacea – Cone Flower
Rudbeckia – Black Eyed Susan
Achillea – Yarrow
Gaillardia – Blanket Flower
Succulents – Sedum, Hens & Chicks etc
Opuntia – Prickly Pear cactus
Dianthus – Pinks

… and many more! See our “Water Wise Plants” list in store.

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