Waterwise, Guilt-Free Landscaping
Perhaps you’ve heard the landscape terms ‘Xeriscape’ or ‘Desertscape’ to describe a particular “water-wise” landscape look. The terms conjure an image of barren, sparsely planted, gravel covered areas. But, water saving landscapes do not need to be barren or gravel. You can achieve a luscious, green landscape and conserve the precious water resources of our desert.
To “go green” in your garden without feeling guilty about its water consumption, your landscape design and plant choices should be what I call “desert friendly.” There are many plant choices that use little water and are nicely suited for desert dwelling. Some are native desert plants like Palo Verdes and Mesquites, while others, like sages and cassias, originate from areas in the world with similar climates. Other great choices include: Cassia spp.; Teucrium chamaedrys (Wall Germander); Tagetes lucida (Mexican Tarragon); Eremophila maculata (Emu Bush); Grewia caffra (Lavender Starflower); Osteospermum fruticosum (African Daisy); Vigueira deltoidea (Golden Eye); Jasminum polyanthemum (Pink Jasmine); Gelsemium sempervirens (Carolina Jessamine); Hardenbergia violacea (Lilac Vine); Sophora secundiflora (Texas Mountain Laurel); Pyrus calleryana (Bradford Flowering Pear; Bauhinia variegata (Purple Orchid Tree); Jasminum mesnyi (Primrose Jasmine); Plumbago auriculata (Blue Plumbago); Gazania hybrids; Carrisa spp.; Potulacaria afra (Elephant Food); Myoporum parvifolium (Myoporum); Ruellia brittoniana (Ruellia); and Salvia leucantha (Mexican Bush Sage) just to name a few.
While lush and green, avoid plant choices that are tropical in nature, like Hibiscus; these are heavy water users and they are sensitive to extreme heat and cold. Many municipalities and nurseries carry brochures about water-wise plant choices that show ideas for plant choices. So, take a trip to the nursery and check out your choices.
Another idea that is underutilized is the use of flowering, perennial groundcovers like African Daisies. Sewn by seed, these types of groundcovers cover large areas and have a stunning affect in the spring when they bloom. And, they are self-seeding, meaning they will come back every year.
A lush look is achieved as much by the garden design as by the plant choices. Many people think to be water conscious you have to eliminate the front yard lawn. Not true. While a lawn is a relatively heavy water user by comparison, the hybrid Bermuda grass that is used locally uses far less water than is typically applied! Many people over-water their Bermuda lawns. To have the beauty added by grass, simply limit the lawn size and surround the area with lush groupings of water-wise trees, shrubs and especially ground covers. Utilize techniques, like massing, and place large numbers of the same plant in an area to get the coverage you need. The results will be stunning and green.