The word xeriscaping comes from a combination of two words: "xeri" derived from the Greek word
"xeros" for dry; and "scape", meaning a kind of view or scene. While xeriscape translates to mean
"dry scene," in practice xeriscaping means simply landscaping with slow-growing, drought tolerant
plants to conserve water and reduce yard trimmings. Drought and drought tolerance are terms that
we hear more and more frequently. Xeriscaping is a relatively new concept for the mainstream that
is also cropping up more and more as a solution to drought and economic costs. As we try to learn
new habits and try to conserve water, it may be time to look into the benefits of the landscaping
alternative represented by xeriscaping plants.
Xeriscape landscaping can take many forms. For some landscapers, xeriscape landscaping simply
means grouping plants with similar watering requirements together on the landscape. This makes for
more efficient watering. This idea is more use of common sense than of true xeriscape landscaping.
Our love affair with the green lawn goes way back in history. The assumption that a landscape will have lots of grass and that it will stay green all season seems to be taken for granted. A major premise of xeriscape landscaping, is that turf grass is problematic, because it is a water-guzzler. Not that all people totally eliminate lawns, mind you. Some simply switch to types of lawn grass that demand less water. Others cut back on the expanse and expense of lawn, relegating the lawn area to an accent on the landscape rather than maintaining the lawn in its position as the dominant element. Automatic irrigation systems, incidentally, can end up saving you money in the long run.
Nonetheless, water restrictions of increasing severity are a fact with which we may have to live for the foreseeable future. Choose ground cover plants according to the amount of foot traffic you expect. Some ideas for alternative ground covers are:
- Vinca minor
- Thymus sp.
- Sagina aureus
- Houttounya cordata
- Convallaria majalis
Rather than crying over the loss of lawn space, think of it as an opportunity to experiment. In addition to extended patio areas, walkways and other hardscape elements, a number of interesting xeriscaping plants and themes can be incorporated into a xeriscape landscaping plan. Just to name a few:
- Phlox subulata
- Sedum telephium
- Sedum spectabile
- Iberis sempervirens
- Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’
- Deschampsia caespitosa
- Miscanthus sinensis
- Monarda didyma