Every Blooming Thing: X is for xeriscape

Salvia brandegeei, ‘Pacific Blue’ flourishing with a single drip emitter along author’s driveway.

 

Can you believe it?! My alphabet themed garden articles are now to X. Almost at the end, and X is a challenge for named flowers or plants. But xeriscape is a perfect fit, coming from the Greek word xeros which means dry. 

Xeriscape was actually coined as a word back in the early 1980’s by the water department in Denver, Colo. They were looking for watering solutions for their dry area, and came up with the name to mean water wise landscaping. Over the years xeriscape methods have become more and more popular as people try to conserve our natural resources.

By using these landscape methods developed for arid or semi-arid areas, water usage can be reduced by 50-75 percent. Do not think that xeriscape means a dry, barren landscape. It utilizes several techniques which can be incorporated in your gardens or yard with either a small or large impact.

Here are some principles of xeriscape landscape which I will briefly share with you:

ν Plan and design your garden, considering your space, sun exposure, soil, etc. Don’t try to fight your space, but work within it. Grouping your plants for soil and sun needs is a practical way to begin.

ν Use native plants when possible. They are suitable for our area and thrive with low water once established.

Add organic material to improve your soil. An old adage, “you take care of the soil, the soil will take care of the plants” holds very true.

ν Mulch generously with organic materials. Four inches added at the time of planting is good. Mulch helps moderate the soil temperature, holds in the moisture, feeds the soil, and helps control weeds.

ν Consider your lawn area/use. A typical yard used 20,000 gallons of water a year. Cutting down lawn area by half would save a lot of water and fertilizer which is usually not organic.

ν Xeriscape utilizes efficient watering techniques of drip irrigation. When similar plants are grouped, watering becomes more efficient. The water is going right to the root area, and not watering surrounding soil.

Many types of plants are suitable for xeriscape landscaping. As mentioned earlier a great way to start is to look for plants native to your area. Here in Red Bluff you can find some wonderful native plants at the Sacramento River Discovery Center. At the discovery center they feature gardens using very little water which you can meander through and get ideas. They have a couple of plant sales a year and can answer your questions and give suggestions, as Bobie Hughes shared in her article in last week’s garden space in this paper.

I always like looking at favorite plant nurseries on line for new plant ideas and how to use them in your yard. Often they have educational blogs that give you helpful information.  

Many perennials and grasses can be low water usage once established. I have several of those in my yard such as salvia, sage, hummingbird fushia, varieties of grasses and shrubs. They are easy to care for, provide color and interest in the winter, as well as food for birds. Just keep in mind that most of these plants need additional water to get established the first year or two.

The plant in my accompanying photo is Salvia brandegeei, ‘Pacific Blue’. It is a native California sage and extremely drought tolerant. I have mine planted on a hillside along the driveway. It has grown into a beautiful shrub, about 6 foot by 8 foot with occasional colorful whorls of lavender-blue flowers. It seems to be thriving on one single small drip emitter which runs a couple of times a week except in the winter season.

By trying some of these low water methods and plants, you can create a pleasing, easy to care for garden area.

Red Bluff Garden Club meets the last Tuesday of most months, 1 p.m. at the Methodist Church on David Ave. in Red Bluff. The next meeting will be Jan. 28 with a program on bare root plants by Peter Statton from The Rock Garden. Visitors are welcome to join us.

The Red Bluff Garden Club is affiliated with the Cascade District Garden Club; California Garden Clubs, Inc; Pacific Region Garden Clubs and Natural Garden Clubs Inc. 

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