Xeriscape Design Ideas

Dig into low water-use landscaping. This garden style is low-maintenance but big on beauty.

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Arroyo Project: Native Plantings

Here is a good overview of the many native plantings along the arroyo which will help conserve water while maintaining an attractive xeriscape design. Among the plants are Yucca Rostrata (in the foreground), Mexican Feather Grass to the far right, and in the background, Mystic Spires Blue Sage, Knockout Roses and Salvia.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Mark Biechler, www.pearsonlandscape.com

Image courtesy of Mark Biechler, www.pearsonlandscape.com

Explore xeriscape design, and you’ll discover that this garden style is not only environmentally friendly, it’s also overflowing with head-turning good looks. Many homeowners confuse xeriscape with zero-scape, thinking that choosing a xeriscaped yard means accenting mostly hardscape with a few plants. That’s not the case. Yards that embrace xeriscape ideas actually feature all manner of plants and garden styles, including cottage gardens. The term simply refers to a landscape that minimizes water use.

To renovate a water-guzzling yard for a xeriscape design, start by examining areas of your landscape that consume the most water. A lawn usually ranks as No. 1 in water consumption in the average yard. In a xeriscape design, lawn areas are reduced and often replanted with grasses that survive on rainfall, even in arid regions.

Buffalo grass and blue grama grass are native grasses that need minimal input to look good. New turf-type cultivars of buffalo grass create a toe-tickling lawn that approximates traditional fescue. Do your homework to be sure you select the cultivar that will perform best in your region. Reveille is another low water-use grass that’s been developed by a private company in association with Texas A&M University.

Other xeriscape ideas include creating irrigation zones, which hinges on grouping plants by water needs. This xeriscape design principle is a garden practice that actually just makes sense—and also promotes a healthier garden. To create irrigation zones, you have to plan your landscape, which is another core principle of xeriscape design. Whether you’re starting from scratch or renovating existing plantings, careful planning results in the most effective xeriscaped areas.

Irrigation must also focus on efficiency in xeriscape designs. Watering by hand, soaker hoses, bubbler emitters and drip irrigation systems provide efficient water delivery, ensuring water reaches roots. For sprinklers, select ones that deliver larger drops of water closer to the ground. Avoid overhead sprinklers or ones that release a fine mist.

Using mulch is a key xeriscape idea. Mulch slows water evaporation from soil, moderates soil temperature, helps reduce weeds and gives planting areas a finished look. Choose a mulch that complements your garden style. Stones make a wonderful mulch for a succulent garden design and also fit naturally into Zen rock gardens. Shredded bark is a common mulch choice in English garden design.

Xeriscape design also recites the mantra of right plant, right place. When you match plants to the proper growing conditions, you’ll get the best results with the least amount of effort. It’s also a good idea to amend soil to provide the most ideal footing for plants. What kind of soil amendment you need depends on the type of plants you’ll be growing, as well as the kind of soil you have. Take a soil test to make the best use of your soil amendment budget.

Consider including rainwater recycling in your xeriscape design. Rain barrels provide an easy way to catch and re-use storm water runoff from structures. Examine your landscape during rainfall to discover any other areas that generate runoff. Ponder ways to direct and use that runoff. Sometimes a dry creek can help shuttle runoff from a driveway to a garden area.

Research different materials and concepts for hardscape areas. Xeriscape ideas include choosing paver patterns that allow some open earth between pavers to allow rain to percolate into soil. For instance, you might want to replace a concrete or macadam driveway with gravel, porous paving or turf stone, pavers with openings that allow grass to grow through them.

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