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AVANT-GARDENING: CREATIVE ORGANIC GARDENING

Welcome !  " You Can Grow "

XERISCAPE

“A xeriscape garden uses plants that have low water requirements, making them more able to withstand short periods of drought.”


Hops starting to grow up the trellis in giannangelo farms southwest's formal garden




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XERISCAPE comes from a combination of two words: "xeri" is derived from the Greek word "xeros" meaning dry; and "scape", meaning view or scene, together they mean "a dry scene."

The term Xeriscape was coined in Denver, Colorado in 1978. Xeriscaping is landscaping with slow-growing, drought tolerant plants, allowing a conservation water and nutrients. Xeric landscapes are conscious attempts to develop plantings which are compatible with the natural environment. Xeriscape landscapes need not be just cactus and rock gardens. They can be green, beautiful landscapes in which plants are maintained with water-efficient practices, and heavy mulching.

Xeriscaping is not the same as Zeroscaping. Zeroscaping is using a lot of rocks and a few sparse plants to create low-water-use landscaping. Xeriscapes use a wide variety of native and other water-efficient plants to create an oasis of color, interest, diversity, and texture.

There are many flowering perennials that are drought resistant. Plants with a silvery foliage such as Artemisia, catmint, and perovskia (Russian Sage) are usually drought resistant. Soapwort, Sedum varieties, thymes varieties, mints, oreganos, catnip, Marjoram, sage, hyssop, and savory are also drought resistant. Flowers include Sunflowers, Mexican sunflower, Silver Lace Vine, Oriental and Shirley Poppies, Sea Lavender, Salvias, Penstemon, Lamium, Iris, Daylily, Coreopsis, Echinacea, Black-eyed Susan, Bachelor button, and Baby’s breath.



There are 3 Xeriscape Zones

In xeriscaping, plants are grouped into three specific zones based upon the water needs of the plants and the distance from the central area. Zoning creates a water-efficient landscape that is both beautiful, functional, and sustainable. The physical characteristics of the site should be considered. Every yard has a "micro-climate" which could affect the design and plant choices. Sunny west and south sides of a house will have a warmer micro-climates and are more suited for arid, drought-tolerant plants. The cooler north and east sides could be used for oasis zones.
formal garden rockwork at giannangelo farms southwest

Zone 1:    Arid

The arid zone will have the most drought-tolerant plants. Native plants and other varieties are used and rarely require supplemental watering. The most arid zones are located away from the house and high-traffic areas and could be left in its natural state or interplanted with drought resistant native varieties.

Zone 2:   Transitional

The transition zone combines lush areas with the drier parts of a landscape. This zone takes advantage of low and moderate water use plantings that need infrequent supplemental watering (once a week or less). A path could wind through this area, creating interest and access.

Zone 3:  Oasis

The lush, oasis zone should be nearer to your house, and could include the higher water use plants, a small pool of water, a formal area, paths from porches lined with solar lanterns, shade from pergolas, and a small lawn area using drought-tolerant grasses like buffalo grass and blue grama. This zone could take advantage of rainfall runoff from the roof line and gutter downspouts.


Xeriscaping Techniques

main garden pond at giannangelo farms southwest

Plan your xeriscape garden and design

Creating a xeriscape garden begins with a well-planned design for water conservation, interest, diversity, and simplicity . Sketch your yard locating existing structures, trees, shrubs, plants, and grass areas. Then consider the cost, desired appearance, function, maintenance, and water requirements. Then visualize the placement of new plants and varieties, possible areas for a small pool, vertical terraces, rock beds, pergolas, and paths. Using big rocks, gravel, and paths will add to the interest of the area, conserve water needs, and simplify the garden area.

Soil improvement

Healthy soils grow healthy plants. Test the soil for organic matter and nutrient content before the adding amendments. The test results can indicate what nutrients are lacking, and will give you an idea of how much compost or other organic material should be added. For soil building techniques refer to our web page on "Soil Building."

Drought resisent lawns

There are many drought-tolerant native grasses such as Buffalo grass, Fairway crested wheat grass, and Blue grama grass. Non-native drought resistant grasses include Kentucky Bluegrass, Canada Bluegrass, and Hard Fescue, Tall Fescue, and Red Fescue. These can be used around pond areas, and in addition to flowers, trees, and shrubs.

Selecting the right plants

Appropriate plant selection keeps the landscape in tune with the natural environment. Both native and non-native plants make up the huge variety available for Xeriscape landscaping. Many xeric plants actually prefer not to have too rich a soil. For these hardy natives all you need to do is loosen the soil a little before you plant. These would include Penstemon, and other plants that are native to your area.

Drought resistent flowers include:

Perennials - Arizona columbine, Artemisias, Asters, Baby's Breath, Columbine, Coreopsis, Delphinium, Echinacea, Gaillardia, Gayfeather, Iris, Lamb's Ears, Lavender, Pansy, Perennial Flax, Mallows, Purple Coneflower, red Valerian, Sage, Sedums, Succulents, Statice, Sweet William, Tulips and crocuses, Yarrow, and Yucca.

Annuals: Cosmos, Desert Dragon, Marigold, Mexican Sunflower, Phlox, Portulacca, Rose Campion, Santolina, Vinca, and Zinnias.

formal garden pond at giannangelo farms southwest

Conserving water

The goal of good irrigation system is to give plants a sufficient amount of water without waste. Watering systems should be designed with the 3 planting zones in mind. Lawns and other higher water-use areas should be irrigated separately from native and xeric plants. Turf lawns are best watered by sprinklers or subsurface irrigation.

Trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers can be watered efficiently with low-volume drip emitters, sprayers, and bubblers, and micro-emitters use water in moderation, applying it where the moisture is needed, and mulching with a 3" layer to preventing unwanted weed growth. Hand watering with a hose-end sprinklers should be done between early in the morning or late in the day in order to avoid water waste by evaporation.

Mulch

Organic mulches include peat moss, manure, compost, leaf mold, and sawdust. They all have the advantages of conserving moisture, slowly providing nutrients as they break down. A good 3 inch layer of mulch in flower and shrub beds conserves water by significantly reducing moisture evaporation from the soil.

Mulching not only reduces weed populations, it prevents soil compaction, keeps the soil temperatures constant providing ideal conditions for each plant. Mulches should not be placed against the trunks of trees and shrubs, but pilled back a few inches to keep insects and rodents from feeding on the bark during the winter.

Matainence

A consistent maintenance - regular pruning, weeding, proper fertilization, pest control, and mulching, will all help to conserve water and preserve the beauty of the Xeriscape landscape, and will make the process easier in the long run.



Trees and Shrubs

For most trees and native shrubs, the planting hole preparation is the same, and minimal amending of soil is best. After planting surface mulch to slowly improve all soil within the tree's drip line, which is directly below the outermost reaches of the branches.
formal garden at giannangelo farms southwest


Stake newly planted trees on two sides, loosely tying them for support during their first year to help the tree roots get established. All trees and shrubs need frequent watering for the first two growing seasons, from planting time until they are well rooted. Once established, they can tolerate less frequent watering.

Drought resistant tall trees include: Box elder maple, Scotch Pine, Colorado spruce, common Hackberry, ponderosa pine, green Ash, Limber pine, Juniper varieties, Black Hill spruce, Quaking aspen and Bur and Scrub Oak. Medium trees include Ohio Buckeye and Hawthorn. Shorter trees and shrubs include Amur maple, Russian olive, Chokecherry, Siberian pea-shrub, and American plum.

Drought resistant shrubs include: Butterfly bush, Bayberry, Japanese black pine, Cinquefoil, Fragrant zumac, Mountain currant, Sassafras, Honeysuckle, Witch hazel, Rugosa roses, Smoke tree, Snowberry, Spirea, Lilac, Heather and Washington hawthorne.


Resources

Planet Natural
High Country Gardens
High Mowing Organic Seeds
Seeds Trust
Mountain Crest Garden
Mesa Garden
Santa Ana Garden Center
Plants of the Southwest




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Created by Frank and Vicky Giannangelo, copyright (c) 2001-2013


Home Page    About Us    Mossy Knoll Garden/San Juan Island    Botany Basics    "You Can Grow!" Workshops    Composting    Soil Building
Hardiness Zone Map   WebRings    "You Can Grow" CD's   "Tid-Bytes" Insights   Garden Pests & Organic Controls
Biodiversity and Genetic Engineering    New Mexico    Companion & Intensive Planting     Permaculture    Labyrinths
Seed Starting Guide    Creative Garden Design    The Greenzbox    Culinary Herb Gardens    Xeriscape
"Growing with the Seasons"    Photo Tour I    Photo Tour II    Photo Tour III    Photo Tour IV    Photo Tour V
Organic Products    Gardening Books   Gardening Supplies     Recommend This Site    Resources

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