Mountain Empire Magazine
Mountain Empire Issue 1
country gardening

Country Gardening

Xeriscape (zeer-ih-scape) is a landscaping method that uses low water and drought tolerant plants, efficient irrigations systems and watering techniques, and proper maintenance, while at the same time creating a green and colorful garden. Xeriscape is also a water conservation concept that involves landscaping with drought tolerant plants that are suitable to the local climate or native to the region and then watering the plants the right way. Since water is often a limited resource in country areas, particularly the Southwest, Xeriscape is a valuable method of landscaping.

xeriscape landscape
Xeriscape, the concept and the word, had its beginning in Denver, Colorado in the late 1970's. Denver was experiencing a water shortage and with an average annual rainfall of 14 inches the future looked dry. Something had to be done to reduce water consumption on a long term basis, thus local landscape experts and the water authority came up with the idea of xeriscape. By planting and landscaping to more closely match Denver's environment, it was felt that homeowners and business could reduce maintenance, save water and protect landscapes against drought conditions. Using xeriscape Denver reduced summer water use by 12%.

The principles of xeriscape are relatively simple.

1. Start with a good plan. Decide what you want your landscape to look like and what you want it to do (such as providing shade or privacy).

2. Limit your turf areas. Lawns can use up to 50% of your landscape watering needs.

3. Improve the soil. The appropriate amounts of sand, clay particles, loam, and minerals is very important. If you intend to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in your landscaping a $30 soil test is worth it.

4. Use mulch. Mulching around trees and shrubs is one of the most effective ways to reduce the amount of water you will need to keep them healthy and growing.

5. Use zoned irrigation. Trees, shrubs, ground covers, and lawn areas should be irrigated separately. The water requirements for each of these zones is different.

6. Practice good maintenance techniques. A good maintenance program is a major part of xeriscape. Take care of insect and disease problems before they cause extensive damage. Use the right lawn mower an mow at the correct height. Fertilize at the appropriate times of the year and with the right fertilizer.

7. Choose low water or drought tolerant plants.

This Month's Featured Plants

Cotoeaster (co-to-ne-a-ster): A diverse group of evergreen and deciduous shrubs including about 50 species. They come in a variety of forms from ground covers, shrubs, and small trees. They prefer sun and room to grow. Almost all species are considered drought tolerant after they have become established. Some species require deep watering (drip irrigation) in hot inland areas. Groundcover species provide good erosion control and larger species make excellent screens for roadside planting. All have flowers in varying shades of white through pink. They also tolerate clay soils. Readily available at most nurseries. One gallon sizes are acceptable for most uses.

achillea feuerland
Achillea (ah-chee-lee-ah): Also called Yarrow. A perennial plant that grows well in full sun. Yarrows range in size from six inches to three feet. They have greyish-green fern-like leaves and usually produce large cluster of white or yellow flowers. Some hybrids produce red, gold and pink flowers. They can be established from seed or rooted cuttings and are drought tolerant once established.

Yarrows accept any type of soil condition and easily spread where additional moisture is available, however too much water will produce excessive foliage growth. They can be used as borders, in mixed flower plantings, for cut flowers and in slope stabilization.

Next issue we'll discuss drip irrigation in the country landscape, a necessary component of Xeriscape

About the author:

Alex Drummond

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Plant Fact: Arc en Ciel Lily

Waterscape pond fountain lily Arc en Ciel Lily
True variegated foliage with splashes of red, pink, yellow, white and green. Soft, feminine pink flowers.

With blossoms that are uniquely varied, lilies are almost always the focal point of any pond. Extraordinary blossoms command attention and beautiful foliage contrasts with the waters surface as well as provides shade and cover for fish. HARDY Water Lilies should be planted 12" to 24" deep. Dwarf varieties do best when planted 6"to 18" deep in small ponds.

Courtesy of
catfish pond lily pads Catfish Ponds & Lily Pads: Creating and Enjoying a Family Pond, by Louise Riotte
"This is a beautifully written book! It contains many whimsical anecdotes on the process of building a pond, also much practical information on plants, fish, frogs, turtles, and ducks. Having just built a pond, I found this book just the ticket. It doesn't have much about the actual digging and construction--that information is best obtained from your local Soil and Water Conservation Office. But I highly recommend this book if you're building a "real" pond (not one of those plastic pool things)." A reader from Ohio


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