Xeriscaping (yes, it’s a word)

by Curt Burnett on April 26, 2011

In the last post on Denver Water I mentioned that this utility is credited with the creation of the term “xeriscaping”, an amalgam of the Greek word “xeros” (dry) and “landscaping”. In addition to coining the word, the utility drew up seven principles of xeriscaping and to boot, helped construct a garden at the Denver Botanic Gardens to demonstrate the principles. From the Wikipedia article on xeriscaping, here are the seven principles, condensed to give just the general idea.   

1. Plan and design
Create a diagram, drawn to scale, that shows the major elements of your landscape….

2. Soil amendment
Most plants will benefit from the use of compost, which will help the soil retain water. Some desert plants prefer gravel soils instead of well-amended soils. Plants should either fit the soil or soil should be amended to fit the plants.

3. Efficient irrigation
Xeriscape can be irrigated efficiently by hand or with an automatic sprinkler system. Zone turf areas separately from other plants and use the irrigation method that waters the plants in each area most efficiently.

4. Appropriate plant and zone selection
Different areas in your yard receive different amounts of light, wind and moisture. To minimize water waste, group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and place them in an area that matches these requirements.

5. Mulch
Mulch keeps plant roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimizes evaporation and reduces weed growth.

6. Alternative turf
Native grasses (warm-season) that have been cultivated for turf lawns, such as buffalo grass and blue grama, can survive with a quarter of the water that bluegrass varieties need.

7. Maintenance
All landscapes require some degree of care during the year.

The combination of inventing a term, principles, and a demonstration garden has to stand as one of the more creative efforts ever undertaken by a water utility to conserve water, and it has had legs as other parts of the country have adopted the term and its concepts. A quick web search shows xeriscaping efforts and organizations in New Mexico, Arizona, North Carolina, Washington, and Hawaii. There are no doubt many more.

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