An honest look at Xeriscaping

Last summer’s miserable conditions and Dallas’ new water ordinance have a lot of people talking about Xeriscaping. Much has been written on this subject, but I’d like to share my own thoughts on Xeriscaping on this blog post.

When people imagine Xeriscaping they either think of this:

 or this:

Photo: Kye R. Lee/Staff Photographer for the Dallas Morning News

This from a Dallas Morning News Article: http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/home-and-gardening/headlines/20120530-see-how-one-richardson-couple-dropped-the-grass-sprinkler-for-award-winning-garden.ece

The first picture is the ideal: an English style garden with lots of color, varying texture and everything looks perfect.  Meanwhile, some might consider the second picture to have a more “rangy” or “weedy” look and lack color.

Both are true xeriscapes, though very different, the biggest difference is most likely maintenance.  The number one request I have from my clients is a low-maintenance garden. If a wild and untamed look (like the second picture) is what you’re going for, you can get away with performing very little maintenance in a xeriscape. However, most people expect their xeriscape to resemble the top picture, and that requires a lot of maintenance to achieve.

Beyond maintenance, gardens are affected by  conditions that are completely out of our control like heat and the changing seasons.  Even the most well maintained xeriscapes are in their blooming prime for just a few weeks in the late spring and early summer. Seasonal factors are at play in a dramatic way in a xeriscape. Many of our most beloved perennials only bloom during certain phases of a single season (early summer but not late summer, early fall but not late fall, etc.), some are not evergreen and most need dead-heading on a regular basis to achieve repeat bloom periods.   In general, xeriscapes will have portions of the garden looking great during different seasons but a flashy, lush look all year is not realistic.

What is the solution?  I think what many clients are looking for is a balance of hardy lawn and hardy landscape beds.  This balance of lawn and beds will result in a more organized, elegant landscape with far less seasonal maintenance beyond some mowing.  A really great example of this kind of landscape is the Four Seasons hotel property in Austin.   Below are a couple of pictures I took during a recent visit.

Lawn and hardy landscape beds

Hardy landscape bed with custom iron planter

There are some really great lawn grasses that are very hardy for our region.  The most common are Bermuda (for sunny lawns) and Zoysia (for both sun and partial shade lawns).  As for the landscape beds, there are lots of plants that do well in North Texas that are quite tough, give a lush and colorful look, do not look weedy or rangy, and are also not “one-season wonders”. See a few of my favorites below.

For more information on the new City of Dallas watering ordinance, please visit: http://savedallaswater.com/twice-weekly-watering-schedule/

My Favorite “Pretty” Tough Plants

African Iris

'Home Run' Rose

Dwarf Wax Myrtle

Harbour Dwarf Nandina

'Green Cloud' Texas Sage

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