Build for the environment, build for sustainability, build for your future.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Xeriscape Landscaping: A Green Alternative to Your Lawn

When many people think about xeriscape, they think of a yard full of rocks that’s devoid of plants. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Xeriscape is all about an all natural landscape that extensively uses natural vegetation, instead of unnatural, resource intensive vegetation. It’s about harnessing the natural beauty of the environment while rejecting the plants, fertilizers and the chemicals that harm the local environment.

Going back even 10 years ago, xeriscape was relatively unknown. The typical desert home would have a grassy yard that sucked up large quantities of scarce water. With so many grassy yards, the climate of big cities like Phoenix was noticeably affected by the use of grassy yards. Instead of people adapting to the desert lifestyle, homeowners wanted to recreate Minnesota.

With water becoming a less plentiful and more expensive resource, some homeowners started to turn to a way of landscaping that is more in tune with the local environment. Instead of using plants native to other parts of the country, xeriscapers use the plants that are native to the local area to create a beautifully landscaped yard. With the right kind of xeriscaping, you can combine all of the local elements to create a unique and stunningly beautiful yard.

Before you embark on a xeriscaping project, it’s important to know that you are creating a beautiful yard that uses native plants. While low water usage is a benefit of xeriscaping, it’s not the ultimate goal of a xeriscape. Native plants do use less water, but they bring a beauty and simplicity to the yard that you can’t get otherwise.

As you begin your xeriscaping project, it’s helpful to take a look at the local plants and flowers. By knowing what’s available, you can begin to picture how your yard will look. Take some pictures of the different plants in the local area and print them out. Don’t be afraid to look for local parks that have xeroscaped areas. For example, at the Glendale Public Library in Arizona, they’ve long had an area set aside to exhibit xeriscaping ideas. Your local county extension office is also a great resource for information on local plants that would fit into your xeriscaping project. 

With a good selection of pictures you took when you were fact finding, mix and match the pictures on a table to see which plants match and complement each other. Once you know which plants you want to use, you can take out a pad of paper and make some sketches of the end result. You are now ready to put your Xeroscaping ideas into place. On your first xeriscaping project, you will want to have the time available to experiment with the placement of the plants for maximum natural beauty.

These are the most popular desert landscaping plants (appropriate for a Southwest environment):

1. Oleander (Nerium oleander) - an evergreen shrub from the dogbane family
2. Purple Sage (Salvia) - an evergreen shrub
3. Bougainvillea (Nyctaginaceae)- an evergreen woody vine
4. Lantana (Verbenaceae)- an evergreen shrub that often appears in vine form
5. Pampas Grass (Cortaderia) - a large evergreen grass
6. Fairy Duster (Calliandra) - an evergreen shrub
7. Red Bird of Paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) - an evergreen shrub with yellow flowers

Once you have finished your xeriscaping project, you can be proud of what you’ve done to help the environment. You are not going to be wasting countless gallons of water every day just to maintain your landscaping. You are not going to be pouring fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides onto your lawn putting your family’s and your community’s health at risk. Instead, you will be improving the environment with an all natural yard that fits into the local environment instead of being at odds with the local environment.

Posted by casey on 01/16 at 09:37 PM
Everyday Life


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