26 August 2010

Reduce Summertime Watering = Xeriscape

Mid-August is the month of watering every plant we want to keep alive for next year or even for the cooler fall days that are coming.

August is also a time to consider which pots, flower beds and areas would be ideal to convert to low water plantings.

Good candidates for low water usage plants include: beds just past the reach of the garden hose, the hot dry area along a street, driveway, sidewalk curb, around the pool or at the base of a rural mailbox, gigantic ornamental pots, and on the edge of a hill in full sun.

Xeriscape (pronounced zeer-eh-skape) does not mean zero landscape. The homeowners who adopt that definition, install a front yard composed of stones, rocks, driftwood, and plastic skulls.

Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (keepoklahomabeautiful.com), states that, Plants are selected for a xeriscape based on their ability to grow and thrive with minimal watering and maintenance. Normal levels of watering during the first year establishment period are required since new plantings don’t have sufficiently developed root systems to survive without supplemental watering.

The plants that would not tolerate a low-water garden include Azaleas, Hydrangeas, lawns of fescue or bluegrass. Water loving plants should be planted in their own beds with easy irrigation.

Constant watering is a pain we want to reduce but reducing the amount of lawn is just as good a reason to consider Xeriscape. Mowing with a gas mower for 20 minutes has the same impact on the environment as driving 20 miles.

Plants that are native to the U.S. are good candidates but so are plants that are native to similar planting zones around the world. Lavender thrives on a dry hillside in Muskogee and is native to the rocky hillsides of Italy and the Mediterranean (lifeinitaly.com).

Xeriscape is gaining popularity. For example, the Edmond OK Parks and Recreation Dept. partnered with OSU to develop a 7,000 square foot Xeriscape Demonstration Garden (http://bit.ly/craZe1) at Bickham-Rudking Park.

A two-acre Xeriscape Demonstration Garden operated by the City of Colorado Springs Colorado, displays a wide diversity of slow-growing, perennial, water-wise plants.


Colorado Springs Xeriscape Demonstration Garden
with Garden of the Gods in the background.

Even water wise plants need have well-amended soil, room to grow and water the first year. Be sure to choose an area where they will receive 6 hours of sun and good drainage. Avoid putting these plants in low spots, clay soil or under downspouts.

A few selections that bloom in the summer and require half the water –

Black-Eyed Susan, Rudbeckia fulgida varieties include clasping coneflower, brown-eyed Susan, Gloriosa daisy, Indian Summer and Cherokee Sunset.

Coneflower, Echinacea species include Narrow leaf, Purple, and Wavyleaf Purple


Evening Primrose, Oenothera, biennial, takes 2-years from seed to bloom. Oenothera macrocarpa incana Silver Blade grows 10-inches tall, with silver leaves and yellow flowers.

Garden Phlox, Phlox paniculata. Fragrant. Tall forms grow up to 4-feet. Phlox paniculata Bartwelve is an 18-inch tall dwarf.

Germander, Teucrium chamaedrys, is a fragrant, shrubby, herb with butterfly flowers.
Oregano, Origanum vulgare. Compact form is Woods Compact.

Hardy Plumbago, Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, has cobalt blue flowers on trailing stems. Use on a trellis or as groundcover.

Red Valerian, Centranthus ruber or Jupiter’s Beard, is clump forming with pink flowers. Scented flowers and grey-green leaves.


Red valerian

Sedums, Stonecrop - dozens of leaf shapes, flower colors and sizes.

Thyme, Thymus. Mother of thyme forms a perennial ground cover carpet with August flowers.

Wormwood, Artimisia, shrubby with fragrant silver leaves. Common wormwood is 4-feet tall, Silky is 9-inches tall.

Yarrow, Achillea, flowers in a dozen colors, both early and late summer, if pruned.

Learn more:
Keep Oklahoma Beautiful (keepoklahombeautiful.com)
CO State Xeriscape (http://bit.ly/a0zBjS
TX Xeriscape (http://bit.ly/Rmefx), and
www.xeriscape.org.

Plants are at local nurseries, High Country Gardens (highcountrygardens.com) and Digging Dog Nursery (diggingdog.com).

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