Tuesday 10: Xeriscaping in Colorado

With all of the rain we are having, it seems silly to talk about xeriscaping, but it won’t be long before summer hits and the dry weather returns. The landscaping at our house has had 19 years to grow, spread (as my wife says “never plant winecups or mint outside of pots”), and die off in parts. Did you know landscape plans have a lifespan of about 5-8 years before it’s time for updates? Last year, we started by ripping about a bunch of evergreen bushes that it turns out were housing voles. This year, we plan on refreshing the areas where the bushes were with new plants and stones. We’re planning on using xeriscape principles to keep it low maintenance and save water.

Ten reasons to use xeriscaping:

1. Despite our recent weather, Colorado is considered a semi-arid climate. Xeriscaping may use 25-50% less water than traditional landscaping.

2. Xeriscaping isn’t just rocks and cacti. In Colorado, Grasses are a commonly seen option. They can provide a screen for privacy and come in many varieties, colors, and textures.

3. Xeriscaping is about the native plants. Native plants know how to handle the local climate. For example, lamb’s ear has silvery leaves designed to reflect the sunlight and conserve water and poppy mallow has deep roots to maximize water storage.

4. Flowers are still an option. Moss rose, flowering shrubs, and wildflowers such as columbine and purple coneflowers are commonly used. Mulching around the flowers will help them conserve water. Our marigolds and snapdragons grow happily with little effort and the occasional watering. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/garden/07231.html

5. The best xeriscapes experiment with different colors and textures. Ornamental grasses go well paired with flowering ground cover. The silver leaves of lavender and lamb’s ears look great against brighter green plants. Experiment! Just double check that the plants have enough room to thrive, the right light, and don’t take over the space. We lost our lamb’s ear to the winecups a few years ago.

6. Xeriscaping can save you mowing time. Bright green grass is a coveted thing, but not the maintenance involved. Replace the smaller strips and side yards of turfgrass with a mix of groundcover, rocks, and native grass. http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/Xeris/retrofit.htm

7. Xeriscaping can enhance every sense. Lavender and lilacs both do well in low water conditions and smell incredible. Sage, chives, and mint will enhance summer meals (always, always plant mint in a pot). Lamb’s ears are soft and popular with kids. Wind rustling through the grasses is my wife’s favorite sound. Seeing plants and colorful flowers are an instant mood boost.

8. It preserves water quality. Using mulch, weed barrier, and hardy plants prevents weeds from growing and erases the need to spray them with herbicides. Unlike grass, most xeriscapes plants thrive with little or no fertilizer. That’s less chemicals running into the ground.

9. Xeriscaping can increase home values or at least make them more attractive to buyers. One look at an overgrown, high maintenance yard can send all but the most devoted gardeners and house flippers fleeing. Creating a pleasing, easy to care for landscape attracts people and reminds them how nice life will be sitting on the patio of their new home.

10. Plenty of classes and examples exist in the area. Xeriscaping isn’t a great mystery understood by a select few. Visit Spring Creek Gardens or CSU for real world examples and education. Local nurseries offer sections with xeriscape friendly plants for sale as well.

Additional information:

http://www.ext.colostate.edu/ptlk/1907.html

http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/Xeris/xeris1.htm

What garden projects are you doing this year?

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