Xeriscape is currently one of the “in”
forms of gardening! It ought to be “out!”
is just one of many annual flowers that does not need abundant
moisture to put on a good display.
is broadly defined as landscaping using plants that are resistant to
drought. Unfortunately, many gardeners don’t realize that there is a
huge difference between many so-called drought-resistant plants being
recommended today, and plants that actually don’t require much
water--among which grass is one!
has been and continue to be a number of campaigns by so-called
environmental or natural gardeners to eliminate the neatly manicured lawn
from our cities. I have no problem with folks replacing their lawns with
gardens, in fact I did that myself, with both my front and back lawns, a
way back in 1983. And, my late friend Howard B. Dunington-Grubb, the dean
of landscape architects in Canada (1881-1965), converted his front lawn at
his Rosedale home in Toronto in about the year 1934. But the point is,
there needs to be a valid reason to do this. And, saving water is not a
valid reason at all.
facts are, advocate groups may try to convince you that planting trees
instead of grass will use less water, but that is quite simply incorrect.
may try to prevail with the idea that our common Kentucky bluegrasses are
enormous water consumers, whereas grasses such as fescues use less water,
and therefore all lawns should be converted to fescues, or to whatever is
“hot” at the moment. This is environmentalism gone crazy!
am reminded of a happening early this decade wherein a National Award for
the Conservation of Water in the U.S., presented by a national
organization in that country, went to a woman in Denver, Colorado. She had
spearheaded the passing of a municipal bylaw in that city banning Kentucky
bluegrasses from all lawns. The theory was that the bluegrasses use more
water than other types. What the woman (and the national organization)
apparently did not know, was that research some time ago, proved that
bluegrasses use less water than fescues, even though that is not perceived
to be the case.
same is true of many other plants that are suggested for planting in
Xeriscape gardens. Trees are a good case in point. They use a tremendously
greater volume of water than does grass.
the other hand, grass has a number of other attributes that we tend to
forget. Consider: water
purification, erosion control, glare reduction, particulate entrapment,
oxygen generation, temperature modification, noise abatement, pollution
absorption, allergy control, and groundwater replenishment. At least the
first four of these are pretty well exclusive to grass or at least grass
performs them to a much greater extent than do virtually any alternative
don’t get me wrong. I am not saying don’t take water conservation into
account when you plan and plant your garden. I am saying none of us should
be hoodwinked into thinking that we have to stay to a short list of plants
that someone or some group states are the only ones to plant because they
are water conserving. Chances are the facts are just not there to back up
the conclusion. If water is in short supply and it’s annual flowers you
wish, be sure to consider the following: Amaranthus,
California poppy, Cleome,
cockscomb, cornflower, four-o’clock, globe amaranth, Mexican poppy, Portulaca, sea lavender, verbena and zinnias.
water conservation is a major factor for whatever reason, there certainly
are plants that withstand drought better than others, but remember that
these are not necessarily plants that use less water. Even grass
seed mixes are available which withstand drought conditions. They do this
not because they use less water, they do it by sending down their roots
much further (some times ten times deeper) than our traditional lawn
if you wish to plant a truly water-conserving garden, consider a scree
garden. The technique is the plants (all types, evergreens, shrubs,
perennials etc.) are actually grown in granular “A” gravel. The depth
of the bed needs to be at least 45 cm (18”) of gravel and the plants are
planted right into it. After the plants are established, there is no
watering needed. If you’re in Ontario and would like to see one (the one
that has driven many gardeners to try the technique), pay a visit to Keith
and Carolyn Squires at The Country Squires Garden in Campbellville.
Art C. Drysdale
6 Nesbitt Drive
Toronto, ON M4W 2G3