Xeriscaping is the landscaping designed specifically for areas that are susceptible to drought or for areas where water conservation is practiced.
This term has been derived from the Greek word ‘xeros’ meaning dry and Xeriscaping means ‘dry landscape.’ It is promoted in regions that do not have accessible, plentiful or reliable supplements of fresh water and where irrigation water is becoming limited.
It is also termed as ‘water conserving landscaping’ or ‘drought tolerant landscaping’. Xeriscaping seems to have originated in 1980 in Western, United States.
Landscapers from California were seeking a way to create gardens less dependent on irrigation without sacrificing aesthetic concept. Studies have shown that education in water conservation in landscape can greatly improve the public perception of xeriscaping.
Advantages of Xeriscaping
The plants used in xeriscaping are xerophytes in nature which have a capacity to survive in limited water availability. It has been calculated scientifically that these plants are able to reduce water use up to 60% or more compared to other landscape plants. In dry areas these plants are the only alternative to maintain greenery and a pleasing landscape view.
Xeriscaping ensures means of environmental stability besides this gives benefits of more water available for other domestic and community uses and the environment.
There is a reduced maintenance of plants as such plants have low maintenance as far as intercultural operations like weeding, mulching etc. is concerned. This quality makes it more acceptable under diverse climatic conditions.
Xeriscaping requires minimum fertilizer application and equipment for maintenance particularly due to the reduced lawn areas and more planting. It ensures face lifting of rough areas and use of pebbles, rocks and other garden adornments which gives a pleasant landscape view.
Reduce fertilizer use viz. phosphorus, nitrogen and potassium which reduces cost of maintenance and cost of cultivation.
Principles of Xeriscaping
There are seven design principles of xeriscaping which have to be adopted for proper landscape use with pleasant aesthetic and recreational view.
Plan and design: Make a paper plan before executing on the ground. Create a diagram plan, scale it, identify the availability of plant wealth and topography of a particular location and mark the major elements of the landscape including house, driveway, sidewalk, deck or patio, existing trees and other elements.
This will give you the idea of designing and accommodating floral wealth. Besides this they have a vision of using pebbles, rocks, fountains which can enhance the aesthetic charm of the landscaping.
Diagram: Auto CAD diagram can give better understanding of preview and creation of conceptual plan which de laminated the area for turf. Perennial bed designing, existing or introduced slopes will help in better understanding of long-term view of landscaping.
Soil amendment: Floral wealth can only be used when we know the habitat and requirements of a particular plant. Moisture retention in soil for longer periods is one of the considerations to be kept in mind and for this traditional use of compost is one way and using nano chemicals for moisture conservation is the modern way.
In the market a lot of nano chemicals are available which can help in soil moisture retention for longer periods and can be beneficial in water use efficiency. Use of plants can be classified in different angles viz some plants benefit from the use of compost which will help the soil retain water, desert plants prefer gravel soils instead of well-amended soils and others respond moderate to different situations.
In other words, we have made a plan to achieve a goal of plants should either fit the soil or soil should be amended to fit the plants.
Efficient irrigation: Xeriscape can be irrigated efficiently by hand or with an automatic sprinkler system. Spray, drip line or emitters are mostly used. Water deeply and infrequently to develop deep roots. Never water during the day to reduce water lost to evaporation.
Appropriate plant and zone selection: Different areas in a yard receive different amounts of light, wind and moisture. To minimize water waste, group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and place them in an area that matches these requirements.
Put moderate water use plants in low lying drainage areas. Planting a variety of plants with different heights, colours and textures creates interest and beauty.
Mulch: Mulch keeps plant roots cool, prevents soil from crusting, minimizes evaporation and reduces weed growth. Fiber mulches create a web that is more resistant to wind and rain washout. Inorganic mulches such as rocks and gravel should be applied 2 to 3 inches deep. Organic mulches like pole peelings, wood grindings should be applied 2-4 inches deep.
Limited turf areas: Selection of turf grass plays an important role in lawn making under xeriscaping theme. For this purpose, one should have knowledge about warm season and cool season grasses. If the area falls under tropical or subtropical conditions then buffalo grass and blue grama are the options while as bluegrass and tall fescue are options of cool season grasses.
Maintenance: Whatever plant species may be, it requires some degree of care during the year. As far as lawn grass is concerned, keep the grass height at 3 inches and allow the clippings to fall. Trees, shrubs and perennials will need occasional pruning to remove dead stems, promote blooming or control height and spread. Besides this inspection of plants for undue growth or pests has to be monitored.
Adaptations of Xeriscaping Plants
• Leaves or stems may be thicker to enable water storage. Plants with this characteristic are referred to collectively as succulents like Sedums, Sempervivum tectorum etc.
• These plants should have small leaves which have less surface area through which less transpiration losses occur. e.g. Thyme, Iberis sempervirens etc.
• Plants with silver or greyish green leaves should be planted. They reflect the sun, shrugging at heat instead of wilting under it. This trait makes them stand out xeriscaping plants. Example is lavender.
• Deep root system plants to be planted for better adaptability under drought conditions.
• Drought tolerant plants are preferred.
• Thick cuticles, wax coated leaves enhance beauty and sustainability.
Evergreen Trees: Examples of evergreen plants Acacia spp, Cupressus sp etc.
Deciduous Plants: Examples of deciduous plants include Cercis occidentalis, Lagerstroemia indica etc.
Shrubs: Examples of shrubs for xeriscaping include Arctostaphylos sp, Encelia californica etc.
Flowering Shrubs: Shrubs include Lavandula spp, Grevillea spp etc.
Drought Resistant Flowering Plants: Black eyed Susan, blanket flower, creeping flux, cone flower, coreopsis, Lamb’s ear, Penstemon, Russian sage, stone crop, yarrow etc.
Perennial Plants for protective purpose: These include YUCCA (ADAM’S NEEDLE) etc.