Tuesday, December 30, 2008

ABC Wednesday: X is for Xeriscaping

This week we have come to the letter X, normally a difficult letter, since few words actually start with X. However, a gardening-related word much in vogue right now is Xeriscape.

Xeriscaping refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that take into account the natural water supply and do not require additional irrigation. The word Xeriscape was coined by a task force in Denver, Colorado in 1978 and is actually a registered trademark of the water department of Denver. The word comes from the Greek word for "dry," xeros.

In arid climates like that of Arizona and other parts of the Southwest, it is easy to see why such a concept is important. On my first visit to Phoenix last winter I noticed that many homes did not even have lawns, just gravel and rock often landscaped with cacti and succulents. Areas with lush green lawns require daily watering to maintain them, as I discovered one night while walking around my daughter's apartment complex--I returned inside with soaked clothes after being surprised by the automatic water sprinklers!

While you might assume that only cacti like the prickly pear cactus shown above would be appropriate to grow in such a dry environment, I discovered that is not the case. A website on Arizona xeriscaping recommended many plants besides cacti and succulents for gardeners, including two that I saw everywhere while visiting Phoenix.

Oleander, which I showed on a previous post, is actually one of the recommended plants on the Arizona list. It is described as a plant which grows quickly and adaptable to dry climates.

The same is true of the beautiful bougainvillea. These plants were part of the landscaping around a Blockbuster Video Store! Notice the oleander in the background, too. Both plants are also used as part of highway landscaping; I saw many of them in beds of rock while we drove along the freeways around Phoenix. And here I thought Arizona must spend a lot of money on watering its highway plantings!

I must admit to not knowing much about xeriscaping; in fact, I had never even heard of the word until fairly recently. But in doing a little research, I discovered that gardeners in dry climates like the Southwest or other areas of the country subject to drought are not the only ones concerned with conserving water. That, of course, is the main purpose of xeriscaping--conserving precious water--but another reason is to plant a garden that is lower maintenance and can withstand the occasional periods of drought.

Here in the Midwest we don't have a dry climate--this past summer was one of the wettest on record--but we have had some summers of severe drought and usually have at least one "dry spell" every summer. I discovered several websites related to Illinois xeriscaping, although we often use the term "drought-tolerant" instead. On most of these websites you will find tips on planning a garden to survive drought plus databases of recommended plants.

Interestingly, the Arizona xeriscape website recommended the blanket flower or gaillardia. This traditional flower is also a native plant in the Midwest where it is easily grown. I took the picture above at the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix where it looked just as good as in any Illinois garden. One of the things I learned about xeriscaping from my little bit of reading is something I already knew--you can't go wrong planting native plants.

If you are interested in learning more about xeriscaping, just google the word with your state. For my garden blogging friends, you may not learn anything new, but it's nice to know when you are planning a low-maintenance garden that you are also helping to conserve one of the earth's precious resources.

To see more ABC post visit Mrs. Nesbitt's Place or the ABC Anthology.

Since it is almost New Year's Eve, I hope that however you observe the occasion, whether celebrating with friends or spending a quiet evening at home, that everyone has a happy and SAFE New Year's Eve!


  1. HA! Xeriscaping is taboo in North Carolina :o)

    I wish you a wonderful New Year, Rose. Let's smile in 2009.

    my word verif: rationo (not kidding)

  2. Good work, Rose! I can't wait to see what you come up with for Z! Xeriscaping is all the rage here in Central Texas. With water being a precious commodity, it just makes sense to plant as many water-wise plants as possible. In the summer we have water rationing, and can only water on certain days.

    Happy New Year to you Rose! It has been so much fun getting to know you this year.

  3. Mary, Are you serious that it is taboo in North Carolina? Thanks for the New Year's wishes, and I hope 2009 is a better year for you, too.
    I think the word verifier has had a sense of humor lately:)

  4. Rose, I was waiting to see what you came up with for X! Good for you!

  5. Hi, Rose--Great posting for "X." I'm still in rock lawn country--what a good idea--they're pretty and need no care (of course, in our parts of the world, we'd have weeds coming up constantly). But I wish they didn't TRIM every plant in sight--subject for a future post. Happy New Year!

  6. Dear Rose.....xeriscaping....I have never heard of this before.
    What a wonderful idea.....water is so precious.
    Planting native is most certainly the way to go.....with a changing climate, natives are able to survive.....they have adapted to changes over many many years......
    Native wildflowers I think is the perfect answer......they are the survivors......despite a dreadful summer and changeable winter, I still have some in flower!!!

    When Mr P and I visited Spain in the summer the grass was watered every night. Huge golf courses had been landscaped in this region, one of the hottest in Spain. How shortsighted is this?
    I love the idea of no grass, just gravel, this is perfect for hot, dry climates......and perfect for the wildlife.....

    Good post Rose........enjoy your evening.....Happy New Year......

  7. My compliments! Great word for x. I should do a lot moe xeriscaping. You know how I hate to water. :} As you have said, if we are going to be dserious about conserving our precious water, more are going to have to adopt this planting style.

    I loved seeing more of your trip-such a pretty area.

  8. I had never heard of Xeriscaping until now.
    I love the top photo in particular. It seems so perfectly balanced. Love it.
    Happy New Year, Rose.

  9. I've never heard of this term before. Great pics and informative prose.

  10. Hi Rose! I thank you for your interesting post! I learnt several new words today: xenon=stranger, xeros=dry. I hope I can remember them!!
    I wish you a very great new year!

  11. Hi Rose, excellent choice for the x day! We have had to do a switch here in SE TN to xeriscaping too. No one here has automatic watering systems, a good thing I guess, until we have the drought conditions experiences the last couple of years. The plants that thrive, like the gaillardias, have shown us the way to switch over our plantings. But they must be able to take more rain too, our newspaper headline today read that we received nine inches of rain this December, a new record! Saving water is always a good thing, no matter your conditions!
    Hope your 2009 is the best year ever!

  12. Your choice of "X"word is very good and informative Rose. I can't wait to see what "Y" and "Z" will be. It seems this exercise ends with the most difficult letters.

    I just love the first picture. I could really get into Xeriscaping if it didn't rain so much here and I had more sun available to grow plant in. I think those cactus are just marvelous.

    Have a Happy and Healthy New Year Rose.

  13. Being a registered tradmarked name is very interesting indeed. It is something we all might need to think about with all the drought of late.

    You have a Happy and Safe New Year too!

  14. A very interesting post; I learned a new word and much more!

    Happy New Year!

  15. When I was in school we studied this a bit. It really is a way to have beautiful color without having to water bunches.

    I really like Blanket flower. I'm sure mine croaked because it was planted in too wet of a bed. I think I will try it again in a much more dry area.

    Happy New Year to you too Rose!

  16. MG, Fortunately, we haven't had a bad drought for several years, but I do remember 1988, which was horrible here. At the time I didn't have a garden. It's been such a pleasure meeting you, too!

    Joyce, If I hadn't gone to Arizona, I probably never would have come up with an X post:)

    Cosmo, Enjoy the warm sunshine! I don't think I could live in "rock country" for too long--I would miss the trees.

    Cheryl, It does seem foolish to plant something that needs so much watering, doesn't it? I am researching more and more native plants for future planting. I am glad to live where we can have "real" trees, though:)

    Beckie, It was nice not having to water so much this past summer. I am still going through all my pictures from the Botanical gardens:)

    Maggie May, I love the scenery in Arizona, but I would miss the trees and the greenery if I lived there very long.

    Anthonynorth, Thank you for stopping by!

    Reader Wil, Thank you. I too a couple years of Latin in high school, but a little Greek would have been nice, too:) I, too, am adding to my vocabulary.

    Frances, I know that you have experienced drought the last few years. One thing I don't know, either, is what happens to some of these plants when we get too much rain. Actually, that was the case here this summer, and most of my plants--except tomatoes!--did fine.

    Lisa, We should consider ourselves lucky that we do have so much rain, I guess. I have no ideas yet for Y and Z:)

    Tina, I found this out through just a little research. Apparently, Colorado also has experienced some drought. Happy New Year to you, too!

    Kim, Thank you, and a happy New Year to you as well!

    Susie, This word wasn't even coined when I was in school:) I have a new variety of gaillardia, "Oranges and Lemons", which survived a flooding this spring. You just never know.

  17. Prickly Pear Cactus also grows well here. I don't grow it because I don't like spiny things.

  18. Well I learned something new today.
    Thank you.
    Happy New Year.

    Bear((( )))

  19. Rose, hats off to you for this brilliant X post. That's a new word for me. I'm very impressed. I've enjoyed your posts and comments this year. Happy New Year!

  20. Xeriscape, one of my favorite words coined in one of my favorite years: 1978! High school graduation, started college, met Hubby.... Wait a minute, it's a registered trademark! Does Denver Water Management still collect royalties? Maybe garden-bloggers are exempt. Let's hope so. I'm hoping your New Year is just perfect for your garden and anything else your heart desires.

  21. Xeriscaping is what it's all about here in Phoenix, but we still have our share of folks with grassy, irrigated lawns. I like my landscape because it is easy care, and of course the plus is lower water bills!
    Hope you have a wonderful New Year!

  22. Wow an interesting word!

    I can't remember if I've wished you a Happy New Year (not tipsy here promise!!)I hope 2009 brings peace and happiness to you and your family :)

    Also ......the word verification now is reading 'faceweed'! Do you have one of those in the garden?!!I wonder what it would look like?

  23. Rose, What a great choice for "X"! The things I learn in the world of blogging....great shots and I love native plants....we have a very small native plant part of our yard. If it were up to our daughter, our entire yard would be native....as much as I would like to do that....our village has definite rules about height and as you know, many of our prairie plants reach a fairly good height...higher than the village would like!!! Hope your New Year brings more gardening tidbits my way!

  24. happy new year to you! love the info on x.

  25. MMD, Actually I don't grow cacti either after my son grabbed one when he was two. It took forever to pull out all those little spines!

    Bear, Happy New Year to you, too!

    Sarah, I have only learned about this word in the last year or so.

    W2W, Oh dear, I hope the copyright police don't come after me!

    Aiyana, Yes, I saw a lot of irrigation in Phoenix. The less watering I have to do the better, just because of the time factor!

    Suburbia, LOL, I don't have a "faceweed" in my garden, although some mornings I might be described that way:)

    Neva, I read that xeriscaping is frowned upon in some places--thanks for helping me understand! Some of our native plants look like weeds to other people:) Happy New Year!

    Marmee, Thanks; I hope you are having a good New Year, too.

  26. Rose, I think you're only in trouble if you mispronounce it.

  27. An appropriate form of gardening for the summer droughts we've been getting these last few years.

  28. Dear Rose, An excellent post and terrific photos...I was totally struck by how brown Arizona seemed to eyes that were accustomed to green everywhere! The houses, the rocks, the roofs, but the Oleander and Bougainvillea made the street plantings and yards pop!

    In my perfect garden world;-) I have a water collection system, a cistern and when we experience our summer droughts I am prepared. Dreams are for dreaming, right!



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