Xeriscape—the word was originally coined as a result of Denver Water, Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado and Colorado State University in discussing local water needs. The word is now trademarked by Denver Water, but is already commonly used to describe landscaping with water conservation as a major objective. The derivation of the word is from the Greek “xeros” meaning dry. The challenge—to reduce water usage. But rather than limiting creativity, this challenge has resulted in expanding the possibilities.
Xeriscape design solutions are as varied as the Colorado wildflowers. Xeriscape has opened our thinking about how our outdoor space can be used. We like to spend time outdoors but watering and mowing isn’t necessarily what we have in mind. Creating our own habitat as well as the habitat for others (bees, birds, bugs, etc.) is pretty important! The peace of mind we are seeking doesn’t always have to be up I -70, but is attainable in our own backyard. All with xeriscape intent and water saving results.
The old rule of a lawn-with-a-border no longer has to apply. We can think in new terms. Maybe a tranquil formal garden with the water feature and meditation patio, or a bird and bee sanctuary, or nature trail with native shrubs, flowering perennials and a fire circle. Or just raised beds for food and containers on the patio is a good low-water-use residential choice. There are many plant choices rated for the xeriscape landscape; annuals, perennials, shrubs, ornamental grasses, vines, bulbs and trees. And there are ways to help landscapes survive; smart water meters, drip irrigation, soil amendments, soaker hoses, water sensors and timers, and, of course, mulch.
From the horticulture department at CSU there are Seven Principles to Xeriscape Success; 1. Plan and design comprehensively. 2. Evaluate soil (and improve, if necessary.) 3. Create practical turf areas. 4. Use appropriate plants and group according to their water needs. 5. Water efficiently with a properly designed irrigation system. 6. Use organic mulches to reduce evaporation of water and weeds. 7. Practice appropriate landscape maintenance.