xe-ri-scape/ˈzi(ə)rəˌskāp/Noun: A garden or landscape that needs little supplemental water. Verb: Landscape an area using water conservation principles.
- Planning & Design
- Soil Preparation
- Turf Considerations
- Plant Selection
- Efficient Irrigation
Benefits of a Xeriscape
You may think of Hawaii as a tropical paradise, where it rains every afternoon. But water conservation is a concern for Hawaii too. In 1989, the Honolulu Board of Water Supply created the Halawa Xeriscape Garden to demonstrate and promote awareness of xeriscaping. Each August, the garden hosts a very popular “Un-thirsty Plant Sale.” The garden showcases both native and international plants from dry, tropical regions. To read more, visit the Friends of Halawa Xeriscape Garden (FOHXG) site. This non-profit community organization supports the water conservation program of the garden.
Favorite xeriscape plants that grow well in Hawaii include: sedum, echeveria, and kalanchoe.
Christina Elliott from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory describes some of the drought tolerant plants growing in the the Alameda County Master Gardener’s Demonstration Garden. She features the following plants for California gardens: California fuchsia, Penstemon, Mexican sage, Lavender, Bog salvia, Parker salvia, Crape myrtle and Mexican feather grass. These plants would work well in xeriscapes.
Xeriscapes can be useful as well as beautiful. In addition to color, texture and shade, they can provide fresh, organic food. Here are a couple of edible, drought-tolerant plants for your consideration. Check to make sure the type you choose is appropriate for your local climate.
Adriatic, Mission and Kadota figs are Common Fig types that do well in Mediterranean climates with hot dry summers and cool wet winters. Fig trees need well-drained soil, plenty of sun (8 hours or more) and heat to ripen the fruit.
In addition to the fruit, the large fig leaves are also edible. They have a coconut smell and flavor. You can use them to wrap fish, chicken or pork to give them a coconut flavor.
The trees can grow to 15-30 feet in height. With a wide canopy, fig trees provide welcome shade during the summer. They require minimal water and are drought tolerant, once established.
The serviceberry produces a blueberry-like fruit. It can grow to between 6 and 18 feet tall and can be pruned to look more like a tree. It can also be used as a windbreak or a nice alternative to a fence. Beautiful white blooms appear in the spring before the fruit is produced.
The bush grows well in full sun to partial shade. It needs six hours of sunlight, but also needs shade to prevent the berry skins from becoming tough.
Serviceberries appeal to birds too. If you plan to eat the fruit, be sure to cover the berries with netting before they ripen.
These are just two of a wide variety of edible, drought-tolerant plants that are appropriate for xeriscapes. Check with your local nursery or ask around to find those that will thrive where you live.
In response to drought conditions, Denver Water created the term “Xeriscape” in 1981 to promote water-wise landscapes. Denver Water maintains a Xeriscape Demonstration Garden shown in this video. The video provides a good introduction to xeriscaping.