Posts

For those who live in the western half of the United States, water has always been a precious resource. In recent years, this has become especially true during a long-term drought has made its impact felt.

As a result, many of us find ourselves looking for ways to save water. The first place you should start is your landscape as that is the largest percentage of your water consumption.

Today, I’d like to show you examples of three different low water landscape options: 

Option #1

Drought Tolerant – This landscape is characterized by lush green, semi-tropical flowering plants. These include bougainvillea, lantana, oleanders, and yellow bells. All these do well in hot, arid climates in zones 9 and above. While most aren’t native to the Southwest, they are considered moderately drought tolerant and suitable for those who want more a lush look for the desert garden.  
For best results, deep water approximately once a week in summer and every 2 weeks in winter.
 

Option #2

Moderately Drought Tolerant – Native, flowering plants make up this type of landscape.  Plants like chuparosa, damianita, penstemon, Texas sage, and turpentine bush are examples of this.
Because these plants are native to the Southwestern region, they need infrequent watering to look their best – a good guideline is to water deeply approximately every 10 days in summer and every 3 weeks in winter.
 
 

Option #3

Extremely Drought Tolerant – For a landscape to exist on very little water, a collection of cacti and succulents are the way to go. Columnar cacti such as Mexican fence post, organ pipe, saguaro, and totem pole add height to the garden. Lower growing succulents like agave, candelilla, and desert milkweed can be used for mid-level interest.  
Golden barrel, hedgehog cacti and mammillaria fill in smaller spaces and look great next to boulders. Once established, they do best with watering approximately every 3 weeks spring through fall.
online-class-desert-gardening-101

Tired of struggling in the desert garden? Sign up for my online course, DESERT GARDENING 101.

 
It’s important to note that shrubs should be watered deeply to a depth of 2 ft., which promotes deep root growth, and the soil stays moister longer. Succulents do well at 12″ depth. 
**Watering guidelines can vary from region to region within the desert Southwest, so it’s wise to consult with your local city’s landscape watering guidelines.
 
Whichever option you select, creating an attractive water-saving landscape is within your reach that will thrive in our drought-stricken region.

Do you have a pot or two that you fill with flowering annuals each season?


I must confess that I did this for years – both in the landscapes I managed and at home.  In fall, I would plant combinations of alyssum, geraniums, lobelia, petunias and snapdragons.  In summer it was celosia, salvia and/or vinca that I turned to for color. 

But, with many areas of the country experiencing significant drought conditions, perhaps it’s time to think about replacing thirsty flowering annuals with drought tolerant succulents in our containers.


On a recent visit to California, (which is suffering from extreme drought conditions), we walked through the small beach town of Carpinteria.  

This is a fun place to walk, especially through the downtown area with their plant nurseries and the beach is really a great one for swimming.  We used to camp near the beach as kids and spent swimming in the ocean.


A visit Carpinteria for us is never complete without a visit to crushcakes for their delicious cupcakes.

In front of their restaurant, I noticed a unique coffee pot container filled with aloes.


After eating my favorite vanilla cupcake, we continued our walk down the main street.


Other store fronts also had pots filled with attractive succulents.

In fact, what was unusual was that there weren’t any pots filled with flowering annuals, as you would normally see along a picturesque downtown area.  

That made me realize that while I love flowers, I didn’t miss them.  

The absence of flowering annuals, got me to thinking that if you live in an area where there is drought, or even if you don’t – maybe we should look at using succulents instead of flowering annuals?


Like flowering annuals and perennials, there are countless types of succulents available with soft, colorful shades and unique shapes.


Another reason to consider using succulents is that they are easy to grow – especially when compared to flowering annuals.

All you need is a container with holes for drainage, potting mix formulated for succulents and the succulents themselves.


You could plant a variety of succulents or even add some cacti into the mix…


 A container like this one above, needs water twice a month in summer and monthly in spring and fall.    


I loved this succulent container that I saw at recent visit to a client’s home.

 I must confess that I stopped growing flowering annuals a few years ago because succulents are easier to take care of – especially with watering.


  Using succulents instead of flowering annuals doesn’t have to be fancy – in fact, a single agave looks great by itself.


But, what if you aren’t a fan of succulents.  Is there a drought tolerant option instead of planting flowering annuals or perennials?


Believe it or not, bougainvillea makes a great container plant and they don’t need much water.  Simply water them deeply once a week in summer and twice a month spring and fall.  In winter, water them every 3 weeks.

**So what about you?  Could you ditch your containers filled with colorful flowers for a waterwise one filled with succulents?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Are you experiencing drought where you live?


You may be surprised to find that it is not only the West that is dealing with below average rainfall and its effects.


If you take a look at the U.S. Drought Monitor’s most recent drought map, you’ll see a lot of dark reds scattered about, particularly in California.


But, if you take a closer look, you can also see ares in the Northwest, Southeast and Northeast showing signs of drought as well.

Last month, I did a series of radio interviews on drought tolerant gardening.  Of course, you’d expect that one of the radio stations would be in California and it was.  But, other interviews were for radio stations in other areas that may not immediately come to mind when it comes to drought or abnormally dry conditions – Alabama, Oregon and Texas.

As a child growing up in California, I remember other times when drought was affecting this beautiful state.

On my most recent trip to California, I was struck by the brown hills with scattered trees that were showing the effects of drought.  

In a neighborhood setting, you could see some houses where the residents let their lawn die due either to strict water restrictions or voluntarily letting their lush green lawn turn brown.  Some landscape companies are now offering lawn painting services where they will come out and paint your brown lawn, green.

I decided to drive through my old neighborhood to see the house where I spent my teenage years.  I do this every few years whenever I am in town.  As I drove down the street, I saw three different examples of how the residents were dealing with the drought conditions.

I’d like to show you each of these examples and let you in on a secret – I grew up in one of these houses.

See if you can guess which one was my house…

Example 1:

When I was growing up in this neighborhood, everyone had a lawn.

However, the owners of this home ripped out their lawn in favor of a contemporary, drought tolerant landscape filled with succulents, ornamental grasses and a few arid adapted shrubs.  

I like the step stones leading up to the entry, don’t you?

The entire landscape had a layer of mulch to help conserve water and in this climate could survive on very little supplemental water.

Example 2:


This house with the ‘thirsty landscape’ is located just a few houses down from the drought tolerant landscape.  As you can see, the owners have kept their high water use landscape without any regard for the severe drought conditions present.

Large areas of lawn (including the parking strip), along with high-water use shrubs seemingly mock those who are trying their best to save water.

I sometimes wish that I had a parking strip.  I’d plant some beautiful, drought tolerant plants.  Maybe I should send the homeowners the book, “Hellstrip Gardening”?

Example 3:


This landscape is certainly not drought tolerant, but there are reduced lawn areas and even though the planting beds are not filled with drought tolerant plants – they do take less water than if they were taken up by a lawn.

I must admit solely on looks alone, that I prefer this landscape over the other two as long as rainfall amounts are normal.  But, in times of drought, I’d remove all of the lawn, add mulch and some drought tolerant ground covers like bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) or trailing lantana.

So, have you been able to guess which of these homes that I grew up in?


The home with the ‘thirsty landscape’!

The landscape has not changed from what it looked like throughout the 80’s.  

This was a great house to grow up in with its 6 bedrooms and large backyard filled with blackberry bushes, citrus trees, a large pine tree and two palm trees.

If you look carefully, you can see three maple trees in the middle of the backyard, just peeking above the roofline of the house.  My brother, sisters and I planted those trees in 1978.

How about you?

Are you experiencing drought where you live?  What do you do to save water in the landscape?