Photo By: Courtesy of Astrid Gaiser
When I start talking about water-wise gardens, I get excited. My audience’s eyes, however, seem to glaze over and I can hear the occasional sigh.
“Another one of these barren landscapes,” they think.
Gravel, desert look, spiny plants, a layer of dust – that’s the picture in their minds. And maybe it is in yours, too. It’s not surprising, especially after seeing the many examples of “water-wise and barren” we have been treated to over the past 20-something years. They were great from an environmental point of view, but beautiful or enjoyable to live with? Perhaps not.
So how about “water-wise, lush and quirky”? Water-wise can be good for the environment, fun, colorful and easy to maintain.
Gardens that are beautiful and enjoyable to hang out in can boast some redeeming features that make them easier to live among.
Gravel “flooring” can create an area that holds stormwater naturally in the winter and is ideal for an outdoor living room. Nonpervious hardscaping would encourage runoff into the Bay, but a gravel area allows water to be retained just long enough to sink into the ground and help restore groundwater levels. This requires no special drainage area. It often is enough to make an educated decision on “flooring” material that positively impacts the environment.
Using low-growing, noninvasive plants such as thyme works well as a lawn substitute. The lawns establish within 12 to 18 months to a fully covering groundcover. The alternative lawn needs watering only every 10 days and mowing only once a year. Again, another environmentally conscious decision.
A thyme lawn brings another benefit – it turns lilac once a year for approximately two to three weeks in June – the perfect time for a garden party.
Planting a mix of nonspiny succulents, California natives and Mediterranean plants creates drought-tolerant choices for the garden. They naturally stay in their given space and do not outgrow their welcome, which minimizes maintenance. They also provide year-round texture and color. These plants are great for owners – and for the planet.
Gardens with drought-tolerant plants require very little maintenance. Most need attention only every three months for a couple of hours. Everything the garden needs can be handled in only four visits per year. Compared to the usual weekly maintenance requirements of other gardens, this is a huge time and budget saver.
A water-wise garden delights its owners with its minimal upkeep requirements. Innovative ideas, such as a lilac lawn, allow people to enjoy a lush and peaceful retreat without nagging thoughts of maintenance.