The Brandon Sun Review - Creating the Prairie Xeriscape

The and Sun
Reviewed by: Albert Parsons

There's more to the low-water garden than decorative stone I stand corrected!. I attended the Brandon Garden Club's meeting last week and thoroughly enjoyed Sara Williams' talk 'Creating the Prairie Xeriscape' and I have had to adjust how I think and write about xeriscaping. Although I have always known that the definition of Xeriscape is gardening in such a way as to minimize water requirements, I had gradually started to use the term synonymously with the southwest garden style, which can be best described as 'zero-scaping' inorganic mulches like river rock and decorative stone with just a few plants for accent, readers who have spent any time in the Arizona-Texas-New Mexico area of the United States will be quite familiar with this style. The presentation by Williams -a renowned University of Saskatchewan horticulturist and author -remind me that xeriscaping is not rocks and gravel but includes a wide variety of gardening styles -some with nary a rock in sight! She listed six principles of xeriscaping: designing the garden for water retention, improving the soil, reducing lawn areas (grass uses huge amounts of water), efficient use of various forms of irrigation, using mulch, and selecting appropriate plants and grouping them according to water requirements. Having a good soul base to a garden, at least on half metre deep, is essential to a good garden no matter whether it is a Xeriscape or not. Good soil produces a healthier garden that is more resilient and that will tolerate stress better than one with poor soil. Using mulches, particularly organic ones, will prevent moisture loss, reduce weed problems, and add fertility to the soil over the long term. Watering thoroughly but less often and watering only where water is needed are two important practices. Watering in the morning or at night and using drip as opposed to overhead watering are all techniques designed to reduce water use by reducing evaporation. Choice and location of plants, however, is by far the most important aspect of creating a Xeriscape. Reducing lawn areas that are subject to heavy traffic or that are not used, and replacing them with drought-tolerant and tough perennial ground covers that would be suitable for this purpose. In her book, which is full of colourful photographs, she also gives valuable information about how to go about creating your own Xeriscape, starting with a site analysis and scale drawing, and ending with the finishing touches that can personalize the garden and make it your own. Throughout the book, and during her presentation to the more than 80 folks who attended her talk, she invariably came back to the same theme -that a Xeriscape garden can be any style and contain anything you wish.

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