Friday, June 14, 2024 Jun 14, 2024
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Xeriscaping Basics

Xeriscaping not only saves money and water - it looks great, too.




This yard, featured on the 2005 Dallas Xeriscape Tour, is a perfect example of how xeriscaping can be just as colorful and interesting as any type of landscaping.

The Art of Xeriscaping
Keep your water bills low and invite native plants back into your yard.

Donna Ohland-Terry and her husband, Doyle Terry, have a shared passion. Several of them, in fact. Looking around their home and garden, it is clear that design, beauty, environmental awareness, and self expression are a fundamental part of their lives. Doyle is an artist and Donna a horticulturist. Both self-taught, their knowledge of plants and the gardening style of their choice, xeriscaping, is encyclopedic. Their interest in xeriscaping began on a trip to Santa Fe. Enchanted by the unique beauty of the southwest, they were also drawn to how locals gardened in harmony with the landscape and worked horticultural wonders within the limitations of New Mexico’s drought restrictions.

Since then, Donna has taken classes and read extensively about gardening, water conservation, and xeriscaping. In the garden, they have learned to experiment and observe nature. “Gardening is an art form,” says Doyle. “We wanted somewhere that we could dream, somewhere people could discover things as they walked through, somewhere intimate and personal.” And it is. Large cedar rounds, cut by Doyle, are as artistic as they are functional, serving as the steps into a small side yard. In addition to the nearly 200 plant varieties in the garden, there are a pond and bird habitats (both manufactured and natural) everywhere, making this tiny sanctuary a haven for all forms of life.

Xeriscaping Basics
Xeriscaping is the practice of landscaping and gardening with water conservation in mind. Contrary to popular misconception, the word is not Zero-scape as in uses no water. Xeriscape is derived from the Greek root word xeros meaning dry and literally means dry landscape. It’s perfect for areas that are susceptible to drought, where water conservation is practiced, or simply for the environmentally sensitive gardener who respects the judicious use of all natural resources. Use these tips to get started:

* Plan your garden design with water conservation in mind from the beginning.

* Limit turf areas, and use drought-tolerant grasses where lawns are needed.

* Consider the water needs of all plants before you install them, and group plants that have similar moisture requirements. This allows you to pamper thirsty plants such as hydrangeas without over-watering other specimens.

* Amend soil with moisture-retentive organic material such as compost and manure.

* Mulch regularly. There are several mulches to choose from, depending on the needs of your plants and the aesthetic you are going for. Mulch helps regulate soil temperature and reduces moisture loss due to evaporation.

* Water only when plants need it, not on a regular, preset schedule. The goal is to water to a depth of 4 to 6 inches, and 1 to 1.5 inches of water will usually soak down that far. If you are installing a sprinkler system, choose one that puts out large drops of water, close to the ground, rather than a mist that sprays higher into the air. On hot summer days, these systems can lose as much as 80 percent of their water to evaporation.

  Hollyhocks and coriopsis are prime xeriscaping plants.


Grassroots Effort
Lawns are one of the biggest water-wasters, and, ironically, most people water them more than is needed. How much water does your lawn really need?

Tall Fescue every 4 days
St. Augustine every 5 days
Bermuda every 7-10 days
Buffalo grass every 2-3 weeks

Source: City of Dallas Water Utilities




Xeriscape Friendly Nurseries

Bruce Miller Nursery
1000 E. Beltline Rd., Richardson

North Haven Gardens
7700 Northhaven Rd.

Redenta’s Garden Center
2001 Skillman St.
(multiple locations)

1651 Wall St., Garland

Shades of Green
8801 Coit Rd., Frisco



Information and photos of water-wise plants:

Texas A&M University:

Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission:


A few books to help you on your way

Natural by Design: Beauty and Balance in Southwest Gardens by Judith Phillips

Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region by Sally and Andy Wasowski

Texas Wildflowers: A Field Guide by Campbell and Lynn Loughmiller and Lynn Sherrod

Xeriscape Color Guide: 100 Water-Wise Plants for Gardens and Landscapes by David Winger

Xeriscape Plant Guide: 100 Water-Wise Plants for Gardens and Landscapes by Denver Water

Xeriscape Gardening: Water Conservation for the American Landscape by Connie L. Ellefson, Tom L. Stephens, and Douglas F. Welsh