Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Rocky Mountains
April, 2004
Regional Report

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Water-thrifty plants like rudbeckia and coneflower add color and texture.

The Water-Thrifty Landscape

Landscaping with plants that require little or no supplemental watering has become popular throughout the Rocky Mountain region. Unlike a "zeroscape" that consists of gravel, yucca, and cacti, water-thrifty or xeriscape gardening offers attractive and functional landscapes that withstand conditions of drought. To a seasoned and native gardener and horticulturist, water conservation techniques are not new, but a matter of common sense.

In 1993 the American Association of Nurserymen (AAN) offered suggestions for creating such a landscape and called it "naturescaping." It was built on seven principles. As we approach another season of water restrictions in many municipalities, and limited water resources throughout the area, your yard and garden may need a retrofit to become more efficient in water usage, yet remain attractive. If you're planning to install a new landscape, following these guidelines will go a long way in making your landscape more water wise and saving you water and time.

Planning your naturescape is as easy and fun as planning any type of garden. Talk to professional landscape contractors to find out which plants will do well in your area. You may be surprised to find that some very lush and colorful plants are low on water consumption and they may fit into your landscape perfectly.

Soil Improvement
Soil improvement is another easy and beneficial step in building a naturescape. Soil that is well prepared (which includes incorporating organic materials as deeply as possible) before planting influences the plant's initial development. Plants placed in the proper soil will be healthier, often needing less water than their weaker counterparts.

Wise Irrigation
Efficient irrigation is a large part of naturescaping. Your irrigation system can be simple, such as a hand-held hose, or more elaborate, such as an underground sprinkler system. Whichever you choose, make sure you plan your watering to get optimal results. Deep, infrequent waterings are generally best.

Appropriate Lawn Areas
Working with appropriate lawn areas can help you in conserving water. Many gardeners find that the properly placed patio, terrace, or deck can be just what they need to give their garden visual impact. While no one would advocate a lawn or garden filled with concrete or gravel, the proper amount of vegetation balanced against man-made structures can give a garden charm and personality while reducing water consumption.

Mulching -- the application of organic materials around the base of plants -- can help prevent soil erosion, reduce weeds, and reduce water evaporation. Mulch conserves water and keeps plants healthy and strong.

Low Water-Demand Plants
The use of low water-demand plants is clearly the centerpiece of naturescaping. This doesn't mean, however, that you will be limited in your selection of plants of particular colors, shapes, or bloom periods. You can often find low water-demand plants that will fit nicely with your color scheme and your overall landscape approach.

Maintaining your naturescape means learning how to water all over again. You may find that watering less means having more time to sit back and enjoy your landscape.

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