Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
November, 2011
Regional Report

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This tiny stonecrop is a perfect companion to rocks in a xeriscaped bed.

A Touch of Xeriscaping

It may seem a little unusual to think now about landscaping for next year, but the weather is getting a bit unpleasant, at least in my area, so I tend to spend less time outside and more time inside next to a fire in the evenings. I've been pondering some areas in the yard that were trouble spots this year and am beginning to make plans to make things better next year.

Hot Dry Sites
I have a very hot, dry bed under an eave that has never grown much of anything, and believe me, I've tried it all. So, next year, I'm going to take a step back and plant what will grow there instead of spending the growing season frustrated by trying to grow plants that will not thrive.

Start with One Bed
Because of the existing conditions, I want to take a closer look at xeriscaping. The concept is a holistic approach to water management that can integrate all parts of the landscape, but I'm going to start with this bed and then move into other parts of my landscape.

What is a Xeriscape Garden?
Xeriscaping does not mean a desert landscape, but rather a landscape in tune with the natural environment. It is not a specific "look" or a limited group of plants, but rather incorporates the use of drought tolerant plants that can thrive in the area being landscaped.

Principles of Xeriscaping
The landscape principles of xeriscaping include soil improvement to enable soil to better absorb water and allow for deeper roots, grading the land away from buildings to direct water flow, zoned irrigation, grouping plants with similar light and water requirements, reduction of turf areas, and careful plant choice.

Plant Choices
Many native plants will thrive with less than half the water normally used to care for more exotic landscape plants. Plants that have smaller leaves and leaves that are waxy or fuzzy actually use less water because they don't lose as much moisture to evaporation. Also, plants with succulent leaves such as sedum and moss rose store water for use in dry times. They are perfect candidates for a dry garden.

My Choices
Keeping in mind plants with fuzzy, small or gray leaves, I plan to use herbs in the bed. Thyme, lavender, and sage are all quite drought tolerant, and since this bed is also sunny, they should thrive. In fact, lavender often dies in a regular garden simply from moisture on the crown in winter. Well-drained, dry soil should keep lavender healthy for years. I also will add one of the low-growing sedums like dragon's blood. These succulent plants should give this whole bed an attractive, tough groundcover.

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