Xeriscape Plants

Would a ‘dry’ garden have a water feature in it?

The gardening buzz at the moment, certainly not in the blogosphere but definitely here in Australia, is all about ‘xeriscape’ (commonly termed ‘waterwise’) gardening.
It’s the idea that people actually plant purposefully understanding that the garden will get no more water on it apart from what it recieves from the annual rainfall.

Fortunately, I live in Busselton which rests on the Yarrigidee artesian water basin, a water source that is often the envy of city dwellers and others in remote locations. The only reason I watch what I use is because it forces the credit card payments into overdrive. It’s not really an issue for us and we mock and scorn as the city-dwellers whinge over water restrictions and that their plants are wilting.

If I lived in a region where water was scarce I would definitely find alternative ways to plan and implement my garden. The main component of that garden would be choosing the correct plants. Your choice in your plant selections will either determine your future xeriscape success or consign it to the failures list.

Here are some of the plant types you will need to look for in your xeriscape garden;

  • Succulents & Cacti – Any succulent or cactus will grow very well in a xeriscaped garden. Their low water requirements make these plants a standout in any water-wise garden.
  • Grasses – Grasses are exceptional in xeriscaped gardens. Their foliage requires very little moisture and they direct any rainfall straight to the base of the plant.
  • Grey-foliage plants – Grey foliage plants are ideal due to their evaporation minimising characteristics. Their leaves are not as susceptible to the sun and hence they can retain most of their moisture.
  • Groundcovers – Many low growing groundcovers are great for xeriscaped gardens. They provide a natural mulch to the soil and can retain moisture at their roots also restricting the sun’s evaporation.
  • Proteas & Grevilleas – While these plants still require a decent amount of rainfall, they can survive on an almost minimum amount. The beauty of these plants is their flowering and foliage colours which can be used as focus plants in your garden.
  • Dracaena Trees – Not to be confused with their relatives which are commonly used as indoor plants, Dragon Trees are fantastic in a dry garden setting. They keep a ‘tree’ shape yet won’t need any extra watering.

While the above list is a good “what to plant” list here are some plants that won’t survive in xersicaped gardens;

  • Roses – Unless you live in an area that receives an abundance of annual rainfall with very mild summers, planting roses in a xersicape garden is not wise. In zones that have a mediterranean climate (such as Busselton) these would fail within the first summer.
  • Most flowering plants – Many flowering plants require large amounts of water to produce their blooms.
  • Hebes – As an example, hebes have dark green foliage which allows evaporation to process easily. Any fleshy dark green leaf plants would be unsuitable.
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