Xeriscaping: The Art of Landscape Water Conservation

The word Xeriscape (from the Greek word xeros, meaning dry) was coined by employees at Denver Water, Denver, Colorado’s water department, to describe a landscape design that minimizes water usage. The term has now come to encompass all methods of landscaping geared toward the conservation of water, and is fast becoming an ideal set of methodologies to create sustainable landscapes, especially in arid areas.

What is Xeriscaping?

The art of Xeriscaping uses techniques that reduce or completely eliminate the need for additional water for landscaping by focusing on plants that consume relatively less water. Studies show that about 30 percent of water consumption in the suburbs goes towards outdoor irrigation, and of that, 50 percent is lost to evaporation or run-off before the roots can take up the water. With a 15 percent opportunity to save water, xeriscaping has become a popular landscaping method of modern gardens.

How Can I Implement Xeriscaping in My Garden?

There are a few simple steps any homeowner can take to reduce water consumption in the garden and help the environment.

Efficient design: Implement this step when first planning your landscape and considering plants. Hardscaping and softscaping both lend themselves to water conservation; one by basic design and the other by choice of plants. Grouping plants with similar watering needs is one way to accomplish this. For sloping gardens, plants that use less water can be nearer the top and those with higher water requirements at the bottom so the run-off can help save water when you start watering from the top. These are just two examples, and there are many other ways to accomplish this.

Soil Quality Improvement: Using mulch, compost and manure can help retain water for a longer period, and even increase the amount of water the soil can hold. Any gardening supplies store should be able to help you choose the right options for the specific plants in your landscape. The key is to identify the methods that best suit the lay of your land, sun exposure and type of flora.

Smart Irrigation Systems: You can control these systems intelligently, offering a great opportunity to save water in the long run. Systems that are merely automatic can actually waste a lot of water so if you’re putting one in, make sure it has a microchip controlling the flow of water by weather conditions and other parameters.

Regular Weeding and Pruning: It’s surprising how much water is “stolen” by opportunistic plants. Weeding your garden on a regular basis ensures that your plants get the bulk of the water you feed them. Pruning is another way to conserve water – the smaller the plant, the less water it will use. Besides, it will also aesthetically enhance your private Eden.

Try any or all of these methods and watch your water usage drop drastically. Using the right combination of xeriscaping methods along with regular monitoring can save hundreds of gallons of water every year. And you know what they say: every drop counts.

Terrace Gardening for Sloping Landscapes

Making the best of an undesirable situation is what terrace gardening is all about. Although a sloping landscape is difficult to work with, it can provide the perfect setting for a multi-themed garden – each terrace with its own collection of landscape elements that contribute to the garden as a whole.

Professional Input

The first step to creating a terrace garden is to hire a professional hardscaping contractor. Hardscaping is the art of using stone and other elements to create boundaries and recesses within the space so each are well-defined and amenable to a unique combination of plants, ornaments, furniture, etc. The reason you want to use a professional for this job is that it can be time-consuming and requires a certain amount of specialized expertise that only an experienced contractor can bring to the table.

Naturally, you can contribute your own ideas to the contractor during the planning phase of your terrace garden. You may want to suggest the creation of ‘mini-zones’ that will provide the base for your softscaping ideas later on in the project. These zones can be designed any way you want, and can be miniature-theme-driven; or, you could divide them into planting areas, socializing areas and ornament areas. You can even set aside one zone for a waterscape such as a pond or a mini-waterfall, a zone for a rock garden and perhaps another for a different purpose.

Focal Points of the Terrace Garden

When you’re working with a multi-terraced slope, your visitors’ eyes will be drawn to the top and bottom levels. These are the areas where you can put your full creative energies to work. You want these to be the ‘focal points’ of the garden so they need some landscape or garden feature that stands out from the remaining areas; it could be a simple, but elegant garden table and chair set, or even a nice bonsai creation right in the middle of the space, with complementary flowers all around. There are no rules, and the only requirement is that these areas be attractive to viewers.

Path-breaking Creativity

After you plan and design each portion of the garden, focus your attention to the pathway. Steps are great, or even pavers on the slope would be a great idea, as long as you make sure they are made of a material that won’t become slippery in the rain. The ultimate purpose is to turn it into something that connects all the parts of your garden. This critical aspect of your terrace garden is the one that will bring all the elements together and create something of a ‘botanical garden’ experience as your guests walk through and admire your handiwork.

Building a terrace garden can be hard work, and expensive too. Make sure you get an accurate quote for all the aspects of your garden, including hardscaping, drainage, planting, lawns, etc. before you undertake this project. If you know what to pay, you won’t end up with a humungous, unexpected bill at the end.


How to Maintain a Living Fence

A living fence is a beautiful (not to mention green) way to score a bit of privacy in your home and backyard. These types of fences hide your outdoor area away from the prying eyes of nosy neighbors and they’re usually much easier on the eyes than plain Jane fences made of wood.

Thankfully, maintaining a living fence is not too terribly difficult provided you remember one key thing: like all plants, living fences need water, nutrients, and protection from pests. If you prefer a more “polished” appearance in your yard, make plans to prune your living fence from time to time as well.


For most living fences, water should never be much of a problem. The water your fence receives naturally from rain and groundwater is usually enough to keep it thriving – unless, of course, you live in a particularly arid climate. Even in the best of climates, however, your living fence may need a little extra water. This can happen during particularly dry periods, such as droughts. Keep an eye on things when rain is scarce, and water manually when your living fence is looking a bit droopy.

The exact amount of water your living fence needs during dry periods is entirely dependent on what species of plant you choose. Some plant species require more water than others. For example, willow shrubs typically require a bit more water than evergreen shrubs.


In order to grow and thrive, living hedges also need nutrients. Nitrogen especially helps plants develop lush, leafy green foliage. If your soil is lacking in nutrients, there’s a good chance you may need to add a fertilizer.

A commercial fertilizer with an equal amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium is a good choice for most living hedges. You can add some well-rotted manure to the soil as well for a burst of extra nutrients. Simply spread these fertilizers around the base of the plants that make up your living fence.

Organic Protection from Pests

Pests are an all-too-common problem for many home gardeners and landscapers. Certain pests can ravage your hedges, leaving them ragged and sickly looking in no time flat. Fortunately, you can use a few little-known tricks to protect your living fence from unwanted visitors organically.

Hot peppers – think cayenne or jalapenos – steeped in hot water for several hours make an excellent pest deterrent. Simply spray the mixture on the foliage of your living fence after it has cooled. Animals such as deer and rabbits are repelled by the taste and won’t bother the plants after you apply it. You can also mix water with a small amount of liquid dish detergent and spray the leaves to deter insects.

Pruning and Training

To keep your living fence from looking ragged, prune it periodically. Use hedge clippers to remove a small amount of foliage until you shape the fence to your satisfaction. Snip off stray branches, twigs, and leaves as well as dead or damaged foliage.

Living fences are fantastic because they blend with your yard’s existing landscaping and add to the aesthetic appeal of your home. They are easy to maintain with a few simple guidelines and you will enjoy them for years to come with very little additional work after the initial planting.