Sunday, January 16, 2022

The First Principle of Xeriscape is Design

 There are seven principles of Xeriscape.  They were created by the Denver Water Department in the early 1980's.  The first principle is Design.  Some thoughtful planning should go into the design of a water-wise landscape. You may want to consider these things:

 - Efficient water use and method of irrigation:  How will you water?  And how can you water efficiently?

 - Use of landscape:  Do you need some turf grass areas for kids and pets and entertaining?  Can you eliminate turf grass in areas where it is not used, like the parking strip?  Do you need hardscape like patios and sidewalks?

 - Aesthetics:  Are there places where the lawn browns out every summer and could be replaced with something more heat and drought tolerant?  Are there places where you enjoy flowers and greenery? Do you need some space for a vegetable garden and fruit trees?

 - Budget:  Prepare for the expense involved in transitioning your yard into a Xeriscape.  You may want to  estimate the costs of things like irrigation materials, mulch, plants, excavation, hardscape, etc.  

                                roses and catmint - waterwise flowering perennials


Monday, January 10, 2022

What is Xeriscaping?

 The New Year 2022 is here and it's time to start thinking about gardening!  The last two summers in Utah have been very hot and dry.  Many of us are planning and redesigning landscapes that will require less water.  There is a lot of information available about the concept of "xeriscape" and a lot of misconceptions.  In the next several posts, I will be discussing the definitions, principles and misconceptions surrounding the topic of xeriscaping.  I hope this will help create a better understanding of what it is and what it isn't.

For starters, here is the list of the 7 principles of xeriscaping as they were originally introduced by the Denver Water Department in 1981.  

 - planning and design

 - soil

 - practical turf areas

 - efficient irrigation

 - plant selection

 - mulching

 - maintenance

Stay tuned for in-depth explanations of these xeriscape principles.  It's not just rocks, cactus and yucca.  And it's definitely NOT "ZERO-scape".

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Waterwise And Drought-Tolerant Shrubs For Utah

 This drought is really setting in and landscapes in Utah are suffering.  Many locations are experiencing restrictions on landscape water.  I some areas, we are being asked to water only twice a week.  Here is a list of waterwise shrubs that will thrive in Utah. These shrubs will require only a moderate amount of water (deep soaking every 7 to 10 days from mid June to late August, no water spring and fall).  However, they will need extra water when planted and for a few weeks after so that the roots can become established.  Here is the list:

larger shrubs:

hedge rose, shrub rose

rose of sharon


butterfly bush

pinyon pine

smaller shrubs:

oak-leaf hydrangea (afternoon and evening shade)


gro-low sumac

Caryopteris (Blue Mist Spirea)

Oregon grape

rose and miniature rose 


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Can I Plant During A Heatwave And Drought?

 You can plant during a heatwave and drought, but the challenge of keeping the root zone damp will be extra difficult.  A plant needs moist soil to become established and spread it's roots.  Waterwise and drought tolerant plants need time and water to send out their wide and deep network of roots before they can handle heat and lack of moisture.  Also, if you are experiencing water restrictions, keeping the water going for a new planting might not be possible.   Fall and spring are better for plant establishment.  Hopefully, some rainstorms and cooler temperatures will help.  Use the hot times of summer to prepare the  garden by weeding and mulching.

Gaura - waterwise landscape plant for drought-tolerant gardens

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Top 5 Plants That Don't Need Any Water - Drought-tolerant In Utah, Once Established

 The heat and the drought in Utah are setting in and it's hard to keep things watered.  There are some plants that don't need any extra water other than what falls out of the sky.  They do, however, need water when first planted in order for their root systems to become established.  If they are planted in summer, this might mean some hand watering every day.   Once established (maybe a month or two after planting), these plants can usually thrive with no supplemental water.  

Ephedra - Green Mormon Tea;   This plant is native to Utah and forms a nice green shrub.  It can tolerate a little water, but it doesn't require it.  Very heat and drought tolerant.

Ephedra - Green Mormon Tea

Yucca - There are several varieties;  spiky foliage with flowers on tall stalks.  Very heat and drought tolerant.


Russian Sage - Perovskia atriplicifolia;  This is a large perennial that dies back during the winter and grows and blooms in the summer.  It is not native to Utah but it loves our cold wet winters and hot dry summers.  It attracts many pollinators.

Perovskia atriplicifolia - Russian Sage (pictured with yellow flowered yarrow)

Rubber Rabbit Brush - Chrysothamnus nauseosus;  this is a native shrub that has silver/grey foliage and bright yellow flowers in late summer and fall.  It also attracts pollinators

Chrysothamnus nauseosus - Rubber Rabbit Brush

Desert Four o'clock - Mirabilis multiflora;  this is a low growing perennial that dies back every winter and returns in summer to form a large, bushy plant with green foliage and pink flowers.  Native to the Western United States.

Mirabilis - Desert Four O'clock

Saturday, June 19, 2021

How Do I Kill My Lawn?

This heatwave and drought have really got us re-thinking the lawn.   Water restrictions are starting to happen in some places in Utah and now is the time to re-evaluate our landscapes.  Basically, keep some lawn where you will use it and enjoy it.  Remove lawn where it is not being used or where it is difficult to keep it watered.  Consider replacing it with waterwise ground covers or drought tolerant perennials.  

There are 3 ways to kill or remove your lawn:

1.  Dig it up or rent a sod cutter to dig it up.  This is a lot of work and you will need to let the area sit for several weeks to see what you missed and where grass is trying to come back.  Then dig the re-growth out.

2.  Kill it with grass-killing chemicals.  Make sure you read the instructions carefully and always use safety precautions if using something toxic.  You can't plant anything there for a while because of the chemicals.  Also, the chemicals are not safe to use in hot temperatures.  They can drift onto other plants (and people and pets) when they evaporate.

3. Solarize with black plastic.  You can buy black plastic sheeting in the paint department of the local hardware store.  Spread in out over the grass and pin it down with landscape fabric staples or rocks or bricks.  Make sure no light or water can get under it. Make sure it is secure enough so the wind won't blow it away.  The heat of the sun on the plastic will kill the grass.  In summer, this should take about 4 or 6 weeks.  

Friday, June 18, 2021

Six Water-wise Ground Cover Plants For Utah Gardens and Parking Strips - Drought-tolerant and Heat-tolerant!

 Water-wise ground covers are excellent plants for areas where low-growing plants are needed. They  provide flowers and foliage and they protect the soil.  The parking strip (the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb) is often the first area of lawn to be removed when gardeners are seeking to reduce the thirsty turf grass.   A great way to replace the turf grass is to plant drought-tolerant ground covers.  

 * The following list includes plants that all have the same water needs once established.  

 * They will all require watering every day for a week after you plant them, and water every several days for 2 or 3 weeks after that.  After they are growing and thriving, they will only need water every 7 or 10 days from mid-June through August.  No water needed in spring or fall.

* These plants will spread but they are not aggressive.  They are easy to pull up and remove from areas where they have gotten carried away with themselves.

 * These plants are perennials and will come back every spring.

 * These plants provide food for bees and butterflies!

 * These plants will do best with overhead sprinklers;  drip system emitters make it difficult for the plants to spread as the water only drips in one place.

 * These plants will need to be spaced apart when planted - 2 or 3 feet.

 * These plants will appreciate some nice mulch like bark chips or soil pep.

The list:

Hardy Ice Plant

Creeping Phlox



Creeping Thyme


Hardy Ice Plant - Delosperma cooperi or Delosperma nubigenum.  There are several varieties with flowers ranging in color from pale lavender to hot orange.  They are succulent plants with summer flowers.

Delosperma cooperi

Delosperma nubigenum

Hardy Ice Plant - waterwise ground cover

Creeping Phlox - Available in several colors, this has a great show of flowers in the spring.  Green foliage for the rest of the summer.

Creeping Phlox is a great water-wise ground cover!

Zauschneria latifolia - Hummingbird Trumpet - This wonderful plant attracts hummingbirds all summer!  

Zauschneria latifolia - drought and heat tolerant perennial

Plumbago - Ceratostigma plumbaginoides - gorgeous blue flowers in late summer and fall

Plumbago - waterwise ground cover , blooms in the fall

Plumbago, blue flowers, up close

Creeping Thyme - Thymus - there are many varieties of creeping thyme.  They are almost flat, they bloom in early to mid summer and the bees love them!  Great for hot sunny places.
Creeping Thyme - water-wise ground cover

Snow-In-Summer - Cerastium tomentosa - The grey foliage is covered with snow-white flowers in early June.  Snip off the spent flowers when they are finished and enjoy the foliage for the rest of the season.
Snow in Summer, water-wise in Utah, heat tolerant ground cover