We are known for our xeriscape plants and when you come out you will see a mind-boggling variety of plants for xeriscapes. Some people think that they should only use native plants, and even though we also specialize in native plants, there are many great non-natives. Usually when people talk about xeriscape gardening, they think of rock garden kinds of plants or natives, but there are a lot of herbs that survive and even thrive in low water conditions.
Some people want to never irrigate their garden, and that is possible, but even with 5 waterings a year, you can have much more variety and diversity. Jim Knopf who has been xeriscaping for more than 30 years and who is the author of The Xeriscape Flower Gardener agrees with us that a true xeriscape is watered no more than once a week. Of course, you could water for 5 hours once a week or 5 minutes, so this is only a vague guideline. We usually water for a half hour each time. But the idea is that you should water enough for the water to penetrate at least 6 inches. We often get rains that seem like they really watered the garden, but if we dig down, we will find that it is wet only 2″ deep. So the only way to know if you have watered the right amount is to dig down 2″, the 4″ then 6″ and ask: Is it dry, moist or soggy? More plants are killed from overwatering than from underwatering. That is because plant need oxygen just as much as they need water.
After 30 years of people trying to grow xeriscapes, there are many good examples of water-smart gardens and you will learn more visiting those gardens and growing plants in your own yards, than reading or going to lectures. Mikl’s first xeriscape garden at Harlequin’s Gardens is now 30 years old, and it has been watered on average 5 times a year. We invite you to come out to visit that garden and the other demonstration gardens at our nursery, because none of them is watered more than once a week. The other reason that we think you should see them is that they are home-style gardens, not managed and maintained to be in Fine Gardening Magazine. They ain’t perfect, but they are beautiful.
Each plant has its own different characteristics and so not all will tolerate the same degree of drought, nor will they be drought tolerant under the same conditions. Some need part shade, others need protection from late afternoon sun or from hot winds; some benefit from a cool root run under a nearby rock; others should be dead-headed after flowering; some like clay, and some need sand. Many will grow faster and lusher with more than a monthly watering.
Therefore, it is necessary for the gardener to watch the plants through the seasons and possibly to try the same plant in different locations to better learn the needs of each plant. Established in the right spot, a plant will not be difficult to grow and will give its best performance on the least amount of water. Our knowledgeable staff is also here to help you with your selections. We’re as well known for outstanding customer service from our tender staff as we are for our selection of tough plants.
Mikl has written extensively about Xeriscape so please feel free to search his articles for more info.
Here are three great lists to start with: