Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Xeriscaping Ninjas

Xeri is Greek for dry. Xeriscaping refers to a method of landscape design that minimizes water use.

We decided that our main goal was to create a beautiful garden without using as much water. Saving water is saving money, and our local law doesn't let us water often enough to keep the grass consistently green anyways.

We are ninja because we work in the night. Our neighbors wake up and see something new every once in a while. We thought it was a more fun than being Gnomes anyway.

Our first landscaping call to adventure comes from the need to improve our front yard. During a big rain storm, one giant branch from our Maple tree fell on the garage roof and put a two feet wide hole through the shingles. After I patched the roof up we saw that the tree was hollowed out by a gigantic bee hive. We didn't want to maintain the giant maple so we hired professionals to remove it. Then it was time to do some landscaping!

Other than looking at our parent's homes for inspiration and ideas, I bought some books to learn about drought tolerant plants. My favorite three are Designing with Succulents and Succulent Container Gardens by Debra Lee Baldwin, and Desert Gardens by Gary Lyons. These books were essential to teaching me not only what the names of each plants were, but also how to care for them, and how to display them in a setting. In addition, we looked at everyone's yard that we drove past. We looked at how businesses and schools had their landscape designed and looked at their plant selections.

My wife bought us a one year family membership to the Huntington Botanical Gardens. The funny thing is that one of my friend's father is the current curator for their Desert Garden. This happens to be the most important Desert Garden in the world!

We visited there often and took lots of photos and notes. This place was our main source of inspiration for designing our own private desert garden in the front yard. Our next step was to make a list of plants that we absolutely loved and had to use. We tried to choose plants with different shapes, sizes, textures, and colors. My wife wanted a very vibrant and colorful landscape design and I agreed. So we decided to use orange and blue because we loved this set of complimentary colors. The other options were red and green, or yellow and purple. Our main blue plant is senecio mandraliscae (blue chalk sticks) which we decided to place in the front and contrast it against our main orange plant which was euphorbia tirucalli (sticks on fire), the smaller shrubby form that often shows more orange. The plan was to place this orange plant in the back. There were two other plants we immediately knew that we must have, the Krauter Vesuvius (purple leaf plum) and the manzanita native to our area of Southern California. Both are very drought tolerant once established in the ground. The other plants we chose were more flexible depending on our budget.
So off to the drawing board I went! Here's what I came up with.

The next stage is plant aquisition, materials, budgeting, and construction. We needed plants, edging, and gravel. I provided the labor. We were on a shoe-string budget so we had to be flexible when it came to the secondary plants choices in our drawn out plan. More on this later.

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