A word to the (water) wise.

Last night’s torrential rainfall made for a white-knuckle drive home from work for my husband, but the yard and garden loved it. The hostas seemed to spring up another 2 inches overnight, and the sweet woodruff is justthisclose to bursting into bloom.

I’m lucky to live in a climate that gets plenty of rainfall during the growing season—well, usually. We can almost always count on a spell of drought conditions sometime during July. But I never, ever water anything in my yard (except the potted plants, which rarely survive on only the moisture that Mother Nature provides). There’s no great secret involved here. It’s just a matter of planting things that will thrive on existing rainfall (or lack thereof) without a fuss.

In my experience, virtually any native plant will take whatever nature dishes out, whether it’s in sun or shade. I’ve grown daylilies, Shasta daisies, coneflowers, coreopsis, rose mallows, yarrow and gaillardias with no effort whatsoever beyond the initial planting. And if you’re a lazy gardener like me, this is the only way to fly. You dig a hole. You put the plant in the hole. You add water, re-fill the hole, water a little more, and walk away. If you’re really, really conscientious, you mulch. And that’s about it. You do need to weed, of course, but if you’re a serious mulcher, you won’t even have to do much of that.

This water-saving approach is known as xeriscaping—a fancy word for planting stuff that doesn’t need supplemental watering. Saving water is no small benefit if you’re occasionally subject to watering restrictions, and of course it’s good for the planet. It’s also a godsend if you have large garden spaces and limited time to tend them. I’d rather be on the patio reading a book. Or scouring my favorite greenhouse for a new native to try. If you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

Posted on Sunday, April 25th, 2010 at 8:20 pm. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are 7 comments on this post.

  1. Sue says:

    Very nice improvements, I like the “what is this” feature.
    Since a lot of my plantings are along the house I need to mulch and water these protected areas; they usually miss any rain because of roof overhang. So occasionally I get to go into that trance-like state that comes with watering, just moving slowly along the line, misting and watering, thinking of not much of anything. Nice way to remove yourself from stress for awhile.
    One of these days I’ll be able to invest in a water barrel system. The good (costly) ones have all sorts of bells and whistles and it’s free water. Did you know that in my part of Wisconsin a small roof can yield 13,500 gallons of rainwater in a single season?

    Posted at April 27th, 2010 at 10:46 am

  2. tt says:

    Sue, glad you’re enjoying the new stuff here. I’m hoping to expand the plant ID page as I go…just have to work through some glitches with the interface. My webmaster tells me this would be much, much easier if I didn’t want to get all fancy-schmancy.

    I hear you on the zen aspect of watering. I get that from weeding. Great stress relief. And I, too, covet a rain barrel, although I have no idea why they have to be such ridiculously pricey and complicated devices. My grandmother used to have rain barrels sitting on either side of her garage, and they were nothing more than rusty old open barrels. Nothing too complicated there. Although open containers of water would be a little too tempting for our backyard skeeter population.

    Posted at April 27th, 2010 at 3:00 pm

  3. Judybusy says:

    I actually water fairly regularly. Would my plants live if I didn’t? Yes. Do they look much better if I do? Absolutely. That being said, I love poppies, penstemon, columbines and true geraniums for their low-water tolerance. I have indulged in trollius “Orange Queen’ and some siberian irises, even though they need a lot of water. I have soaker hoses in my large shade bed; I’ve found hostas and of course ferns do much better with water.

    I agree with the comment on water barrels–I’ve often wondered why the heck they are so expensive!

    Posted at April 29th, 2010 at 9:24 am

  4. tt says:

    Judybusy, you’re a better woman than I am. I am absolutely terrible keeping container plants alive (and houseplants, too, for that matter) because I simply cannot discipline myself to water them regularly. It’s a character flaw, no question, but there you go. Every year I vow to do better with the hanging baskets and the pots on the patio, and every year I screw up and eventually kill things.

    To be clear, I certainly don’t want to discourage others from watering. I’ve just found that, for me, what works best is growing things that don’t need a lot of hand-holding. It’s working so far.

    Posted at April 29th, 2010 at 3:57 pm

  5. Judybusy says:

    The truth is, we have one of THOSE neighbors whose garden always looks pristine. She had a marvelous landscaping project done last year, so there is some friendly competition. I also want to take full advantage of the lovely stone wall and black iron fence she installed by keeping my garden looking its best. My garden is also small, so it doesn’t take a lot. So, no, I’m not a better woman, just competitive and refusing to be shown up!

    p.s. We fondly call the neighbor That Damn Nancy. The best part is she is a truly delightful woman that we are lucky to have as a neighbor.

    Posted at April 30th, 2010 at 9:50 am

  6. tt says:

    Judybusy, That Damn Nancy sounds a lot like my late neighbor Alice. We had a good-gardener/good-neighbor situation on the other side, too. Alice’s husband used to stand in their backyard, sigh contentedly, and say he felt like he was living in a park with that view. We really miss them.

    Posted at April 30th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

  7. Judybusy says:

    That’s sweet. Good neighbors are worth their weight in gold, and Nancy is one of many. One of them made my day yesterday by asking if I could help her plan her first vegetable and herb garden! The first thing I told her is not to plant the basil she’d picked up at the farmer’s market that day. Too chilly! She gushed she didn’t even know that….this is gonna be so fun!

    Posted at April 30th, 2010 at 2:35 pm

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