A word to the (water) wise.

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

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.

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