Mesiscaping and Xeriscaping for Water Wise Designs

xeriscaping and mesiscaping for water wise designsAs mid-summer temperatures heat up, watering the yard and garden can become a time-consuming chore. But the landscaping technique of xeriscaping, or planting drought resistant plants, can lighten the workload, and lower the water bill while conserving water.

It has been estimated that 30 percent of the average American family’s water use is spent outdoors, and more than half of that goes toward watering yards and gardens. Even if there is no threat of a drought, saving water reduces municipal costs and preserves bodies of water for wildlife.

History of xeriscaping

In arid, hot regions of the U.S., the technique is known as xeriscaping. The term combines the Greek word for “dry” (xeros) with the word "landscape." In non-desert areas such as the Southeast, where temperatures can be far cooler, the term mesiscaping is often used.

Native Americans of the Southwest have long used “dry-farming” techniques to battle short growing seasons, conserve rainfall, and safeguard the survival of crops. But a Denver, Colorado non-profit named, codified, and popularized the concept of xeriscaping in 1981. With the goal of educating the public about how to conserve water and still create a lush, attractive landscape, the concept grew from a movement into an accepted landscape design technique.

Seven basic principles of xeriscaping:

  1. Plan the design. This directs and ensures water-saving techniques.
  2. Improve the soil with organic matter and other amendments if necessary. Native plants may not need them, however.
  3. Reduce the amount of turf in the landscape. While typical lawn grasses are hardy and lush, they require a lot of water. Consider other types of grasses, decks or mulched areas.
  4. Use mulch, which keeps roots cool, reduces weeds, and minimizes water evaporation.
  5. Water efficiently, by hand or with an automated system, but avoid overhead sprinklers. Water deeply, infrequently, and at the right time. Watering before 10 AM and after 5:30 PM is recommended.
  6. Use drought-resistant plants. Select regionally appropriate, water-wise specimens, grouping ones with similar soil and water needs together.
  7. Do regular maintenance. A xeriscaped garden may require watering, mowing, weeding, pruning and fertilizing, just like a traditional one. Over time, it will require less.

Water-wise plants are those that withstand drought with little to no supplemental watering. Many of these plants exhibit external characteristics that give them the ability to flourish in hot, dry environments. These physical indicators include: waxy leaves, succulent leaves, fleshy roots, grey leaves, and fuzzy leaves.

The following water-wise plants plants do well in USDA zone 7B of the DC metro area:

  • Blue fescue (Festuca glauca)
  • Coneflower (Echinacea spp.)
    cone flower for xeriscaping designs
  • Mugwort (Artemisia spp.)
  • Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
    petrovskia plant for xeriscaping
  • Purslane (Portulaca grandiflora)
  • Rosemary (Rosemarinus officinalis)
  • Lamb’s ears (Stachys byzantina)
    lamb's ear for mesiscapes
  • Stonecrop (Sedum spp.)
    stone crop flower for xeriscapes
  • Thyme (Thymus spp.)
  • Verbena (Verbena spp.)

Watch for future posts about rain gardens, rain barrels and mulches best suited for the Washington, DC metro area!

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