What is Xeriscape?
Xeriscape has long been defined as a philosophy of using creative landscaping to conserve water. Almost half of all the water we use at home is dedicated to maintaining our landscape. But landscaping traditionally used in Front Range communities features plants native to regions with much higher annual precipitation. This is problematic when, in order to grow successful plants, we must supplement by using our limited surface and groundwater. Fortunately, high water demand plants are not our only landscaping option; neither is removing plants from the landscape.
The concept of Xeriscape was developed in Denver, Colorado, in response to water shortages in the 1980’s. Early in 1981, the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado (ALCC) and Denver Water formed a cooperative task force on water conservation. The team formed two mission tasks. The first was to create an educational demonstration garden to show the beauty possible through proper selection and use of plants that require minimal irrigation. The second task was to produce a wide reaching and ongoing public involvement and education program. The first Xeriscape garden was dedicated at Denver Water in May of 1982 with an "X-RATED" garden party. Positive media coverage spawned interest in other areas of the United States.
The word Xeriscape as a name for both the garden and the education program was created during a group brainstorming session. The task force created the original definition of Xeriscape as "Water Conservation through Creative Landscaping" and the Seven Principles of Xeriscape by early 1982.
It’s a Concept
Xeriscape refers to a landscape that uses little supplemental water. It does not refer to a dry, barren landscape, and it is by no means a "no maintenance" landscape. By using plants that are well adapted, mulches that suppress weeds and conserve water, and efficient irrigation systems, these landscapes can offer color and fragrance with only monthly or seasonal gardening chores.
Xeriscape is not a landscape style or garden design. Xeriscape is a concept of water conservation that may be applied to landscapes of any style, from traditional to English, Japanese to Southwestern. They may be formal or natural looking. The principles used to develop Xeriscapes are good horticultural practices applied to our unique High Plains desert environment.
These handouts were used as part of our Water Conservation class series, including xeriscaping and other landscaping and gardening tips.