Your Shopping Cart

Your cart is empty.

Xeric Choices: How Xeriscape Won the West

Dec 17, 2012

Xeric Choices: How Xeriscape Won the West
Feast or famine: that’s the water situation out West. When torrential rains come, dams may fail or water-diversion systems may be insufficient to deal with the sudden wealth of water. Flash floods and deaths may occur as well as land and property damage. Although construction of better water systems can help control acts of God, it can’t control acts of people, such as wasteful use of water.

Aside from invention, necessity and desperation are the parents of task forces, such as the one that convened in 1981 at Colorado’s largest water utility, Denver Water, following seven years of drought.

Selling Conservation Instead of Water
In an interview with Flowers by the Sea, former Denver Water Environmental Planner Nancy Leavitt recalled that the utility’s managers doubted whether the task force could be successful in encouraging conservation, because the agency had become “too successful” in selling its product -- water primarily produced by mountain snowpack.

However, recurrent shortages of snow in the Rocky Mountains were making water conservation crucial.

Working with the Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado – and later with other landscaping organizations, the Denver Botanic Gardens and Colorado State University – the Denver Water task force began to develop a plan for educating Coloradans about how to grow attractive landscapes without large expanses of water-hungry grasses and plants.

“We were trying to overcome the notion that a dry landscape was rocks and cactus,” Leavitt said.

Not a Zero Landscape
So the task force decided to create a demonstration garden divided into three ecosystems of water use: low (xeric), medium (mesic) and typical high-consumption (hydric).

One evening following a task force meeting, Leavitt pondered the terms xeric, mesic and hydric over and over, trying to come up with naming ideas for the demonstration garden. Then she slept on it.

In the morning, bingo! Leavitt said she suddenly realized that the garden's name should concern the option that the group wanted to encourage – xeric use. This may seem obvious in retrospect, but, at the time, the Denver metro area was known for its water-guzzling expanses of blue grass lawns. Change would take time.

Xeric comes from the Greek word for dry, which is “xero” and is pronounced like “zero.” Used scientifically as as a prefix, Leavitt noted, it is usually “xeros.” But Leavitt decided that the public might not like the sound of “zeroscape” and that it “did not promote the image we wanted” of a garden with lots of planting choices.

By the next meeting, Leavitt had coined the term “xeriscape.” She wrote it on the chalk board, Leavitt said, “and everyone was quiet for a bit. Finally, someone said I think that is our name….”

Xeriscape Wins the West
Search the word “xeriscape” online and you will find nearly 64,000 hits, including the Merriam-Webster dictionary, water agencies, municipal demonstration gardens and botanical gardens from Hawaii to Texas, plant nurseries, landscapers, university agriculture departments and cooperative extension services, bloggers and, of course, Wikipedia.

Xeriscape is an idea and a word that has particularly won the West in the past 30 years as more of us become conscious of our role in preserving natural resources in a semi-arid environment. So far, eastern states have had more problems with an overabundance of water than with too little.

Yet xeriscape and its related adjective “xeric” even sprout up in websites concerning New York, Georgia and Louisiana. It just goes to show you how the seed of an idea can spread on the winds of change.

At Flowers by the Sea, we offer you the sages necessary to plant long-blooming xeriscape gardens. We can help you do the right thing for the environment while doing the right thing to please your eye. We’re xeric and proud of it.

Next up in our "Xeric Choices" series? First, we'll talk about basic xeriscape and how it is connected to ancient Native American practices. Then we'll cover how to combine our wide range of Xeric Salvias with other drought-resistant plants to create pleasing combinations.



There are no comments yet.

Plants mentioned in this article
Ask Mr Sage is one of the most popular categories in our Everything Salvias blog. Here are a few of the latest posts:
Ask Mr. Sage: How to Place Advance Orders with FBTS - Flowers by the Sea is a mail-order nursery eliminating craziness from garden planning with advance orders and customer selection of shipping dates. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature based on calls and emails received by FBTS. This article details how to use our redesigned preorder process and other catalog tools for making sure you get the plants you want when you want them. Ask Mr. Sage: How to Select Plants for Garden Triumph - Planning for Salvia garden success requires following the rule of selecting the right plant for the right place. Desert sages aren't appropriate for the damp Southeast. Moisture-loving ones aren't right for desert climates where they need lots of watering to survive. Flowers by the Sea Farm and Online Nursery offers tips for selecting plants based on local climate. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the FBTS Everything Salvias Blog. Ask Mr. Sage: How Should I Prune my Salvias? - Flowers by the Sea Online Nursery specializes in Salvias and often receives questions about how to prune them. Although getting good at pruning takes practice, Salvias rebound quickly if you make mistakes. A key to successful pruning is understanding the varying needs of four main categories of sages. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the FBTS Everything Salvias Blog. Ask Mr. Sage: Do You Offer Free Shipping? - Like free lunches, free shipping is a myth. Flowers by the Sea doesn't offer free shipping, because it would require increasing plant prices to cover the cost of shipping. Read more to learn how FBTS sets fair shipping prices. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the Everything Salvias Blog and is based on calls and notes from customers. Ask Mr. Sage: Best Time to Plant Drought Resistant CA Natives - Drought resistant California native sages thrive when planted in fall. It's easier for roots to become established when soil is warm, air temperatures are cooler and precipitation is increasing. Ask Mr. Sage is a regular feature of the Everything Salvias Blog and is based on calls and emails from customers. Ask Mr. Sage: What Is Shipping in Boxes Like for Salvias? - It's understandable to worry about the condition of plants following shipment in a box. However, Flowers by the Sea Online Plant Nursery is exceedingly careful to make sure your plants arrive in healthy condition. A satisfied customer sent us the photos in this article. Step by step, they illustrate the process of unpacking and hardening off FBTS plants received by 3-day ground delivery more than 1200 miles away from our Northern California farm.