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Design Principles/Xeriscape

Poorly designed landscape
Design That Attracts and Sustains Beneficials

Trending away from needless, high-maintenance lawn areas (notice how the lawn area is sloped, sending water downward to the street) landscape designs are incorporating native and xeric plants that are both, environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing.

The goals of a landscape design vary with the individual homeowner. The design may be intended to soften or reduce the intrusion of nearby hardscapes (roadways, neighboring building, parking area, etc.), accentuate a vista, or simply provide an extension of indoor living spaces. For me, it is the influence of all three. Since my husband and I do the physical labor ourselves, work on a limited time and financial budget, and because our home sits on an acre lot, we decided that working on the landscape in stages is the most practical way to develop our property. It is also the best way for us to thoughtfully plan out how each new landscape feature will blend with existing gardens and hardscapes providing continuity in the overall landscape. It can be professionally drawn up or roughly sketched, either way the the goals and intentions are to formulate a plant list so you will be shopping, and planting, with an overall plan in mind.

There are seven Xeriscape principles that make a low-maintenance, water-wise Northern Nevada landscape both attractive and attainable:
• Thoughtful planning for beauty and water conservation
• Improving/Amending the soil if needed
Limiting turf areas
• Efficient irrigation; no more "set it, forget it"
• Mulching with organic products
• Select appropriate plants and group according to water needs
• Maintenance; proper weeding, pruning, and fertilizing.

Keep in mind that most trees and large landscape shrubs need 10 gallons of water each week through summer per 1 inch of trunk caliper. Ex: A tree with a four inch diameter trunk needs 40 gallons per week.  


Xeriscape Design 1
Xeriscape Design 2
Xeriscape Design 3

Conversations with homeowners in Spring Creek are especially driven by a desire to conserve water, while at the same time, make their outdoor living spaces a comfortable and manageable place to enjoy being outside. I have a well and water rights, but have dedicated some time and effort into following the water usage rates being charged by SC Utilities. The current base rate is at $34.55, the cost for use up to 5,000 gallons is at $3.19 per 1,000 gallons, and the cost up to 100,000 gallons is at $4.37 per 1,000 gallons. In July, we typically use 38,000 gallons of water to irrigate a fully developed acre lot with 5,000 sq. ft. of lawn, 52 nearly mature trees, 120 mature shrubs, thousands of perennials, dozens of container gardens, maintain the greenhouse and nursery areas, and for use in the home. That usage rate would be unattainable without the use of water-wise gardening. At current rates, on site in Spring Creek, our water bill would be at $194.71. If your water bill in July dramatically exceeds that amount, it is likely that you are either overwatering, using an inefficient water delivery system, or dedicating water towards large lawn areas.


Colorful Garden In Raised Bed
Colorful Display In Lawn Area

On smaller lots, gardeners are reducing oversized plantings and large sweeps of turf with designs that include colorful perennials combined with small-medium sized shrubs to make an artistic use of space and provide a break from an over reliance on one-dimentional turf throughout a landscape. Traditional foundation plantings of Junipers are on their way out to make room for hummingbird gardens and an overall design that is more colorful and interesting.

 Garden With Three-Dimensional View Sloped Design With Switchback Pathway
Slopes are natural drainways and whether created by natural or man-made forces, a practical design can use these features to give the landscape added personality and interest by providing a built-in, three-dimensional view of the gardens. Seriously sloped areas can include landings and switchbacks with seating or interesting plantings on leveled areas. Don't confuse a slope with a drop-off; tiered gardens turn an otherwise unusable area into an interesting design feature. Gravity pulls water from top to bottom so plant xeric plants towards the top and work down to thirstier plants at the bottom. 
 
Sloped Garden Path Down Sloped Garden
The path least traveled may be more interesting, but when you just want to get from here to there, the old adage that people choose the path of least resistance applies to the efficient landscape design. Pathways need to be wide enough to accommodate two people side-by-side or at least one comfortably. The basic difference between a pathway and a walkway is that walkways are more widely used, both should include surfaces that allow for ease of movement without fear of tripping.

 
On the design, features should be in scale to the lot size. For example, a 1,000 square foot garden area would be in scale on an acre lot and include a mix of large trees, shrubs, drifts of perennials, and colorful annuals in large containers.

For practical reasons, large plantings should be atleast 30 feet from structures.

Design For Large Area Landscapes

Create Spaces to Relax