The term Xeriscape comes from the Greek word 'xeros' which means 'dry' combined with 'scape' meaning 'dry landscape' but really it means landscaping with plants that need minimal water. Since about 70 percent of the water consumed by an average single-family home is used outdoors, the best place to start conserving water is in your garden. However, xeriscaping with plants that do not need a lot of water does not mean your garden has to look desolate!
Southwestern states have been xeriscaping the longest due to the fact that they have dry climates and it makes sense to not fight mother nature by growing high maintenance gardens and lawns. But with water becoming a diminishing resource everywhere, other states throughout the U.S. are now xeriscaping too.
Luckily, in Southern California, we have many drought resistant native plants and a climate that allows us to use low water plants from other similar dry climates like Australia, South Africa, the Middle East, and Mediterranean areas. Many of these plants are lush and beautiful and visually completely different than a typical southwest garden of cacti and rocks. There are many wonderful options, and we live in the perfect place for xeriscaping!
Water is still necessary with xeriscapes, especially when plants are new. However they become more drought resistant once established. Many drought tolerant native plants in the wild naturally have deep roots as part of their survival. New, nursery bought plants in pots will take a couple years at minimum to achieve the same deeper root systems as their counterparts in the wild.
Xeriscapes work well with low-pressure systems that deliver water right to the roots of the plants but don't go everywhere. A sub-surface water source not only feeds the roots without wasting it on the surface where it can evaporate, it encourages the roots to grow deeper beyond the root ball which ultimately makes it hardier and more drought resistant in the future. Once roots are established, they will require even less supplemental water.
Another important component to xeriscaping is using a ground cover like gravel or mulch. Mulch can be made from organic materials including leaves, grass clippings, straw, shredded bark, sawdust, wood chips, and cardboard. There is also rubber mulch made from recycled tires which does not decompose quickly. Ground cover does a multiple of jobs when it comes to xeriscaping. Most importantly, it helps keep the moisture in the soil and keeps the ground cooler in the summer. It also keeps weeds from competing with plants for water and nutrients.
Xeriscapes are most stunning when designed with a combination of softscapes and hardscapes. Softscape refers to trees, bushes, plants, ground cover, and the living aspects of the garden. Hardscape is the addition of pathways, planters, and outdoor living areas that can make your garden more inviting, accessible, and visually interesting. Hardscapes also mean less softscapes, and less water. The key is to design a layout that is a balance of the two so that your garden complements your home and is low maintenance; saving you water and money!
There are rebates being offered in Southern California to replace lawns we can help you through that process. We are also certified experts installing smart-water irrigation systems that are efficient and cost effective and are rebate worthy too!
Our team at Pacific Vista Landscape Services are experts when it comes to xeriscaping and knowing the vast variety of drought resistant plant options. We can work with you to design incredible soft and hardscapes to enhance your property which not only look great but will save you money too. Having a beautiful, low maintenance garden makes sense now and in the future!
Updated: May 2
Update: April 26th, 2022: The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California begins a program that will cut outdoor watering to one day a week in parts of Los Angeles, Ventura and San Bernardino counties, affecting about six million people.
While it's wonderful California got some more rain recently, we still have drought conditions to face. For a second year in a row, Governor Newsom said more needs to be done in California, calling for cities and water agencies to now implement their second level water contingency plans to further reduce water usage and implement tougher rules. He stopped short of mandates statewide, in favor of letting local agencies figure out what is best for their areas. Restrictions would not affect agriculture either, but he did ask agencies to consider banning irrigation of lawns.
Californians did not conserve more water over the last two years, rather they used more. According to CalMatters.Org, "In January, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted emergency regulations allowing water providers to bar certain wasteful water uses, such as hosing down sidewalks with drinking water.
But water use nevertheless ticked up statewide in January compared to January
2020. The biggest increase was 19% in the desert region that includes the Palm Springs area and the Imperial Valley. The South Lahontan region, spanning the Sierra Nevada, mountain communities of Southern California and Death Valley, had the second highest increase, at 9%. Residents of the Los Angeles basin and San Diego County used 1.8% more water, while those in most of the Central Valley used 6 to 7% more.
The only regions that slightly reduced water consumption were the San Francisco Bay Area, which used 1.4% less, and the southern San Joaquin Valley, which used 0.2% less. Overall, Californians from July of last year through January conserved about 6.5% statewide compared to 2020, according to state data — falling far short of Newsom’s requested 15%."
A letter to water right holders from the State Water Board states "Despite record-breaking storms in October and December 2021, most of California is experiencing a severe drought due to the driest January and February on record. These conditions are worsening quickly and can threaten water supplies, impair critical habitat, reduce recreational opportunities, and create uncertainty for all water users.
We are experiencing historic dry conditions: February is usually California’s wettest month, but January and February 2022 were the driest we’ve seen in recorded history. Statewide, precipitation is less than half the yearly average, and dry conditions are forecast to continue through spring."
While more might be added, these are the State Water Board Emergency Regulations Requirements that went into effect on Jan 18, 2022:
Turn off decorative water fountains
Turn off/pause your irrigation system when it's raining and for two days after rain
Use an automatic shutoff nozzle on your water hose
Use a broom, not water, to clean sidewalks and driveways
Give trees just what they need: avoid overwatering
If you would like help with removing your lawn or updating your irrigation system and adding a smart controller, contact us! We are experts in turf removal, installing new irrigation systems or updating existing systems. There are even rebates to help with the costs, depending on where you live. Let us help make it easy!
Updated: Feb 10
Some of these landscaping terms are used daily and others might sound unfamiliar. Take a look through these and increase your vegetation vernacular!
Accent: The use of a plant or object to draw attention to a space. Acidic soil: Soil with a pH value of less than 7.0. Aeration: A method of increasing water and oxygen into compact soil by turning and loosening the soil to allow penetration. Alkaline soil: Soil with a pH value of more than 7.0. Annual: A plant that completes its life cycle in one year or season. Apex: The tip of a stem. Arbor: A shady garden shelter or bower, often made of rustic wood or latticework on which vines, roses, etc. are grown.
Arboretum: A landscaped space where trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants are cultivated for scientific study, educational purposes, and to foster appreciation of plants.
Axil: The area between a leaf and the stem from which the leaf arises.
Bacillus Thuringiensis(BT): Biological Control
Beneficial Biological Controls: Insects and organic chemicals
Biennial: A plant that typically takes two years to complete a life cycle.
Budding: A form of asexual reproduction in which a new organism develops from an outgrowth or bud on another one. Bulb: An underground plant structure that contains nutrients, energy and seed to produce a plant. Cambium Layer: The thin layer of growing cells between the xylem and phloem.
Chlorosis: Iron deficiency
Clay: A soil particle which is plate-like, extremely small and may retain nutrients well.
Clod: A lump of clay which is difficult to break apart. Cold Hardy: Capable of withstanding cold weather conditions. Compost: A soil product created from decomposed garden material, used in flower beds to add nutrients and encourage good growth. Cultivar: A cultivated variety of a plant selected for some feature that distinguishes it from the species from which it was selected.
Cultivation: Turning the soil to provide better air circulation or to control weeds.
Dead Heading: Removing dead flowers before they set seed.
Deciduous: Having leaves that fall off or are shed seasonally to avoid adverse weather conditions such as cold or drought.
Defoliation: The process when a plant looses all its leaves.
Dethatching: Removing thatches in grass; removal of the dead grass.
Die Back: Tips of branches decline due to lack of moisture or disease.
Dormancy: When a plant reaches a dormant period, usually in winter.
Drainage: The downward movement of water passing through soil.
Drip Line: Outermost branch tips where the water would land to feed the tree.
Drought Tolerant: The ability of a plant to thrive without much water. Epiphyte: A plant that lives on a host plant but draws nutrients from the air.
Espalier: A flat or fan like like trellis.
Established Plant: When the plant is fully rooted.
Evergreen: A plant whose leaves or needles are green year-round.
Fertilizer: A material added to feed plants rich in nutrients, usually nitrogen (often lost with frequent mowing), phosphates and potash.
Fescue: Soft compact fine-leaved grasses.
Flower Form: Structure of a flower, i.e. single, semi, double.
Foundation Plant: A plant that is used to frame around a house or structure and connect it to the rest of the landscape.
Frond: A large leaf with multiple divisions.
Fungicide: The chemical used to control a fungus-related disease.
Germination: The sprouting of a seed, spore or pollen grain.
Genus: A subdivision of a family or subfamily in the classification of organisms.
Girdling: Also called ring-barking, is the removal of bark around the circumference of the tree in a ring. The result is a slow death to the part of the tree or woody plant above the damage.
Grading: The process of changing the slope level of an area of soil.
Grafting: Combining the vascular tissues of two plants to form a hybrid by placing a portion of one plant (called a bud or scion) into or on a stem, root, or branch of another (called the stock) in such a way that a union forms and the partners continue to grow.
Ground Cover: Plants which are low-growing and create a blanket appearance over an area.
Growing Season: The period each year when the plant grows.
Hardscape: Walkways, planters, and areas made of hard material like concrete or rocks that is incorporated into the landscape and balances with the 'softscape'.
Hardy: Plants that can survive difficult conditions like frost and severe cold.
Hedge: A variety of shrubs that when planted close together will give a wall-like appearance; often used to separate areas.
Herbaceous: Having little or no woody tissue. Most plants grown as perennials or annuals are herbaceous. Herbicide: A chemical used to control weeds.
Horticulture: The science of growing plants, flowers, trees, shrubs, fruit, & grasses. Hybrid: A plant or group of plants that results from the interbreeding of two distinct cultivars, varieties, species, or genera.
Indigenous: Occurring naturally in a particular place. Native. Iron: A mineral used in keeping grass green.
Irrigation: Applying water to vegetation and landscape to help it thrive.
Leader: The primary shoot of a plant.
Leaf Burn: A plant disease that causes a burnt appearance.
Leaf Mold: A fungal disease of plants in which mold develops on the leaves.
Lime: Calcium material used to raise the pH in soil.
Macronutrients: Essential elements needed in large amounts for healthy plant growth: nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and sulfur.
Micro Climate: The climate of a small area that is different than the climate of the surrounding area.
Micronutrients: Essential elements needed in very small amounts for healthy plant growth: iron, copper, zinc, boron, molybdenum, chlorine, and cobalt.
Mulch: A material used to cover soil for moisture conservation and weed suppression. Native Plant: A plant that lives or grows naturally in a particular region without direct or indirect human intervention. Indigenous.
Node: The part of a plant stem from which one or more leaves emerge.
Organic Fertilizer: Compounds derived from decomposition of plant and animal products and include blood meal, bone meal, manure, and sewage sludge.
Organic Matter: Biological material in the process of decaying or decomposing.
Osmosis: When water travels across a membrane.
Peat Moss: A bog like moss processed to be used in potting soils and helps assimilate nutrients for the plant. Perennial: Persisting for several years, usually dying back to a perennial crown during the winter and initiating new growth each spring. Pesticide: A chemical used to control an organism.
pH: The acidity and alkalinity of soil.
Phloem: One of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants, xylem is the other.
Photosynthesis: The process in which plants convert sunlight energy into chemical energy that can be used as fuel to aid in plant development.
Planter: The defined area, commonly raised and composed of wood or concrete, used to grow plants.
Plant Family: A plant that belongs to a family that shares the same broad characteristics.
Polladring: A pruning method in which a tree's top branches are cut back to the trunk so that it may produce a dense growth of new shoots.
Pollen: A fine powdery substance consisting of microscopic grains discharged from the male part of a flower or from a male cone.
Pollenation: The process in which pollen is transferred.
Pollinator Bees: Bees that transfer pollen.
Pollenizer: A plant that supplies pollen.
Pruning: A method of cutting parts of a plant off to control size, health and appearance.
Pseudo Bulb: A storage organ derived from the part of a stem between two leaf nodes.
Re-foliate: Term used for when a plant grows new leaves after a leafless period, usually in the spring.
Rhizome: A horizontal, usually underground stem that often sends out roots and shoots from its nodes.
Root Bound: A plant that has grown too large for its container resulting in matting or tangling of the roots. Rootstock: The part of a budded or grafted plant that furnishes the root system. Also called 'understock'. Rosette: A circular arrangement of leaves or petals.
Scion: A detached shoot or twig used in grafting. Shrub: A low-growing woody plant, usually under 15 feet that often has multiple stems. Shock: A term used to describe a plant that has been impacted by change, i.e. transplanting, weather, too much or too little water, frost, etc.
Sod: Small areas of turf ready for transplant to new locations. Often used to start a new lawn.
Softscape: Vegetation used in landscaping which balances with 'hardscape'. Includes trees, flowers, grasses, shrubs.
Species: Plant organisms with similar traits capable of offspring.
Specimen: An individual plant used to represent a class or genus or plants. Sphagnum: A genus of 120 species of mosses, commonly called peat moss, that survives well in wet, acidic soil. Spore: Typically a one-celled, reproductive unit capable of giving rise to a new individual plant. Spur: A projecting root or branch. Standard: A tree or shrub that grows to full height. Stolon: A stem, at or just below the surface of the ground, that produces new plants from buds at it's tips or nodes. Stress: The negative impact of non-living forces on a plant. Sucker: A secondary shoot produced from the base or roots of a woody plant that gives rise to a new plant. Tap Root: An enlarged root, that grows downward and forms a center which other roots sprout laterally. Tender: A delicate plant that is usually sensitive to frost or severe cold. Temperature Tolerance: Cold or heat, the degree at which a plant can handle temperatures and survive.
Thatch: The live or dead layer of roots and stems between the turf of a lawn and the soil.
Thinning: Pruning or removing some branches in a uniform way throughout a tree or shrub.
Topiary: A decorative style of plant growth controlled by shaping with pruning or shearing. Transplant: Moving a plant from one location to another. Tree: A woody perennial plant having a single, usually elongated main stem or trunk with few or no branches on its lower part.
Tuber: A thickened, underground stem or rhizome which stores nutrients.
Turf: A ground cover of grass.
Variegation: A pattern of leaves that contains either white or yellow markings. Variety: A sub-species of plant.
Vegetation: A general term for all plant life.
Water Sprout: A nonflowering shoot arising from a branch or axil of a tree or shrub. Wildflower: A herbaceous plant that is native to a given area and is representative of unselected forms of its species. Woody Plant: A plant with persistent woody parts that do not die back in adverse conditions. Most woody plants are trees or shrubs.
Xylem: One of the two types of transport tissue in vascular plants, phloem is the other.
Happy Planting! Contact us for all your landscaping needs!