Xeriscape: Idea coined in Denver has flowered here

A quarter-century back, in the midst of a dry spell in Colorado, the term "xeriscape" was coined. Denver Water, the water energy for the city and county of Denver, was attempting to promote a landscaping philosophy in tune with the semiarid climate of Colorado when they crunched together the word "landscape" and the Greek word "xeros" (implying "dry"). Denver Water also established 7 concepts of xeriscape: preparation and style, limiting grass locations, picking and zoning plants appropriately, improving the soil, using mulches, irrigating effectively and doing appropriate upkeep.

Some Coloradans scoffed. Some ridiculed the idea as "zero-scaping" and thought it was basically a method to create a wasteland of rocks and cactus.

Others couldn't release their yards. For decades, Front Range house owners presented expansive green carpets of sod as if they had ample rains and an ocean outside their towns.

The possibility of xeriscape gardening settling seemed slim, but Mother Nature forced a few modifications. Now, 25 years and a number of superdry seasons later on, regional property owners are adopting the concept faster than ever.

They aren't the only ones. The concepts of water-wise gardening have actually infected locations not generally considered water-starved: the East Coast, England - even Japan. The unusual term invented by Denver Water is now utilized around the world as a generic word for water-wise gardening.

Yet challenges to progress stay - even where xeriscaping started.


The 7 principles of xeriscape took a years to amble down Interstate 25 to Colorado Springs. Colorado Springs Utilities planted its Xeriscape Demonstration Garden in 1991 at 2855 Mesa Road, and the ideas started to bloom in the area.

" About 15 years ago I began hearing it," said Shane Bunker, owner of Scenic View Professional Landscape for 23 years. "Before that, landscaping was junipers, evergreen and sod whatever. I keep in mind apartment-complex sprinklers that never shut off; they simply ran 24 hours a day in the summer."

Steve Loy, owner of Sun Maintenance Service Inc., has comparable memories.

" Fifteen years earlier, sod was rolled out onto the completed grade of brand-new building, which was standard," Loy stated. "It didn't matter due to the fact that you were going to water seven days a week anyhow."

Loy was an early transform to xeriscape and ended up volunteering at the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. The garden was still young when Ann Seymour took over as preservation manager in 1994.

" The garden, when I came, was simply 3 years old, and the plants were filling in and growing up," Seymour said. "The garden and the program were in their infancy."

Seymour ran the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden up until 2004 and saw the garden fill out - in regards to plants and appeal.

Nonetheless, it took another push by Mother Nature to require more people to embrace xeric concepts.


In 2001 another dry spell struck Colorado, and xeriscape progressed like a field of cosmos.

" When the drought initially started, I believed my business would go away," landscaper Bunker said, "and I had the very best year of service ever in 2001."

Bunker utilized to set up rock, sod and sprinklers once again and once again. Suddenly, people desired big patios, recirculating water functions and perennialplant beds.

" Ever since the drought took place, landscape has become a lot more enjoyable," he said. "There's so much more range. People are investing more cash on plants now than sod."

Loy stated the huge bulk of his service is transforming yards to xeric landscapes.

" The dry spell truly brought this entire thing to a head," Loy said. "Most of our organisation in the previous five years has actually been renovations of homes - we take out massive quantities of sod."

He often turns 5,000-squarefeet of sod into 1,000-squarefeet of sod, using the freed-up space for outdoor living room, fire pits and perennialgarden beds.

" They're rich and luxurious and green, and the water usage on those properties is way, way down," Loy said.

Loy said most of his clients are well-educated about xeriscape, a modification from simply 5 years ago. They know the upfront expenses of xeriscape will be higher, but they'll conserve money on water and maintenance in the long run. He approximates that 50 percent to 75 percent of his consumers have visited the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, and numerous have actually taken classes.

That's music to the ears of Ann Seymour. As sod around the city turned brown, the presentation garden looked fantastic, and house owners discovered.

" I was delighted to see how it grew in those dry, hot years," Seymour said. "It was a way to prove to the world that what we have actually been telling them holds true. It is excellent practice that makes sense in Colorado." And three years of watering constraints might have changed some routines completely.

" Gallons-per-capita usage tells us that consumers are not watering as much today as they were in 2001," Seymour stated.

IMAGES COURTESY OF WWW.DENVERWATER.ORG This house is showcased on the Denver Water Web site as an example of a xeriscape makeover. This image shows the Denver house prior to it was landscaped in the mid- '90s.

This picture from the Denver Water Web website reveals your home after it was landscaped using xeriscape principles.


Xeriscape has captured on, some Coloradans still cannot shake the "zeroscape" image of rocks and yuccas. In some locations, water conservationists are utilizing the terms "water-wise" or "smart landscaping" so they don't have to get that luggage.

Many people in the area, nevertheless, understand the possibilities offered with xeriscaping. Part of the shift is in understanding, however in big part the truth has altered.

Landscapers who had not heard of xeriscaping 15 years ago now know how to create a stunning xeric backyard. Ideas have actually germinated as presentation gardens develop and individuals try more things. Even more plants are available as programs such as Colorado's Plant Select establish and promote plants that succeed in this region.

Water-conservation advocates concur that the cornerstone of expanding the xeriscape revolution is education. Beyond that, they see a number of avenues for development.

Loy wishes to see federal government policies on landscaping to force smarter practices.

" I really believe the city has actually got to come up with with a landscape ordinance or a watering regulation, something that keeps the philosophy that we are a semiarid area moving forward," Loy said. "We require a community plan that states all of us recognize we have actually limited water and our landscapes should show that."

Colorado Springs Utilities has actually achieved that, in part, with a graduated water rate that punishes heavy users. However Loy and Bunker both understand clients who would spend $1,000 a month to keep their carpets of lawn green.

his explanation Among water-conservation professionals, the huge theme is satisfying individuals where they are, attempting to make incremental development. Keep the yard, perhaps, however modify the soil and ensure the sprinkler is effective.

They think that gradually, almost all members of the community will develop a watervation ethic. Colorado Springs Utilities, in truth, is relying on water preservation as part of its long-term tactical strategy.

" The old slogan is, Every drop counts,' stated Scott Winter, water-conservation professional at the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. "It really is something that people need to treasure and value."

And, of course, a dry spell never hurts when you're trying to drive that point home.


If xeriscaping isn't really all rock and cactus, then what is it? Here are a couple of locations to find what this xeriscape thing is everything about.

Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, 2855 Mesa Road. Started in 1991, this two-acre-plus garden is mature and stunning.

Cottonwood Creek Park Xeriscape Garden. Planted in late May, this little presentation garden is the new kid in town. Located south of the park's recreation center and swimming pool, the site is created to serve the northern and eastern areas of town. It will take time for the brand-new garden to fill out. The garden will be tended nearly totally by volunteers; to offer, call 668-4555.

Web sites with excellent xeriscape info:
Colorado Springs Utilities, http://www.csu.org
Associated Landscape Contractors of Colorado, http://www.alcc.com
Plant Select, http://www.plantselect.org
Denver Water, http://www.water.denver.co.gov
The Colorado WaterWise Council, http://www.xeriscape.org
High Country Gardens, http://www.highcountrygardens.com; http://www.wateruseitwisely.com.


Cannot envision how to create a xeriscape garden that's more than rock and cactus? Take a look at the six Pikes Peakarea house gardens on the 2006 Xeriscape Garden Tour this weekend.

- The tour takes location from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Start at either 1222 La Paloma Way or 12 West Point Road in Colorado Springs to get your ticket and map to the other gardens.

- A host and Master Gardener will be available at each garden to answer questions about xeriscaping and supply ideas.

- The Colorado Springs-area trips belong to a larger program sponsored by the Colorado Federation of Garden Clubs. Gardens in Arvada and Boulder/Longmont were included in trips in June.

Happiness Kancir, vice president of the federation and chairwoman of this year's tour, said gardens pertain to the group's attention through Master Gardeners, horticulturists, landscapers and other info sources.

"They're picked for academic functions - those that have a different way and feel about them, so people can see that xeriscape can be really vibrant and gorgeous," she said.

Where do I begin?

This is Colorado Springs Utilities' strategy for getting going on a xeric landscape. For more in-depth info on each step, go to http://www.csu.org/environment/xeriscape/howto/index.html.

Action 1: Creating a Base Plan - Create an illustration of your existing landscape to assist picture the locations of your house and how they connect to one another.

Step 2: Site Analysis - Evaluate status quo utilizing a breathtaking photo and a site inventory.

Action 3: Use Analysis - Determine your wants and needs for the new landscape.

Step 4: Schematic Planning - Decide where specific-use areas will be.

Step 5: Master Planning - Pull together all your operate in Steps 1 through 4 in a final style plan you will utilize to create your illustrations in Steps 6 and 7.

Action 6: Planting Plan - Choose plants to fit your master strategy.

Step 7: Irrigation Plan - Design the irrigation system to fit your master strategy.

Step 8: Phasing in the Landscape Design - Decide what need to be done at the same time, what series to follow and what can be carried out in the longer term.

Step 9: Maintaining the Landscape - Commit to caring for your brand-new xeriscapeinspired landscape.

Xeriscaped areas can be just as rich or more lush than routine backyards, and your water costs will be significantly lower.

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