to many landscape professionals, a typical homeowner can use 40 to 60
gallons a day on average to water lawns and gardens. About half of
that is wasted. Those who know say the water loss is the result of
evaporation, lousy watering systems and, yes, even overwatering.
Yet there are
methods to resolve this challenge, especially important as climate
changes, drought, dropping water tables and pollution become more
extreme. One such conservation method is xeriscaping ("zeer-i-skey-ping"),
a process that utilizes foliage that doesn’t require much water and
involves developing rain gardens or capturing rain water in barrels.
The word combines the Greek "xeros," which means dry, with
the word landscaping.
Wisconsin can be
proud of the Appleton-headquartered Wild Ones: Native Plants, Natural
Landscapes, a nonprofit organization that promotes the benefits of
native plants. The program was launched in 1979 based on the
philosophy of noted Milwaukee conservationist Lorrie Otto. The group’s
motto is "healing the earth, one yard at a time."
global warming and climate change, people have become aware that they
have a responsibility to the environment," says Wild Ones
Executive Director Donna VanBuecken. "One thing they can easily
be responsible for is the environment that surrounds their home."
native plants in their gardening and landscaping, they are taking a
big step toward healing the earth. Native plants do not require the
tender loving care that most non-native plants do," VanBuecken
Because of their
root systems, they are able to get the moisture and nutrition they
need from deep within the earth, she explains.
Drzewiecki of Ginkgo Leaf Studio, xeriscaping is using the right plant
for the right place. "Here in Wisconsin, that means using natives
or improved cultivars of natives that are used to our soils, weather
and seasons, which in turn means using less water," he
"passionate gardener," Drzewiecki focuses on creating a
comprehensive landscape design, regardless of project size. His
long-standing interest in native plants and the environment led him to
incorporating it all into his design work.
The challenge of
understanding the site and soil conditions is what determines
"right plant, right place," according to Drzewiecki. The
benefits include less water use, less overall maintenance and
healthier, more successful plants. Native plants in turn help native
pollinating insects and birds.
He assures his
clients that xeriscaping is not expensive. "It really is a
landscape design with some thought behind it, which is the standard on
everything we do. It should be a long-standing process," he
Studios still doesn’t get a lot of specific requests for xeriscaping
and incorporates non-natives because that’s what people want. But
Drzewiecki continues to focus on low maintenance plants. "I think
recent concerns about drought and a lack of water may have more people
thinking about it," he points out optimistically.
uses the process for his own home. "I have to because I’m
horrible about remembering to water my plants," he laughs.
LandCrafters’ sales manager/landscape designer, says the term "xeriscaping"
is almost never thought of or used in metro Milwaukee. Yet he points
out that although this area is a water-rich environment due to Lake
Michigan, there are supply challenges in places where many homeowners
use well water. "Because of overtapping of the aquifer, in a
generation or two it will be a major problem," he predicts.
Guthery tries to look at what will the site support from the soil up
"rather what can we ‘impose’ on the site for my will."
He says there is no major cost if the process is done correctly.
horticulture have to help people understand that this is in their best
interest financially and success/effort-wise," he adds,
emphasizing that if people understand it benefits them, they are
willing to do it.
sadly most do not look beyond themselves to their community or their
world, but we, landscape designers and architects, can steer them to
do the right thing and we all benefit," Guthery concludes.