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Water Wise Pt. I: Hardscape Features for Water Conservation

WaterwiseCollage

Water Wise Weekend May 16 &17

In advance of NHG's annual Water Wise Weekend May 16th and 17th, we'd like to offer a few tips for bringing increased water wisdom to your own garden and landscape. It seems easy to list the benefits of applying water-wise landscape principles; however, implementation can be daunting when faced with your own garden. 

'Hardscape' is a general term applied to non-living parts of the landscape such as decks, patios, paths, fences and the like. Hardscape materials can be natural (river rocks, flag stone) or entirely man-made, such as a poured cement driveway. Either way, hardscape features give structure and interest to the softer, 'green' landscape elements, and can be bold, architectural features or small, artistic touches. Since they're permanent, but non-living, they tend to be low-maintenance and water-free. 

 

BCC Corner Pre Reno WEB
This hot, sunny landscape corner was stressed from poor irrigation and runoff. Large color beds required frequent replanting, and demanded even more irrigation.

A perfect opportunity to affect positive, water-wise change is with older, tired landscape spots, such as the space pictured above. Hot, sunny conditions have stressed the large groundcover area and aging hedges, resulting in increased need for artificial irrigation. Broad annual color spaces require frequent re-planting and even more irrigation thereafter. To complicate matters, downspouts from the adjacent building create areas of runoff that resulted in washed-out spaces and bare spots.

BCC Corner Post Reno

Post renovation, the same planting space is framed by a handsome fence and naturalized creek-bed like pattern of river rock. Drought-tolerant plantings soften the view.

 The same corner, post renovation: Note the replacement of the tall hedges with a stained wooden fence that serves as a screen for the utilitarian space behind it, as well as a backdrop for the front plantings. The dry creek bed style accent with large river rocks addresses the building downspouts by slowing the movement of water, reducing runoff and allowing more water to percolate the surrounding soil. Drought tolerant ornamental grasses are added to soften the overall texture and provide interest. 

You might be thinking that there's no color here, but you'd be mistaken. Annual color spaces are reduced to lessen the overall maintenance investment, but with timely seasonal additions, a wonderful color space is enjoyed:

BCC Corner w Tulips WEB

Even water-wise landscapes can be colorful! Tulips planted between the dormant ornamental grasses give a burst of color in spring.

Many Dallas area gardeners struggle with dry shade. With suburban houses closer together and large, mature trees (especially Live Oaks) a common feature, landscapes can be fraught with trouble spots where nothing will grow well:

Pool entry pre renoWEB

Tired, overgrown hedges and dry, poor soil in shade resulted in a dull, useless landscape space where nothing would grow well.

Old hedges and poor, dry soil compound the fact that this space gets only morning sun. Since it was also a high pedestrian traffic space and near a space where additional seating was needed, it made sense to create an easy, informal patio garden:

Pool entry post renoWEB

Un-mortared flagstone creates a seating space while allowing water to percolate to the soil beneath. A raised planting bed for shrubs allows for more targeted, effective irrigation, and the small fountain adds a focal point and soothing sound.

An easy hardscape feature, the stacked-stone border creates a functional, but minimal planting space where low-maintenance shrubs create a backdrop. An easy-care vine and wall trellis were added for additional interest. The un-mortared flagstone patio creates a useful seating space while allowing water to percolate the soil beneath instead of running off. A small, tranquil jar fountain adds a nice sound while providing a unique focal point. 

These are just a few examples of easy hardscape features that helped to turn troubled areas into low-maintenance, water-wise landscapes. Join us during NHG's annual Water Wise Weekend for more inspiration, including a free presentation by Paula Spletter, winner of the 2012 Dallas Water-Wise Landscape Tour, entitled 'How I Created My Water-Wise Landscape' on Saturday, May 16th, from 12:30-1:30. You're sure to come away with tips and ideas for improving your own space!

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