Xeriscaping continues to gain popularity around the world as people discover the benefits of this landscaping technique. In Latin, xero means dry and scape means landscape or view. As an official landscaping technique, xeriscaping seems to have ‘originated’ in the 1980’s as a result of ongoing, multi-year droughts plaguing the Western, United States, but people have been planting to match their climate for centuries.
Landscapers–from California to the Rocky Mountains–were seeking a way to create gardens less dependent on irrigation without sacrificing aesthetic-appeal. Denver Water, the largest and oldest public water utility in Denver, Colorado, coined the term and began to formally define the main principles of xeriscaping for members of the Denver community interested in modifying gardening practices to save water. Though it began in an effort to engage in water conservation in dry areas, it evolved to include a broader set of goals captured in the guidelines below.
Many arid communities, from the deserts of the southwest to the chaparrals of California have adopted xeriscape principles. Given the routine dry periods these regions experience, xeriscaping is very logical. As recently as 2006, researchers identified that in the southwest 60-80% of water used by individual households was for landscape irrigation (watering a lawn accounts for a majority of it). Installing xeriscape gardens, as a Nevada study showed, reduced water bills by 50% (with massive 70% average reductions during summer months). Participants also reported reduced labor effort of 26.4%, since their new yards required less maintenance, like lawn mowing and manicuring.
Xeriscaping does not come without costs. One study found that modifications were between $1.30-$2.00 per sq ft depending on whether homeowners did the work themselves or hired a contractor. These inputs are upfront costs for materials like native plants, mulch, stones, and tools. Over time, however, there are substantial savings with lower water bills and reduced maintenance costs. There are also cash-back incentives and rebates associated with improving resource use in your landscaping in some areas. Check with local city and state websites to determine what might be available in your area.
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