By Marilyn Loser: 2012 February 1
I hear people say “zeroscaping”; I hope they mean “xeriscaping.” Xeriscaping is water-efficient landscaping – it doesn’t mean rocks and a single cactus. It can mean beautiful yards with flowers, greenery, and shade. In addition, it can mean reasonably low maintenance and water needs.
“Xeriscape” comes from the Greek “xeros” meaning dry, and “scape” meaning landscape. So, the word coined by Denver Water Department employees in 1981, means a type of landscape where plants don’t require a lot of water.
The world's first Xeriscape Demonstration Garden was created at the Denver Botanic Gardens in 1986. It has been renamed to Dryland Mesa.
We don’t have a lot of American words that begin with ‘x’. When saying xeriscape, think Xerox – yep, starts with an ‘x’, but is pronounced like a ‘z’. I think the starting ‘zee’ sound is what confuses some people, prompting them to say zeroscape.
To me, zeroscaping means having no plants at all – only rocks, gravel, concrete, asphalt and/or wood chips. I don’t include dirt in the list since some weeds will grow in the dirt at least part of the year. Vince Urbina, one of my favorite Colorado foresters, says there is no such thing as zeroscaping -- there will be a weed or rebel plant growing somewhere on the scene.
There are some places in Alamosa that have gone toward zeroscaping. I understand the desire to have no yard upkeep, but it makes the property ugly. Careful planning and planting could transform these barren scapes into a welcoming environment.
My focus has been on trees, but I plan to intersperse “Alamosa Flowers” columns with “Alamosa Trees” this spring so you’ll hear more about Alamosa garden xeriscapes.
When many of the homes in the older parts of Alamosa were built, water was inexpensive (as was gasoline). People planted lush lawns and overwatering often spilled into the streets. Alamosa water rates have steadily increased, with a big increase happening this year. I fear people will just stop watering and our town will shrivel into ugliness. It doesn’t need to happen!
Xeriscaping has 7 principles for growing a water-efficient, drought-tolerant landscape or garden. I will use the example of my yard to reflect on each principle.
For specifics on applying xeriscaping techniques to Alamosa yards and gardens, read the next Alamosa Trees column.
"He that plants trees loves others beside himself." Thomas Fuller