(photo of shrub step ecosystem courtesy Northwest Habitat Institute).
Listen to this feature here.
Host introduction: Spring is here and the garden is calling. Often times, we answer the call with fertilizers and lots of water. But many people are looking for green alternatives to landscaping. Sueann Ramella reports on a green alternative many gardeners are excited about; Xeriscaping.
Sueann Ramella: What do you need to grow a beautiful garden? A green thumb helps but you need soil, [ Sound: digging in soil] or substrate, some plants or seed – hopefully a plan and water [Sound: water from faucet] Lots of water…[Sound: water gets louder] depending on the type of plants you choose and the climate you live in. By the way, you are most likely using… [Sound: gulping water] drinking water to irrigate your gardens and lawns.
In Spokane, the average family triples their water usage in the hot summer months. Most of that water is used outdoors. Bill Rickard is the Water Quality Coordinator for the City of Spokane.
Bill Rickard: We have a lot of water, but not necessarily so much that we can waste it. Water use in this area tends to be more acute in the summer. Any urban area, and Spokane is no exception, uses several times more water during the summer; half of all the water that you use all year. So we want to work together to responsibly use our water resources.
Ramella: So what can be done to grow a beautiful garden, and reduce the amount of water used to sustain it?
Kathy Hutton: Xeriscaping is great because everybody’s is going to be in a water crunch right now.
Ramella: Kathy Hutton is with Plants of the Wild in Tekoa, Washington.
Ramella: Xeriscaping is the use drought tolerant, often native plants to landscape. If you are imaging bunch grasses, tumbleweeds and lava rock it does not sound attractive and maybe boring...
Chuck Cody: Well, first of all plants are not boring. There are many, many plants that are native throughout the Western United States that are very exciting!
Ramella: Chuck Cody is the Plant Growth Facilities Manager for the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University …
Cody: They’re colorful. They have their own characters if you will. There’s a lot of Penstemons, (common name is beardtongue ..it has bell shaped flowers in many colors ) there’s a lot of agastache (stiff and angular flowering stems in pink, mauve or purples..)
Kathy Hutton: We have a lot of shrubs that are very pretty; Service berry (Petite white flowering bush), Chokecherry (a tasty jam!) , low ground covering plants that are very popular for landscaping. Kinnickinnick [or bearberry] is one of the real popular ones (shrubby with red berries) and wild strawberries …There are some very pretty bushes Low ground covering plans.. Kinnikinnick (shrubby with red berries) and wild strawberries …”
Chuck Cody: Xeriscaping can be many things though. I mean, it can be a rock garden where you put a lot of succulents or potentially even cacti. There are some cacti that will work in our area.
Sueann Ramella: Many organizations and cities are encouraging people to xeriscape. Plants of the Wild, along with The Washington Department of Ecology, WSU Extension and the cities of Spokane, Post Falls and Coeur D Alene distributed information on wild flower mixes and low maintenance grass seed to residents.
Kathy Hutton: Spokane and Coeur D Alene realize they are going to have a problem with conserving and rationing water. So they are trying to educate the public on options other than putting in a typical lawn. There are options out there and just giving them some information on some different alternatives.
Ramella: Learning about the types of plants and how to design a xeriscape garden is easy. It just takes a little time and a willingness to change old gardening habits. Kathy Hutton says there’s a growing number of people looking into xeriscaping.
Kathy Hutton: I think people are beginning to change. We are having a lot more people calling that are interested in xeriscaping and native landscaping and even our turf mixes, which we call our low maintenance mix, where they don’t’ want to put in much water, fertilizer or even as much time. They want it to be low maintenance for them.
Sueann Ramella: For more information on xeriscaping, including photos of drought tolerant plants come to Our Northwest at nwpr.org.
Washington State University
Hardy Plants for Waterwise Landscapes
University of Oregon
Xeriscape is a Water Wise Solution (A Water Wise Solution)
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's Wildlife Areas page.
Kinnikinnick or Bearberry
Plant Images - http://plants.usda.gov/gallery.html