Editor’s note: Get Growing, written by the La Plata County Extension Office’s Master Gardener Program, appears during the growing season. It features timely tips and suggestions for your garden and landscape.By Jenny Nedergaard
It is hard to remember (unless you were here in 2002 and 2003) another period of time that was as dry as this year and last fall. Whether you are a believer in climate change or not, we can’t argue with the fact that our climate here is getting drier. The city has asked some big water users to reduce their consumption. The state has legalized private rain barrels for water storage.
Maybe it’s time for you to replace some of that lawn and start thinking about xeric landscaping. A common misconception is that “xeric” means a lot of rocks and a few cactus. Not so. Some of the most lush and colorful landscapes can be created with xeric plants. With a little planning and thought, plants can be found that need little – and in some cases, no – watering after establishment.
So how do you get started? A website provided by Plant Select, a nonprofit collaboration of Colorado State University, Denver Botanic Gardens and professional horticulturists, allows you to put in the exact type of plants you’re looking for – including options such as plant type, hardiness, water needs, amount of sun, size, even flower color, just to list a few. After entering your desires, the site, plantselect.org, will list the plants that will work for you and even provide beautiful pictures of the mature plants. After entering just one category for our area – “xeric,” Plant Select provided me with a list of 77 colorful plants.
Most of these plants are carried by our local nurseries, which can also provide you with ideas for plants that will lighten your water load. The demonstration garden behind the Durango Public Library, maintained by the Durango Botanical Society, is full of plants that require minimal water. On Saturday mornings, knowledgeable volunteers are there to answer questions you may have.
Xeriscaping is not “zero-scaping.” Water use is greatly reduced but not eliminated. Consider shifting your focus from water-guzzling plants to plants better adapted to our dry weather.
Jenny Nedergaard has been a Colorado master gardener since 2017. She lives in La Plata County.