While xeriscape translates to mean "dry scene," in practice, xeriscaping means simply landscaping with slow-growing, drought tolerant plants to conserve water, restore native habitat and reduce yard trimmings.
In essence, xeriscaping is sustainable landscaping. A landscape can be designed from the beginning planning phase to reduce the amount of resources needed to maintain it and the amount of waste it produces. Each region of California has different resource conditions, such as available water, soil type, temperature ranges, and lighting. By designing a landscape in an appropriate manner, selecting compatible plants, and installing efficient irrigation systems, a balance can be achieved that fits both the aesthetic needs of the landowner or client, and the resource availability of the region.
There are 7 principles of xeriscaping developed by Denver’s department of water (the people who coined the term Xeriscaping):
1. Planning and Design: adapt plantings to different sun and water exposures and existing structures
2. Soil Improvements: often not necessary with native plants
3. Efficient Irrigation: optimally including rain-shutoff device and drip irrigation
4. Zoning of Plants: group together plants with similar light and water requirements, and locate them in areas that match these requirements
5. Mulches: typically organic mulches (e.g. wood chips); gravel should be limited as it can retain and radiate heat, however they are also useful for retaining moisture.
6. Turf Alternatives: turf is minimized (some turf is allowed for recreational or
aesthetic reasons) and the use of native grasses is encouraged
7. Appropriate Maintenance: The amount usually declines after first and/or second year
In Summary, Xeriscaping: Conserves water, provides a variety of attractive planting options, presents minimal pest and disease problems, thrives with little fertilization, requires low pruning and maintenance, and encourages local fauna to return. With one of the most sever droughts in California's history, and more to surely come, xeriscaping is a smart, sustainable way to increase curb appeal, or create a beautiful garden.