INSPIRATION-DROUGHT-TOLERANT-DESIGN

Everyone nowadays wants a drought tolerant landscape, but some people think they have very few options: a scattering of succulents surrounded with mulch or a yard full of pavers. Many folks simply settle for a dead lawn and dry dirt, posting a sign from the City that reads,"Gold is the new green." Such austerity is really not necessary, since a successfully drought tolerant landscape can be composed from thousands of different plants, combined in all sorts of ways from formal to informal, austere to elegant. Just within the enormous category of succulents, the choices are almost endless. They range far beyond the familiar favorites like purple Aeonium or Blue Chalksticks (Senecio serpens) or that Foxtail Agave (Agave attenuata) that absolutely everyone already has. Why propagate cliches when you can choose from so many strange shapes and cool colors to create something fresh, flamboyant and wonderfully weird? Succulents are like abstract art for the outdoors.

You're certainly not limited to succulents for a drought tolerant landscape. You might prefer softer scenery composed of California native plants filling your yard. There's no reason to restrict these indigenous survivors to wild meadows of Poppies and Lupines or to hillside ground covers of Ceanothus or Manzanita. Instead, a plant palette of natives can be used like the showy ornamentals of more urban landscapes, while often providing more benefit: they attract birds, bees and butterflies, they're horticulturally compatible and they need almost no water. For keen visual impact, natives are best when planted in mass, in swaths or ribbons or spilling over stone terraces. When displayed like that, they look lavish. However, since their bloom period is brief, I prefer to mix species together to lengthen the flower show, or even better, to create color combinations with foliage, like pairing the silvery leaves of Sages and Artemisia with the deep green of Catalina Current (Ribes.)

Maybe you still favor the popular Mediterranean plants like Lavender, Rosemary, Santolina, Olive trees and Pomegranites. Again, this diverse group of plants from countries with climates like ours can be used successfully as a drought tolerant landscape, so long as consideration is given to cultural requirements. That means combining plants with the same needs for sunlight, water and soil fertility. If the soil is throughly amended before planting, with compost, sand and fertilizer, and an appropriate drip irrigation system is installed, these beloved beauties will still thrive, even during the driest times. I suggest using fewer plants than in years past, avoiding clutter and crowding, and instead choose just the right ones to compliment each other and to enhance the hardscape. Simple procedures ensure the robust growth of these plants: apply a three inch layer of mulch, fertilize a few times a year with a foliar spray, and fine-tune the drip irrigation system as needed. As plants expand, they actually need less water than when young.
 
I'm happy to use any of these palettes of plants to compose a landscape that shines in the sun and defies the drought. Success depends always on proper planning. Build the landscape on paper, before you dig any holes! Always imperative to any style of design is a drip irrigation system. A drought tolerant landscape needs no sprinklers, no shrubblers, no mini sprays, all of which throw water over the plants, rather than applying it directly to their roots. Correct design of a drip irrigation system requires knowledge of horticulture, soil structure and some engineering. It should never be cobbled together with mismatched parts. Most of the landscapes I see around Santa Barbara and Ventura, both residential and commercial, need revision of their irrigation. Poor design costs money, wastes water and restricts the potential of plantings. When properly designed and installed, a drip system is both efficient and economical; it will keep your yard healthy and you happy. The system is run by an electronic controller, programmed to apply water in specific amounts at certain times. In combination with "waterwise" weather stations, the controller automatically modifies its programming to adjust to changing weather conditions. A regular maintenance inspection of all parts in the system will ensure that it performs at its best. As time passes and plants grow, minor changes may be required.



You may want to venture beyond a drought tolerant landscape and go all the way to sustainable. What does that term mean? Simply put, a sustainable landscape is easy on the environment. A sustainable system requires no inputs made from petroleum, no concrete, no plastic, no gasoline powered equipment. Since the plants are chosen to suit the site, they need minimal maintenance and no herbicides or pesticides. The landscape can even include ways of capturing rainwater. Sustainable landscape creates no waste from continual pruning, mowing and hauling, no water run-off and no pollution. The landscape is ecologically balanced, environmentally responsible and economical. Planning one requires increased ingenuity but produces a more satisfying result: it really is "green" and guilt free.


With so many ways to design a distinctive drought tolerant landscape, why put up with a boring brown surrounding your home? If instead, you'd prefer something utterly original and delightfully different, please see my MENU of deliciously drought tolerant selections called Feast for the Eyes.
 
Everyone nowadays wants a drought tolerant landscape, but some people think they have very few options: a scattering of succulents surrounded with mulch or a yard full of pavers. Many folks simply settle for a dead lawn and dry dirt, posting a sign from the City that reads,"Gold is the new green." Such austerity is really not necessary, since a successfully drought tolerant landscape can be composed from thousands of different plants, combined in all sorts of ways from formal to informal, austere to elegant. Just within the enormous category of succulents, the choices are almost endless. They range far beyond the familiar favorites like purple Aeonium or Blue Chalksticks (Senecio serpens) or that Foxtail Agave (Agave attenuata) that absolutely everyone already has. Why propagate cliches when you can choose from so many strange shapes and cool colors to create something fresh, flamboyant and wonderfully weird? Succulents are like abstract art for the outdoors.

You're certainly not limited to succulents for a drought tolerant landscape. You might prefer softer scenery composed of California native plants filling your yard. There's no reason to restrict these indigenous survivors to wild meadows of Poppies and Lupines or to hillside ground covers of Ceanothus or Manzanita. Instead, a plant palette of natives can be used like the showy ornamentals of more urban landscapes, while often providing more benefit: they attract birds, bees and butterflies, they're horticulturally compatible and they need almost no water. For keen visual impact, natives are best when planted in mass, in swaths or ribbons or spilling over stone terraces. When displayed like that, they look lavish. However, since their bloom period is brief, I prefer to mix species together to lengthen the flower show, or even better, to create color combinations with foliage, like pairing the silvery leaves of Sages and Artemisia with the deep green of Catalina Current (Ribes.)

Maybe you still favor the popular Mediterranean plants like Lavender, Rosemary, Santolina, Olive trees and Pomegranites. Again, this diverse group of plants from countries with climates like ours can be used successfully as a drought tolerant landscape, so long as consideration is given to cultural requirements. That means combining plants with the same needs for sunlight, water and soil fertility. If the soil is throughly amended before planting, with compost, sand and fertilizer, and an appropriate drip irrigation system is installed, these beloved beauties will still thrive, even during the driest times. I suggest using fewer plants than in years past, avoiding clutter and crowding, and instead choose just the right ones to compliment each other and to enhance the hardscape. Simple procedures ensure the robust growth of these plants: apply a three inch layer of mulch, fertilize a few times a year with a foliar spray, and fine-tune the drip irrigation system as needed. As plants expand, they actually need less water than when young. I'm happy to use any of these palettes of plants to compose a landscape that shines in the sun and defies the drought. Success depends always on proper planning. Build the landscape on paper, before you dig any holes! Always imperative to any style of design is a drip irrigation system. A drought tolerant landscape needs no sprinklers, no shrubblers, no mini sprays, all of which throw water over the plants, rather than applying it directly to their roots. Correct design of a drip irrigation system requires knowledge of horticulture, soil structure and some engineering. It should never be cobbled together with mismatched parts. Most of the landscapes I see around Santa Barbara and Ventura, both residential and commercial, need revision of their irrigation. Poor design costs money, wastes water and restricts the potential of plantings. When properly designed and installed, a drip system is both efficient and economical; it will keep your yard healthy and you happy. The system is run by an electronic controller, programmed to apply water in specific amounts at certain times. In combination with "waterwise" weather stations, the controller automatically modifies its programming to adjust to changing weather conditions. A regular maintenance inspection of all parts in the system will ensure that it performs at its best. As time passes and plants grow, minor changes may be required.



You may want to venture beyond a drought tolerant landscape and go all the way to sustainable. What does that term mean? Simply put, a sustainable landscape is easy on the environment. A sustainable system requires no inputs made from petroleum, no concrete, no plastic, no gasoline powered equipment. Since the plants are chosen to suit the site, they need minimal maintenance and no herbicides or pesticides. The landscape can even include ways of capturing rainwater. Sustainable landscape creates no waste from continual pruning, mowing and hauling, no water run-off and no pollution. The landscape is ecologically balanced, environmentally responsible and economical. Planning one requires increased ingenuity but produces a more satisfying result: it really is "green" and guilt free.


With so many ways to design a distinctive drought tolerant landscape, why put up with a boring brown surrounding your home? If instead, you'd prefer something utterly original and delightfully different, please see my MENU of deliciously drought tolerant selections called Feast for the Eyes.

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