The following blog post has been adapted from a piece Davey contributed to the Association of Professional Landscape Designers' (APLD) Spring 2015 issue of The Designer magazine.
Persistent drought conditions across the southwestern U.S. illustrate the need for landscape designs that can endure harsh drying trends.
The challenge lies in meeting low-water demands without sacrificing beauty or functionality.
By choosing the right tree, you can create a landscape with all the benefits trees have to offer—even for clients located in hot, dry climates.
A growing trend in the western U.S. and other dry areas is xeriscaping, a landscape water conservation concept that originated in Colorado.
The term ‘xeriscape’ comes from xeros, the Greek word for ‘dry,’ according to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The concept has spread throughout the west to use water-efficient landscape designs to eliminate irrigation.
Xeriscape methods range from replacing whole sections of turf with permeable gravel or mulch to carefully selecting shrubs, trees and other plants for rain gardens in dry areas. It’s a practice that is becoming widely accepted by government entities and homeowners associations.
Not all trees need buckets of rain each year to grow tall, offer shade and color the landscape.
In Colorado, finding plants that will thrive in the state’s arid climate without ample irrigation requires careful selection, according to the Colorado State University Extension.
The Colorado State extension advises examining the site’s soil, drainage and sun exposure prior to planting. Some plants can tolerate less water, but they may not grow as well in the low-oxygen soils found at higher altitudes.
The Scottsdale Water Resources Department and Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden at Chaparral Park in Arizona educate residents about the value of planting hardy, native trees and shrubs that are well adapted to desert life.
No tree or shrub can survive without water even though many can thrive in regions where there is little natural moisture.
Many cities in New Mexico average just 8 inches of precipitation or less each year. Some tree and shrub species will require some additional irrigation, if available, or you will need to carefully consider their location—such as in a rain garden where they will benefit from storm runoff from down spouts.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, also recommends contouring the landscape plan in such desert regions to collect natural rainfall and funnel it towards landscape plants.
And, it’s important to recognize that all trees need adequate water during the first two to three years after they’ve been planted.