Water efficient landscaping includes a variety of lush plants, flowers and trees. These professionally designed plans can get you started on your own project. Use them to help you upgrade your current design, or to plan an entirely new yard. These designs have been graciously donated by Craig Anderson, a professional landscape designer here in Spokane.
Edible Garden Xeriscape
Edible gardens consist of a combination of edible and ornamental drought tolerant plants. It also utilizes one of the main principles of xeriscaping – combining similar water use plants in the same area.
This design shows a gravel path looping through a sunny side-yard with the vegetable garden contained by a rock border in the center of the loop. This allows the gardener to concentrate soil amendments, fertilizers, and greater irrigation demands in this bed. Raising the bed 12 – 18" will also allow easier access to the plants and allow the gardener to add better soils on top of their existing yard.
Other plants placed around the garden are also edible but do not necessarily need the intensive maintenance or water of a typical vegetable garden.
Fruit and vegetable plants have been placed away from the shadow of the house to try and maximize the amount of daylight available. Most of these edible plants will need a minimum of 6-hours of direct sunlight per day.
Remember to keep a compost bin (or 2 or 3) going to continually improve your soils.
A, B, and C: Apples, Cherries, or Pears. Several varieties are available from local nurseries. Ground level plantings should be kept to a minimum under these trees.
D: Bishop's Weed – plant in shady areas only.
E: Flower bedfor cuttings, or currants
F: Herbs and Flowers for cuttings.
G: Currants for jams and jellies.
H: Pine or Juniper for foundation planting.
I: Double-dug ground-level garden bed in low spots. Use natural drainage of your yard to water plants for you. (See Sunset's Western Garden book for a description of "double-dug")
J: Grapes trained onto a wire mesh.
L: Blue oat grass
N: Kinnickinick – used in some teas and herbal remedies
O: Vegetable garden areas in raised planting bed with improved soils.
The playground xeriscape is designed around maximizing play opportunities for children in a variety of settings. Here the focus is on providing multiple environments for discovery, learning, and fun. A wide variety of textures and colors are used in the landscape with natural obstacles used as an integral part of the play experience.
Located in a fenced backyard, this design starts at a patio and BBQ on the back of the home and incorporates a trike path linking other areas of the yard. The path loops behind and around stands of tall grasses such as Karl Forester's Feathered Reed Grass to entice children in games of 'hide and seek'. In the lower right hand corner of the yard is a playhouse and room for storing toys. After the children have grown up, it can be converted into a garden shed. Next to the playhouse is a large sandbox. The upper right corner of the yard is shaded with a canopy of Thornless Honeylocust trees. A stepping stone pathway winds through the area. The upper left corner of the yard contains a small play structure. This is placed in an area of fall zone engineered wood fiber for safety.
A short slide takes kids out of the play area back into the grass. Boulders are placed throughout the yard for climbing opportunities and a half log bench is tucked off the path for quiet conversations. The drought tolerant fescue/bluegrass mix turf serves as an open play area.
A: Blue Oat Grass / Idaho Blue Fescue
B: Feathered Reed Grass, Maidenhair Grass
C: Lilacs (two types shown)
D: Scotch Pine, Ponderosa Pine
E: Rocky Mountain Juniper
F: Butterfly Bush
H: Juniper (Skyrocket or similar)
I: Kinnikinnick groundcover
J: Alpine Currant
K: Dwarf Mugo Pine
M: Bar Harbor Juniper
N: Golden Thornless Honeylocust
O: Green Ash
Rural xeriscapes tend to focus on creating better micro-climates around the house. This example is suitable for many of our Palouse, West Plains, and Prairie homes. Although the same principles apply to these landscapes, these rural xeriscapes are much larger than a typical urban lot and more exposed to the elements so more attention is focused on water conservation and reduced maintenance.
Mass plantings are used to define the more intensive spaces around the house. In this case, a mown drought-tolerant fescue/bluegrass blend turf is framed by large planting beds. Irrigation is only supplied for the inner area of turf and shrub. Outside of this is a native blend of grasses and forbs suited to a non-irrigated environment.
Evergreen trees are located at the northwest corner of the site to block cold winter winds, while other areas receive deciduous trees to provide shade in the summer, but allow winter sun to warm the house. Trees can be carefully placed to frame views to distant mountains or valleys. Each tree is located in a shrub bed to minimize the need to weed around the tree and rake leaves from the grass in the fall.
A: Black Hills Spruce, Colorado Blue Spruce, Lodgepole Pine
B: Ornamental Grasses such as Blue Fescue, Ribbon Grass, Feathered Reed Grass, Bromegrass, and Blue Lyme Grass
C: Smooth Sumac, Staghorn Sumac, or a flowering Cherry for visual interest from the patio.
D: Spreading Juniper
E: Maple and Oak – large shade trees
F: Mountain Fire Pieris, Globe Caragana, Contoneaster,
G: Aspen or Birch grove - in low lying spots that collect water only.
H: Mugo Pines (not dwarf varieties)
I: Green Ash
J: Lavender and Sage, or Flower Beds – used to provide colorful accents
K: Blue Oat Grass
L: Lemonade Sumac or Lilac
N: Perennials such as Yarrow, Silver King, Tansy, Cornflower, Snow-in-summer, Poppies, Daylily, Blue Flax, Bishopâ€™s Weed, and Goldenrod
O: Dryland grass blends. Available from several local nurseries and seed suppliers.
In most of today's typical residential developments, the landscape is that last thing to be installedâ€¦ and the first to be cut from the budget. In many cases what started out as an enticing plan is weaned to just turf, and possible a tree or two. In this case, a small cluster of mature Ponderosa Pine was left in the upper right hand corner.
This design attempts to cut back the turf, and gradually replace it with drought tolerant shrubs and trees. Those 'difficult to mow' areas might be replaced first with fast spreading groundcovers like Juniper and Kinnickinick. Then other shrubs can be used to fill in areas and provide some height to the plantings such as Lavender, Sage, or Spirea. Finally, larger shrubs are planted against the fence or house to provide backbone.
If an underground irrigation system is installed, individual heads can be converted to drip emitter systems, or risers can be put on the head to overthrow shrubs onto the lawn. While not the best or most water efficient system, this can allow a homeowner to retrofit their yard without costly irrigation work.
A. Red Osier Dogwood
B. Mugo Pine (multiple varieties)
E. Blue Penstemon
F. Mallow Ninebark
G. Idaho Fescue / Dwarf Fountain Grass
H. Ponderosa Pine / Scotch Pine
I. Green Ash
J. Lavender and Sage
K. Spirea, Anthony Waterer and others
L. Bluestem Grass / Sheep's Fescue / Blue Oat Grass
M. Flowering Cherry
For the ultimate in easy maintenance gardening, this design removes all the turf grass and replaces it with native and drought tolerant plants. A flagstone walk to the front door (top of the drawing) has an enlarged area for a bistro-sized table and chairs. Tall grasses surround the patio and blend down into a dry gravel 'stream bed' winding through the front yard.
A narrow gravel path takes visitors around the house to the back patio, also flagstone, and then into a looped path in the back yard. Specimen granite and basalt boulders, covered in lichen dominate the backyard landscape. A variety of perennials, grasses, evergreen shrubs, and groundcovers wrap around another dry streambed winding through the yard.
At first glance, this yard may seem like a maintenance intensive place. Closer inspection would show that many of these plants need very little attention after the first two to three years of growth. Most maintenance would consist of one or two weekends of work in the spring (two to three days) for pruning, shearing, spreading compost, and mulching, and a day or so in the fall for clean up. The landscape can then be literally left to its own devices for the rest of the year. Compare that to mowing a lawn two to three times a week for 6 or 7 months, fertilizing twice a year, aerating, pulling dandelions, and dethatching every spring.
1. Bar Harbor Juniper
2. Blue Oat Grass (Helictotichon)
3. Morning Light Miscanthus
5. Adagio Miscanthus
6. Pfitz Juniper (multiple varieties)
7. Pink Phlox or Rosy Pussytoes
8. Purple Penestemon
10. Juniper or Mugo Pine
11. Sage or Lavender
12. Oregon Grape
14. Elijah Blue Fescue
16. Karl Forester Feather Reed Grass
17. Savin Juniper
18. Purple Iris
19. Ajuga reptans
20. Pampas Grass
21. Purple Coneflower