What is Xeriscaping and is it Right for You?

What is Xeriscaping and is it Right for You?

Xeriscaping is often also referred to as zero-scaping, or no-scaping, which are clever euphemisms describing the relative lack of watering needed and maintenance involved with a xeriscaped property. There are many who would argue that there is a difference between xeriscaping, zero-scaping, and no-scaping, which has to do with the types of plants used and the amount of water required. For our purposes, and because of the fact that Calgary simply isn’t warm enough to landscape as though it is a desert, we tend to use these terms interchangeably. 

Xeriscaping was developed in the hotter and drier areas of the world, where water is often rationed and it is impractical to try to keep up vast expanses of grass. But the reason it is becoming more and more popular in Calgary is because it allows for a lot of creativity for both commercial and residential landscape designs.

We are getting more and more inquiries about xeriscaping these days, and are pleased to see this evolution in landscaping options take place. Over our three generationsof landscaping in Calgary (specializing in serving the southeast communities of the city), we have seen many property design trends come and go. Some have been good, some have been bad, but we truly believe that xeriscaping is here to stay and we’re pleased to provide it as part of our landscape design arsenal. 

Common Elements of Xeriscaping 

Very simply put, xeriscaping refers to a landscape that is made for less maintenance and that requires less water than traditional designs. When thinking of xeriscaping a property, we ask ourselves the following questions:

  • Which plants will we choose to grow
  • Which plants will we choose to avoid (most often, this is grass)
  • How plants will be organized to protect each other and thrive

Common elements of a xeriscaped property include:

  • Drought-tolerant shrubs. In Calgary, these include junipers, dogwoods, caraganas, hydrangeas, honeysuckles, potentilla, spirea, Saskatoons, Nanking cherries, and cotoneasters. 
  • Drought-tolerant trees. In Calgary, some options for trees that require less water than most includes spruce and pine, ash, hawthorn, lilac and larch.
  • Drought-resistant perennials. In Calgary, these include asters, anemones, clematis, some decorative grasses, geraniums, daylilies, goldenrod, potentilla, stonecrop, cornflower, hens and chicks, and blanketflower. 

We would never suggest xeriscaping a yard without first installing underground irrigation. This would be something like building a house without a foundation. As the whole point of xeriscaping is to reduce the use of water, there is no point in moving forward with such a project without first installing water-saving devices such as underground sprinklers. These can be placed to directly feed your plantings to reduce water waste dramatically. 

Since xeriscaping means less grass, xeriscaped yards are almost always completely mulched in or else covered with decorative rocks. This provides a protective cover for the soil and the roots of plants, as well as performing its first function, which is to help reduce the total amount of water needed. Water will seep slowly into the soil rather than run off quickly, and because of the insulation provided by the covering will also last longer, not evaporating off into the atmosphere as it does when it lies on the surface. The spaces between the rocks also provide a cozy spot for plants to be protected from winter winds and cold.

Some of the most often used decorative rocks for xeriscaping are locally found rundle rock and limestone to more exotic choices of lava rock from the southern area of the U.S. Some may choose to path their xeriscaping through with flagstone or brick to easily make your way through to tend to your perennials, shrubs, and trees.

Big and beautiful boulders are also common for xersiscaping, as they add great visual appeal. They can be placed to add interest and dimension and help fill in spaces between plants. Boulders can also be useful for placing address numbers and to hold lights and other decorative elements.

Retaining walls and xeriscaping go hand-in-hand as well. They are perfect for “flattening” out properties so that less water is wasted, while also providing a more hospitable environment for sensitive plants. Plus, their tiered appearance adds depth and breadth to properties.

Is Xeriscaping for You?

Xeriscaping is great for those who want to save water and who don’t mind giving up a bit of green space. Those who still want a grassy expanse for their pets and children to play should maybe consider a 50/50 approach, with a front lawn xeriscaped and a back lawn traditionally landscaped. 

And don’t forget that it is a bit of a fallacy to expect that xeriscaping will completely rid yourself of all landscape maintenance responsibilities. Shrubs and trees both require regular pruning to keep them healthy, and there is weeding and pruning involved with perennials as well. But the good news is that once we xeriscape you property, we can also be on hand for regular landscaping services to keep everything looking as good as it did the day we finished with our design. 

Don’t forget to use us in the winter, too! Mirage Landscaping provides commercial and residential snow removal services in Calgary’s southeast. 


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