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Landscape Design Ideas for Water Conservation

Tips September 1, 2017

You want a beautiful backyard.

Nobody can blame you. With very little time in Vancouver to enjoy the weather, it is completely natural to want to spend time outside enjoying the landscape. However, the summers in Vancouver are generally a time for water conservation, and the design of a patio or backyard space has to take into consideration the fact that residents are often asked to conserve water throughout the summer months.

In 1981, Denver Water coined the term “Xeriscaping”, an approach to landscaping that considers the ecological need of each space that you are working in. The word itself is a combination of the Greek word for ‘dry’ (xiros), and the word landscaping.

Nobody wants a space they create that is green and lush to go brown and dry throughout the summer. Here are our best suggestions for landscape design ideas to help you enjoy your patio while you’re conserving water at the same time.

Before getting started, you want to do a site analysis.

Consider things like the climate, wind patterns, topography, and geology. Are there seasonal changes in sun angles? What part of your property gets more sun than shade? What is the historical monthly rainfall amount that a property in your area receives? Does a soil analysis reveal specific geological elements you need to take into consideration? All of these questions can be extremely helpful in planning how you are going to lay out your green space. Get out a piece of paper and map out your space considering direction and making room for walkways.

One of the best ways to figure out how you want to lay out your yard is to go looking for inspiration. A quick Google image search of the word ‘xeriscaping’ or ‘drought resistant landscaping’ will yield you inspiration from around the world. After you have your inspiration, head to a local nursery and see what they have in stock. From there, regardless of the unique features of your yard, there are going to be a few tips that apply to everybody.

First, limit the amount of lawn area or turf to where it is actually going to be used.

The less lawn that you have, the more water you can conserve. You don’t want your outdoor space to be entirely stone or wood, but you do want to limit the area that you lay turf to where you are going to be using it – for example as a child’s play area or a run area for a family pet. As turf is the biggest water user in landscapes, consider purchasing and using drought resistant turf. As an alternative, you can consider mulch and drought-resistant groundcovers, or even with artificial grass that requires no water at all.

In areas where you choose to not have turf or lawn, consider using patio materials that allow drainage of water into the ground below. Wood decks or stone on a sand base for a patio allows moisture to run into the ground ensuring that your plants get every drop of water they can. For paths, consider gravel or wood chips as water friendly materials.

Second, group together and limit your water loving plants.

Annuals tend to require more water, while perennials are more drought tolerant flowers. Flowering trees and hardy shrubs are great options for a pop of colour. Make sure that you limit the amount of water loving flowers and use them in areas of high visual impact to give your green space the wow-factor without using too much water to keep it stunning. If you are going to put in flowers, perennials such as Lavender, Russian Sage, and Yarrow are the way to go. Remember that you can create shade or cooler areas by planting trees and shrubs that will overshadow other plants.

Third, consider using succulents and ornamental grasses in your design.

Succulents can be grouped together in incredibly unique ways that still provide the texture and pop of colour that less drought resistant flowers would. Combine them with ornamental grasses for a unique look that is easy to maintain during water restrictions. Minimize the number of new or young plants – mature plants have deeper root systems and generally need to be watered less.

Finally, buy local plants.

Local plants are going to have the best chance of surviving in your region. A drought prone or water restriction prone environment is not the time to try growing exotic plants from another region!

When you are landscaping your yard, preparation is key.

Plan out where you are going to plants and strategically design your space before purchasing anything. Group similar plants together and know exactly how much water they need. Consider irrigation and the most efficient use of the water that you do have. This is going to be dependent on each individual space, but a general rule of thumb is to water your plants in the morning when they will have time to absorb the moisture before the sun wicks it away. It is considered better than watering your plants in the evening. How much water do you use? Your plants should begin to wilt at the hottest part of the day, but perk up as soon as the sun goes down. If they aren’t wilting, you’ve probably watered them too much. If they aren’t perking up, you know they need more water in the mornings.

A beautiful landscape that is drought friendly and encourages water conservation is at your fingertips. With some preparation, it is possible to create a landscape that is beautiful and one that you can enjoy, while not suffering from drought conditions each summer. There are a wide variety of drought-resistant flowers, and you can mix and match succulents, tall grasses, shrubs, and perennials to create a beautiful space that doesn’t need a lot of water. The tips above allow you to create a beautiful space that also conserves water, ensuring it stays beautiful year round. Which tips are you going to try? What tips do you have to share with us?