Xeriscape is not Zero-scape

“Xeriscape” is a made up word, first coined by Denver Water in 1981, by combining the  words “landscape” with the Greek word “xeros,” which means dry. It is pronounced ZEH·ri·skayp and promotes water efficiency by using plants that are native or adapted to Colorado’s semi-arid climate. 

Pretty xeriscape

The word “Zero-scape” is a misunderstanding or mispronunciation of the word xeriscape. Zero-scape is when there is when there is very little plant life or perhaps none and the area is covered with either organic or inorganic groundcover (mulch, gravel, or rocks). Zero-scape contributes to heat sync in big cities. It is sterile of wildlife, insects and microorganisms.

Ugly Zeroscape

Xeriscape is not just about plant choice. It is a system designed to reduce water use and create sustainable landscapes. Xeriscape promotes biodiversity, wildlife, microorganisms, pollinators, and healthy air quality. This system includes seven principles:

  1. Plan comprehensively. Consider the use of the area, the drainage, and the exposure as you develop the design.
  2. Evaluate and amend the soil. Restore organic matter to the soil before planting.
  3. Create practical lawn areas. Grass areas aren’t wrong or bad, turf grass just needs to be where you will use it. Consider using a lower-water use grass such as rye grass.
  4. Appropriate plant choice. Many low-water use plants also bloom for long periods of time and are quite lovely. Group plants according to their water needs. 
  5. Water efficiently and effectively. Drip irrigation is a good choice, but watering by hand is effective, too. Avoid watering non-porous surfaces and don’t allow run-off.
  6. Mulch. Groundcover could be bark mulch or gravel or rock – it’s just important to cover the surface to retain water.
  7. Maintain. Since it’s not zero-scape, a xeriscape area will need some regular maintenance.

Xeriscaping has grown in popularity for both commercial and residential properties. Financially, there is an initial investment but over the long run you should notice a decrease in your water bill. The benefits are more than just financial. A xeriscape yard is lively, pretty, and sustainable. 

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