The homes no one seems to live in…whether they’re on your block or not, you’ve seen them. The mailboxes are riddled with rust and pizza delivery and chinese takeout food fliers are piling up near the doors. Their yards are overrun with weeds, shrubs, trees and flowers.

A blight on the neighborhood? Probably. But do they have any value left? Definitely.

In fact, you might want to scoot on over and do a little research (although we don’t, of course, advocate trespassing). Because that hideously neglected lawn can tell you what grows in our neck of the woods without aid of human intervention and might save you from the future shock of sky-high water bills.

We’re talking about xeriscaping, which you’ve probably already heard of unless you’ve been living under a rock at that scary house. According to the National Xeriscape Council, more than 50 percent of the country’s residential water usage is applied to landscapes and lawns. Xeriscaping, however, can reduce landscape water use by 70 percent or more.

So what is xeriscaping? It’s the use of native plants that grow naturally in our region or non-native ones that will thrive in the hot and dry Texas sun (they’re also known as adaptive plants). The idea is that these native or adaptive plants are naturally suited to thrive on the amount of rainfall we normally receive each year and therefore require less maintenance.

Our neighborhood has the added benefit of the nearby City of Dallas’ Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, located at 2900 White Rock Road, on the west side of the lake. More than 80 varieties of plants are displayed here, so it’s one more source of education for the xeriscaper-wannabe. Call Dallas Water Utilities at 214-670-3155 for more information or to schedule a tour.

To further inspire you, we sought out neighbors who have devoted themselves to the xeriscape challenge and succeeded in designing gorgeous gardens while lowering their water usage. Many use mostly native and drought-tolerant plants mixed with old favorites that might require a little more water. They’ll tell you what inspired them to begin xeriscaping, what challenges they faced and what their favorite plants are.

On page 19, you’ll find some tips and sources to get you started thinking about starting your own xeriscape.

GARDENERS: JIAAN POWERS AND GARY PATTON

STARTED XERISCAPING: Back in 1996, after they received a xeriscaping insert from the city in their water bill. Saving money and environmental concerns are what motivated them. Plus, as native Texans, Gary says “the concept of having native plants was also appealing.

CHALLENGES OF XERISCAPING: “Patience versus instant gratification,” Gary says. Meaning that everything has to be planted “where it wants and needs to be when it matures, which will be later – as in a few years later. That makes the landscape look barren to begin, but it all fills in as time passes.” And remember, they say, “you will make mistakes.”

WHAT MAKES THEIR XERISCAPE UNIQUE: “Except for paying to have a big part of our front grass dug up and having metal edging placed in our back yard, we did it all ourselves,” Gary says. “We did all the planting, all the stone walkways, the bridges, the dirt and the mulch. I call our yard organized chaos.”

FAVORITE XERISCAPE-WORTHY PLANT FOR TEXAS: Gary’s favorite is lambs ear because of its color, texture and prolific nature. Jiaan votes for globe amarath in the strawberry and purple varieties. “Probably not really a pure xeriscape plant, but they come back each year and once established take very little water.”

GARDENER: BARBARA RYAN

STARTED XERISCAPING: With a father and brother who are landscape designers, it’s in her genes. “When my mother and dad came out to visit me here, my father told me a lot of things about gardening in Texas. I yanked everything out and started over. It was fun,” she says.

CHALLENGES OF XERISCAPING: Keeping plants alive in the summer heat. Ryan says she devoted a lot of time to studying different plants and learning “what they can handle.”

WHAT MAKES HER XERISCAPE UNIQUE: A former jewelry designer, Ryan uses a lot of art in her garden. She says she finds much of it in junkyards.

FAVORITE XERISCAPE-WORTHY PLANT FOR TEXAS: Portulaca, or Moss Rose, an annual plant that blooms in many different colors.


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