‘Zeroscaping’ is the popular vernacular for xeriscaping, which is a method of landscaping created to save on water. Typically, this is not a major concern for a UK garden, given the climate, but there are other benefits, as well. It is mainly these incidental benefits that are seeing the growth of xeriscaping across the UK.
The term xeriscape comes from the Greek term meaning ‘dry scene’. Because this type of gardening was first done in very dry regions like the southwestern United States, many people refer to xeriscaping as desert landscaping and think of a boring, bland garden of cacti and gravel. Fortunately, one can use xeriscaping and still have a lively and colourful garden. It just takes a bit of planning.
Even in the UK, water conservation is important to the environment and to our cheque-books. There is quite a bit of precipitation naturally but there are still times where gardeners must water manually, particularly in areas like Essex, or during water restrictions like were seen in the mid-90s drought. Xeriscaping eliminates this worry.
A good xeriscape plan is best created with a professional landscaper, but if you’re not concerned with getting it perfect, you can come up with a pretty nice garden plan yourself. Choosing the right type of plants is the key. Plants that don’t require a lot of water is the beginning step, particularly deep-rooted or waxy-leafed plants that make the most of the moisture to start with. Native species are most often the best choices as they’re bred for the very climate the garden is in.
Although xeriscaping began as a way to conserve water, gardeners in dry climates realized that there were other unexpected benefits from this type of gardening. Since native species are an integral part of the xeriscape plan, gardeners find that less fertilising is needed and fewer pesticides. Native plants are used to the soil and can find the nutrients needed. The soil is enriched during the natural cycle of plants dying and being reabsorbed into the earth, ready for the next season of growth.
Since grass is used sparingly, if at all, in a xeriscape, much of the worst maintenance of a garden is eliminated. Mowing and raking are both time and labor intensive. Most of the work is no longer necessary when there is very little grass.
There is no need to have a very regimented garden with xeriscaping, unless you want that style. The key would be to have groups of plants that require the same amount of water. Plants can be in stylized beds or one can group several kinds of plants within the same area. For long lasting colour in the garden, group plants that bloom at different times so that something is always in bloom.
As with anything, when the garden matches up with the natural environment, there will be less work involved all the way around. Just remember to start with a good plan, choose as mostly native species, and group plantings to maximise water efficiency.