Clean water is one of the fastest diminishing resources on the planet right now. Besides literally flushing it down the toilet, we also sprinkle a lot of it on our lawns... which is basically the same thing as flushing it down the toilet. It is not uncommon for a lawn to consume four times as much water as all the rest of your landscaping.
When you live west of the 100th meridian (in the Pacific Northwest or Southwest) where rainfall is much more scarce compared to east of the 100th meridian, it's a little insane to expend such a valuable resource on an investment with meager returns (yeah, a well-kept lawn looks good, but that's about it). But, like Benjamin Franklin quipped, only “when the well is dry, [do] we know the worth of water.”
Uncle Sam Wants You to Green Your Garden
Some forward-thinking municipalities have started offering rebates to individuals willing to replace their lawns with drought-resistant plants. For instance, the Santa Clara Water District was recently offering rebates up to $3,000 to entice people to replace grass lawns with less thirsty plants.
While ripping out your lawn and planting a native species garden in its place is a very smart thing to do and an excellent step towards water conservation, maybe you're not ready for that type of change.
Start With the Flowers
A simple way to make your yard more green (both literally and figuratively) and colorful at the same time is to start by switching out more water-thirsty flowers for drought-resistant ones.
A great first step is to look at local native flowers, especially if you live in an arid region. To do this, stop by your local public library or speak with someone from you local county extension office.
Plants native to arid climates are designed to withstand extended periods of drought. For instance, the California poppy (or golden poppy) grows throughout the Southwest. It is drought tolerant and tough like a weed, and yet its petals are delicate and beautiful enough to be the California state flower.
If you're ready to take the plunge and start greening your yard, the best thing to do is to get expert advice. This can be in the form of books like Sunset Waterwise Gardening or by contacting a landscape designer who specializes in drought-resistant landscapes. Which flowers you choose will depend on the colors and overall effect you desire from your landscaping.
Common Types of Drought-Resistant Flowers
Some very popular drought-resistant flowers include:
- Varieties of sage (e.g. meadow sage, Mojave sage)
- Yarrow (achillea), popular in herbal medicine, comes in white, red, pink, and yellow and blooms throughout spring and summer.
- Bush mallow, native to California, and poppy mallow both dry climates and produce gorgeous flowers.
- Coneflowers (echinacea purpurea) are a personal favorite of mine. They have that antique, cottage garden feel about them. They come in purple, white, and red and bloom in the summer. Of course, echinacea is thought to have health-fortifying properties as well.
- Agastache, pine-leaf penstemon, and salvia (in the sage family). All three produce flowers in passionate colors and are great for attracting hummingbirds and butterflies.
Other Smart Ways to Conserve Water
Planting the right plants is a great first step, but to really conserve water, good landscaping management is also a must. This includes proper soil management (incorporating compost and mulch into your soil) and proper method of water delivery (drip irrigation works very well). And, it can't hurt to find out if there are rebates available for green landscaping makeovers in your area... maybe it won't even cost you a dime.