Well, the rain finally slowed to a screeching halt, and Summer has finally arrived. I thought I was going to have to only have bog gardens for a while! Now that we are back to normal, here are some tips to help you with your water bill (and keep your sun exposure to a minimum).
Water-wise gardens are called Xeriscapes, with Xeri meaning dry in Latin. It does not mean zero scape, meaning no care at all. If someone advertises a zeroscape, chances are that they aren’t familiar with the term or aren’t knowledgeable in the practice. It is simply using plants that actually need hot, dry weather to thrive. Some of those plants will even die if exposed to too much moisture in the soil.
Russian Sage is a tall, feathery plant with pale blue green leaves and blue flowers, and is a great plant to attract pollinators. It is perennial, and can be cut back hard or lightly trimmed in spring depending on personal tastes. Catmint, not catnip, is low, with very aromatic leaves, and has blue green leaves with purple flowers. Sedums are great too, with everything from light blue green leaves to deep burgundy to variegated leaves, and is a great accompaniment to the two above plants. Silver Mound and Silver Brocade Artemisia are unique plants that are fun to touch. Silver Mound is fine, soft and fringed, and feels like hair, and Silver Brocade feels like velvet. Both are (wait for it!) silvery grey and extremely drought resistant. Victoria Blue Salvia has loads of blue flower spikes and blue green leaves.
Are you seeing a pattern yet? All of the plants so far have leaves that aren’t true deep green. So in choosing a shrub or perennial for a water wise garden, look for a plant whose leaves are silver, blue green, greenish grey, etc. Those plants are drought tolerant and will have a much better chance of surviving in your garden.
Another tip for a xeriscape is to use the proper mulch. Since you have a garden that doesn’t require much water once established, the right kind of mulch is important. If you go with the standard 3”- 4” of a normal mulch, you could end up with root rot. You can use decomposed granite or another form of rock mulch. These help the soil breathe, but also keeps a lot of weeds from coming through. Both types give it the garden a smooth, polished look.
Once you get it planted, you still need to water it in, and water each week until they are established. Also, in preparing your bed, check the soil for drainage, and also for any stray Bermuda grass roots. Those pesky little things will take over a garden in no time if you’re not vigilant, and ruin your enjoyment of having a great-looking garden. Remember, trying to garden in Oklahoma is just that – trying. However, before you give up completely, try planting a few plants that actually love hot, dry conditions. If you do, you might just be a happier Gardener!