Xeriscaping is a fancy word isn’t it? But what does it really mean? According to Wikipedia “Xeriscaping is the process of landscaping or gardening that reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental water from irrigation.” So, in a nutshell Xeriscaping simply means you will need to water your landscaping very little or none at all. Can you completely eliminate the need for hand or automated watering for your landscaping in Calgary? That is the key question. Xeriscaping your yard in Calgary in the true sense is challenge. Xersicaping is made much easier in climates where rainfall is more reliable than Calgary. As well, climates where drought resistant plants thrive and have evolved to survive on very little water are Xersicaping friendly but Calgary is just not in that category.
Plantings are key to Xeriscaping in Calgary
Choosing drought resistant plantings is the key to creating a successful Xeriscape in Calgary. There are many shrubs and ornamental grasses that are drought resistant and will do well in Calgary’s climate. Ornamental grasses ideal for Canadian climates are likely your best choice for drought resistant plantings. Ornamental grasses includes varieties such as Karl Forester feather reed grass, Overland grass, Fescue grass and Blue oat grass. These ornamental grasses are not only drought resistant but they provide great spring, summer, fall and winter interest and colour. We have planted these ornamental grasses for years in Calgary. Over time we have seen that they can go entire summers without water even when our summers have been unusually dry. Along with ornamental grasses we recommend planting some native shrubs in your garden beds. Native shrubs include Dogwoods and Saskatoons. Dogwoods are available in a wide variety of leave and branch tones so they can add a lot of colour to your Xeriscape. Dogwood varieties included Yellow twig dogwood, variegated Dogwood, Red twig dogwood and many more varieties. Dogwoods are quite drought tolerant but may require some water if the summer season is very dry. Saskatoons grow wild throughout Alberta and you will see them in areas such as Fish creek and Glenmore park in the SW. Saskatoons can survive little or no hand watering and they are a tasty and nutritious snack IF you want a bountiful Saskatoon crop then you will likely need to water them by hand. Other drought tolerant shrubs you may want to include when xeriscaping your yard in Calgary included Cotoneaster as well as some varieties of junipers and spirea. It is very important to remember that all of your new plantings will require regular watering when they are first planted. This is vital for the plant to get properly established. Once the plant has become established you can reduce watering or eliminate altogether.
Local Perennials are a good choice for Xeriscapes
Using local, hardy perennials for your xeriscaping is a great way to add colour to your property. Perennials can be used as feature plants or as ground cover that will help preserve the moisture in your garden bed soil. If you plan on using perennials for your xeriscape garden it is important to note that you should not plant perennials where you will be using landscaping fabric or stone or wood mulch. Perennials need space to sprout in spring so the fabric and rock or mulch will prevent them from putting out their shoots. We always recommend planting perennials in separate beds away from your shrubs if you plan on using any type of fabric or mulch. Some great perennials that thrive in Alberta include Limelight Sage or Variegated Mugwort, Kinnikinnick / Bearberry, Silver Brocade, Prairie Smoke Avens, Prairie Crocus, Giant Goat’s Beard, Bunchberry, Silver Mound, Joe Pye Weed, Native Ostrich Fern, Evening Primrose.
Top off your Xeriscape with mulch
Topping off your xeriscape with mulch is a very important step to take in order to have a successful xeriscape garden. Xeriscaping your yard in Calgary means protecting your plantings from our harsh winter climate. Adding a good quality mulch to you garden beds will help retain the moisture, shade the soil from the sun and preserve water below the surface. You can choose several different type of mulch such as cedar mulch, foothills mulch. You can also choose a stone mulch such as rundle rock, rainbow rock or pea gravel. Adding a layer of good quality fabric below the mulch will greatly reduce the amount of evaporation that occurs. Fabric will protect the soil from drying out by preserving moisture as well as protecting the soil from high winds. If you want a true xeriscaped garden in Calgary then mulch of some sort is a definite must have. The mulch and fabric will greatly reduce the amount of weeds in your garden beds. Weeds if left to grow will sap the soil from nutrients and moisture and put your plantings at risk. Xeriscaping your yard in Calgary can be a challenge but is definitely worth doing if you want a low maintenance landscape.