Create a beautiful, sustainable and #ISaveWater garden with Xeriscaping

It would seem that the negative effects of #ClimateChange are already well upon us South Africans; but the worrying news is that experts warn of even more drastic rainfall extremes in the near future. In short, water supply is set to become unreliable and water scarcity is set to increase – especially if we can’t significantly reduce our water demand.

It should come as no surprise that many households dedicate a large portion of their water demand to support healthy gardens. This situation is hardly sustainable going forward, and one of the most effective ways to reduce demand while maintaining a beautiful garden is Xeriscaping.

What is Xeriscaping?

Leontis Leonurus – Lion’s Tail or Lion’s Ear. Image courtesy of Harvey Barrison

The strict definition of Xeriscaping is the use of Xerophyte plants, endemic to your specific region, to create water-conserving and drought-resistant gardens needing little supplementary irrigation.

On a broader definition, Xeriscaping is the predominate use of low water demand plants to meaningfully reduce a garden’s water consumption, even if some of these aren’t Xerophytes. If you’d like to find out which low water plants best suit your garden, don’t hesitate to speak to the helpful staff at your nearest Builders garden centre.

Why plant Xerophytes?

Arctotis stoechadifolia – African Daisy. Image courtesy of Winifried Bruenken

All of Mother Nature’s creations are awe-inspiring once you come to understand how intricate and complex they are, but Xerophytes are perhaps especially so. They’ve developed amazing mechanisms and strategies to survive incredibly hostile conditions that include exceedingly low levels of rainfall and extremes of both heat and cold.

The use of South African Xerophytes in your garden will not only create a stunning landscape; the more you understand and notice the ways they respond to the varying conditions of the environment, the deeper your appreciation and respect for them will grow.

How do Xerophytes keep surviving hot, dry weather?

Aloe arborescens. Image courtesy of Andrew Massyn

The features and mechanisms that make Xerophytes unique and capable of surviving without much water are numerous. Here are just a few that might capture your imagination and whet your appetite to learn more.

  • Succulence – areas of the plant are designed to absorb large amounts of water when it’s available, which is stored for later use. The water induced swelling of roots, stems and leaves enables the survival of Xerophytes over long and harsh droughts.
  • Reduced surface area – Xerophytes reduce their surface area to lower water evaporation and transpiration from the plant. This conserves water. Additionally, leaves can wilt or even be shed during a drought to conserve water even further.
  • Reflective foliage – Xerophytes often have grey, light green or green-blue foliage to reflect sunlight back into the atmosphere. Remarkably, certain plants are lightly coloured underneath their leaves, and when water reserves are low, these leaves pull up around the stem to reflect sunlight.
  • Hairy leaves – this Xerophyte feature slows air flow over the plant down, thereby protecting against premature water evaporation.
  • Waxy leaves – a chemical layer excreted by the plant over its leaves produces a waxy covering that reduces transpiration and evaporation from its exposed surface areas.
  • Strong internal structures – soft stemmed plants tend to wilt in high temperatures and when water reserves are low. To combat this, Xerophytes have engineered stems that remain strong and resilient in high heat, low water environments.

Plumbago auriculata. Image by Brewbooks

Used creatively in gardens with appropriate ground cover plants, nutrient rich mulch, stone gradients and logs, Xerophytes can produce phenomenal focal points in addition to well-defined vertical and horizontal lines. And then there’s just the satisfaction of knowing that Mother Nature is capable of sustaining life even in the most unlikely conditions. In every way, Xeriscaping makes sense.

Spark up an informative conversation with the friendly staff at your local Builders garden centre to find out more about Xeriscaping. Alternatively, browse and shop online here.

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