— Nan Sterman
Visit a beautiful waterwise garden and you’ll notice the amazing colors and textures, fabulous structures and gorgeous flowers. Birds and bees and butterflies flit through the garden. Lizards scurry about. Each garden is an oasis all of its own, as you’ll see this week in Waterwise Gardens: After the Lawn is Gone, on A Growing Passion.
Tour one of these gardens and if it is done well, you’ll be blissfully unaware of all the planning, resources, and plain old hard work that went into designing and making that garden come to life.
You won’t see the network of underground pipes that bring water to different areas of the garden. You will miss the process the contractor used to carefully contour the soils into mounds and swales that both show off plants and move water to low spots so it can percolate into the soil.
You won’t witness the crane and strong backs that strategically placed rocks and boulders, against which the carefully chosen palette of unthirsty plants shines. You’ll overlook the fine network of roots — both surface and deep — that are watered with the hidden grid of drip line resting on the soil surface. And you won’t notice the controller that turns the system on and off at intervals determined by the heat, humidity, and height of the sun in the sky.
You will see the amazing array of plants that decorate the garden.
You’ll notice that the plantings look spare and the plants are small but as you watch the garden, you’ll be amazed at how quickly it fills in. And you’ll observe the mulch that envelops those plants in a protective blanked that slows evaporation from the soil surface. You won’t see many weeds because the mulch smothers most of them and makes the rest easy to pull out.
And unless you ask the owner, you are unlikely to see how the water bill for this new garden steadily decreases, especially as the plants become established and their need for irrigation decreases more and more.
This is the magic of a waterwise garden, the garden that suits our arid Mediterranean climate and gives us a sense of place.