Droughtful Gardening in Canada; Xeriscaping at its Best

When considering gardening to save or conserve water you have many plants from which to choose.  Although we have been taught that ‘native’ plants will survive best, I have included not only native, but also foreign plants which have just as high a survival/thrival rate in our Canadian climate.  Please note that my list is definitely not conclusive, but will provide a good start for a lovely droughtful garden of your own!

The following are 6 points, which I consider to be key, when contemplating a xeriscape garden.

1.  Know your Growing Environment

 Considering that not all plants can tolerate the same amount of water, sun and various other elements in nature, it makes a lot of sense for you to carefully plan what you want to plant and what location it is best suited for.  A detailed design sketched on paper will provide heaps of help to you in creating a new garden or revamping an old one!  Your plan-on-paper is also great to show where slow-emergers are situated, preventing you from digging in and destroying any of them once dormancy sets in.

2.  Soil and its Characteristics 

The four things that soil must give plants are air, water, support and nutrients.  You will likely have more than one type of soil in your growing area.  If this is the case, you will have a greater diversity of plants from which to choose and grow.  Mulching and amending the soil, whether using a manure, compost or peat, will guarantee that plants will grow better and need less water.

3.   Choose Xeriscape Plants (see list)

best placement is usually in areas fully exposed to the sun … west-facing walls, dry and sweltering south-facing areas.  It is okay to have non-xeriscape plants also, but take care not to mix them in the same planting areas as your xeriscape ones which require less water.

4.  Water Wisdom means to keep water use at a minimum.  

There are a few good ‘tried ‘n true’ ways to do this.  Use of soaker hoses and drip irrigation system encourages deep root penetration and aids in controlled/intensive moisture application and absorption.  Another idea for wise water use is via ‘water capture’ practice.  Whether the water is from run-off areas (clean concrete or paved zones), melted snow or rain barrel collection, it is a valuable resource in your water conservation techniques.  Concentrate your efforts into directing these ‘above-ground’ water sources en route to your gardens!

5.  Variety is the Spice of Life

(changes and new experiences make life delightful) yes, even in gardening, this is so!  Try to add ‘spice of life’ to your gardens by including many plants in varieties of colour, texture, fragrance and size.  You will be amazed at the score of ‘spicy’ plant combinations you will find when you consider the aforementioned varieties in your droughtful garden.

6.  Sticks and Stones do not need watering!  

Of course, you already know that. So why not add some of each to your gardens along with benches, patios slabs and other objects which need no watering, but add charm and personality?

Above all, don’t hesitate to ask your local garden centre staff for any hints, tips or suggestions for xeriscaping.  The knowledge you gain from doing this is invaluable to commencing and nurturing a terrific ‘droughtful’ garden of your own!



African Daisy, Celosia, Cosmos, Globe Amaranth, Grasses, Marigold, Mexican Sunflower, Nasturtium, Phlox, Portulaca, Rose Campion, Salvia, Santolina, Statice, Strawflower, Sweet Alyssum, Vinca, Zinnias


 Achilleas, Alliums, Artemisias, Asters, Baby’s Breath, Butterfly Weed, Columbines, Coreopsis, Crocuses, Daylily, Delphinium, Echinacea, Euphorbia, Flax, Gaillardias, Liatruses, Grasses, Iris, Lamb’s Ears, Lavender, Love-lies-bleeding, Pansies, Rudbeckia, Sages, Sedums, Statice, Tulips, Yarrow, Yucca

Small Bushes, Trees & Shrubs

Acacia, Aralia, Butterfly bush, Smoke tree, Russian olive, Privet hedge, Cinquefoil, Cotoneaster, Honeysuckle, Barberry, Spirea, Lilac, Heather, Mulberry, European Hackberry, Flowering Quince, Japanese pagoda tree, Juniper, White Poplar, Black Locust

Resources & References

http://pss.uvm.edu/ppp/pubs/oh72drought.htm Drought extras

http://dansgardenshop.com/drouggar.html Water Wise Gardening Book

www.highcountrygardens.com/articles/principles.html experts in xeriscaping!

© 2010, Rose Naomi O’Brey, ARR in All Media

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