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Xeriscaping anyone?

By Dianna Wray
Jan. 27, 2011 at midnight
Updated Jan. 27, 2011 at 7:28 p.m.

John Fossati, owner of Four Seasons Nursery, talks Wednesday about how he xeriscaped an area of his landscape storage yard near Main Street. About three years ago, Fossati planted agave, prickly pear and other similar plants in the area because they require very little maintenance and are good for preventing erosion on the incline surrounding his storage building.

John Fossati has been a fan of xeriscaping for years, but his biggest xeriscaped garden was created out of necessity more than enthusiasm for the approach to conserving water.

Fossati, the owner of Four Seasons Nursery, has been in the landscaping and gardening business for more than 30 years.

Three years ago, he built a landscaping storage house on top of a hill overlooking Fossati Garden. He pulled up the brush that covered the hill, only noting afterward that it was all that had held the soil in place.

As images of his landscaped yard sliding down a hill filled his mind, Fossati started looking for solutions. He came up with xeriscaping, not only a way to conserve water but a way to stop erosion.

He covered the hillside with varieties of cactus, whose webbed root system would spread and hold the soil to the hillside. The plants required very little water or maintenance to survive, a real economic benefit. Before he knew it, Fossati was xeriscaping.

"Conserving water is always a good thing and with xeriscaping, there's almost no maintenance," Fossati said, surveying the prickly plants sprouting on the hillside. "I mean, the most you may need to do is weed a little. I leave these guys to fend for themselves out here."

The concept was introduced in Denver as a way to encourage residents to give up lush, green lawns and the water it takes to maintain them, Earthworks Nursery co-owner Laurie Garretson said.

However, Fossati and Garretson agree customers are more intrigued by xeriscaping when they highlight the lack of maintenance required.

"People want lush, beautiful landscapes, but everyone is busy, and they'd rather spend their time enjoying them instead of just working to keep them up," Fossati said.

While most people think of dry, sparse landscapes covered with cactuses when xeriscaping is mentioned, Fossati noted that the possibilities are much broader than that.

"You don't have to have cactuses. You can have all kinds of plants," he said.

The only real requirement for xeriscaping is that the plants not require a lot of water, Fossati said. Some people go with the obvious choices, native plants that don't require a lot of water, like rosemary, lantana and buddleia, Fossati said. Junipers, rosemary and native ornamental grasses, such as buffalo grass, are some other options, he said.

However, the end result is the same, a yard that takes less work and less water to keep looking good.

Garretson agreed.

"It doesn't have to be agave and cactus. It's just plants that are more adaptable to the heat, so they use less water," Garretson said.

Over at Earthworks, Garretson said they have plans to convert the front section of Earthworks Nursery into a xeriscaped space in the coming months.

She said she encourages her customers to try xeriscaping.

"To redo anything is a lot of manual work, and it can be a financial investment, too, but in the long run, it's a good investment. It's a no-brainer to me," Garretson said.

Fossati agreed.

"Conserving water is never a bad thing, and this is just less work."



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