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Janet Laminack: Landscapes that use less water can be done

In the summer months, our landscapes drink up a lot of our good, clean water.

People bristle when this fact gets mentioned. “Please don’t make me turn my beautiful lawn into gravel,” they are thinking. Many people even tell me, “I don’t like cactus and I’m not going to do zeroscape.”

I’m a horticulturist, so that means I like plants, not gravel. And the term is actually xeriscape, not zeroscape, but the point has been well taken. We misunderstand what drought-tolerant and water-conserving landscapes are, and we don’t want them besides.

We are getting away from the confusing and scary term xeriscape and moving into terms such as “smartscape,” “water smart” and Earth-Kind. These are all approaches to gardening and landscaping, practices that focus on healthy and beautiful lawns and flower beds.

Did you know that the recommendation for a water conserving landscape is actually one-third lawn area, one-third hardscape and one-third perennials and shrub beds? Hardscape refers to non-living areas such as sidewalks, decks, patios and, yes, fields of gravel if that’s your thing.

Other best management practices include adding a 3- to 6-inch layer of mulch to all your shrubs, trees and flowering plants. Mulch helps insulate the soil, reduces erosion, reduces competition from weeds and slows water loss from soils. If you use an organic material such as wood chips, they break down over time, improving your soil. It’s like a slow-release fertilizer.

Plant selection is also important. Picking plants that enjoy our hot summers and can survive on minimal supplemental irrigation is important. Indulging in a few high-maintenance favorites is allowed, but don’t water your entire landscape just to give those few plants enough water. Group or zone plants according to water requirement and set your irrigation timer accordingly.

You might be surprised at the quantity of beautiful, lush and “non-cactus looking” plants that are drought tolerant. To see some of our recommendations, check out the links on Other great resources for plant selection can be found at and

To hear more about some of my favorite plants for our area, join me at 6:30 p.m. May 7 at the city of Lewisville Water-Saving Landscape class. I’ll be speaking on plant choices and Earth-Kind landscaping principles. The class will be at the city’s Kealy Operations Center, 1100 N. Kealy St., Suite D. To register for this free class, contact or call 972-219-3504. This is open to non-residents as well.

If you need even more convincing, come see plants in action at the Denton County Master Gardener Spring Tour on May 11. You will see beautiful home gardens and get great ideas on what you can incorporate in your own landscape.

This event is the Master Gardener annual fundraiser. Advance tickets are $10 and $12 on tour day. For more information call 940-349-2892, e-mail or buy tickets online at Call ahead if you have mobility concerns because not all gardens may be accessible.

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883. Her e-mail is .