lessons in xeriscaping

Five years ago, Sean and I moved to Phoenix where the ecosystem was anything but similar to what we’d spent almost our entire lives in. Phoenix is desert. Pure and simple. It doesn’t matter how many people put pools in their backyards and grass in their front yards, this is a desert ecosystem. When we bought a house, we made a very conscious decision to do xeriscaping for both our front and back yards (although I’m sure Sean breathed a sigh of relief not having to mow a lawn).

For those who aren’t used to living in a desert, xeriscaping (according to Merriam-Webster) is “a landscaping method developed especially for arid and semiarid climates that utilizes water-conserving techniques.” What does that boil down to? Use plants that are either native to the area or at the very least don’t require a lot of water to thrive. Instead of grass, use gravel where there aren’t plants. For the past five years, Sean and I have really embraced xeriscaping and have done our best to find beautiful plants that are diverse in both their foliage and their flowers, but at the same time don’t require a lot of water to survive. Our one concession was that when we landscaped the backyard, we planted a tangelo tree. What can I say, we’re suckers for citrus.

Here’s where the complication comes in. Sean and I love succulents. They’re beautiful plants and they thrive with just a little water and pretty much no maintenance. At last count, we’ve got somewhere around 20 different succulents (not counting pups of the parent plant) scattered around our front and back yard. After one of our century plants mysteriously died, we started to get concerned that some of our other agaves might be having similar issues. This weekend, we decided to go out and start cleaning out the pups and seeing how our mother plants were doing. Three hours later, we only have two plants really dealt with. Sean and I are both covered in stab wounds and scratches from the agaves, but we think we’ve saved one mother plant and pups from the other mother plant are going to replace it in our front yard. Our trash can is crammed full of plant material. We’ve got four more agave to go through.

The lesson of the day? Apparently, agave take a little more maintenance than we originally thought. They’re still easier to deal with than our lantana that is constantly getting whiteflies, but we definitely need to start paying more attention to them. Oh yeah, and we need to keep their tips trimmed so we get less stab wounds next time.

One thought on “lessons in xeriscaping

  1. Those Agave certainly have a survival technique! Imagine being a browsing animal and getting a mouthful of that. I think I’ll stick to Aloe and other nice pillowy ones…

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