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Drought-friendly plants such as succulents, manzanita and desert willow provide beautiful, low-water options for North County gardeners. Courtesy photo.
Home and GardenNews

Sustainable, water-wise planting with style

Whether you believe we’re on the brink of another drought or that it’s just another beautiful day in Southern California, water conservation remains a priority for many people when it comes to what they plant in their yards.

Gov. Jerry Brown lifted the strict drought-emergency measures in April 2017, but Californians didn’t necessarily change their water-conserving ways. For while there are still some restrictions in place that prevent wasteful practices — like hosing down a driveway or irrigating within two days of rain — residents still seem inclined to do more to conserve.

The restrictions “are designed to encourage water conservation as a continued way of life in San Diego County,” as Andrea Loosen of Andrea Loosen Landscape Design put it. Indeed, many of her clients seem to have embraced sustainability as they continue to choose water-wise, drought-tolerant landscaping.

There’s certainly a financial incentive to be green: While the more stringent conservation regulations have fallen by the wayside, people’s water rates have not.

Joe Cordova, co-owner of the Encinitas nursery Cordova Gardens, said, “Unfortunately, the water districts have gotten used to the higher rates and don’t appear ready to lower them. With the high cost of water these days, people are being more practical with their plant choices and types of watering methods, like drip irrigation.”

California native plants have been a popular choice for Cordova’s customers — in part because they usually require no additional watering, he said. At Cordova Gardens, top native sellers are sage, manzanita and desert willow.

A cactus and succulent garden. Courtesy photo.

Succulents continue to be go-to options for drought-tolerant planting. Loosen emailed that succulents “can enhance a garden when used correctly, especially where they will be seen up close, but they are not necessarily going to cover a lot of square footage.”

As such, Loosen also suggested planting “a tapestry of low-growing, drought-tolerant spreading plants to cover large areas such as grevilleas, lantana, westringia mundi, junipers and spreading bougainvillea.”

Jackie Jesch, co-founder and head of marketing for Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall, recommended decorating artfully around succulents with river rocks and small grasses, for instance. She also suggested using mounding to create slight elevation changes.

Neither Jesch nor Loosen advocated for faux grass. “It’s not necessarily the most eco-friendly solution,” Loosen explained, and Jesch said it’s hot, slippery and retains the scent of pets’ urine.

As for getting started with a water-wise garden at home, both women suggested seeking visual inspiration. Collecting images from magazines of plants and garden spaces is a good launching point — as well as wandering around nurseries.

Identify what you like, such as colorful flowers that excite or greenery that soothes, Jesch explained. Pots, pathways and fountains are other considerations. Once you have images of what you want, Jesch said you can recreate your dream garden — or hire a landscape designer to do it for you.

Whether you go with professional or not, Jesch believes that “you should plant what you love.” She noted, “I would hate to design a yard based solely on whether we’re in a drought or not!”