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Home Design : A Special Issue Of Orange County Life : Xeriscape--gardening For Dry Climate

August 12, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene and Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

More than half the water used around the typical Orange County home is used outdoors. A landscape concept called xeriscape--derived from the Greek word xeros , meaning 'dry'--can help conserve the precious commodity. Xeriscape uses landscape designs and plants that fit the natural environment--which in Orange County means dry.

In addition to picking drought-tolerant plants, xeriscape calls for efficient garden planning and proper techniques for watering and planting. Some xeriscape concepts:

Pick the right plant for the space: North and east sides of the home, for instance, tend to be cooler and wetter than south and west sides. A deciduous shade tree on the south side can help cool the house in summer yet allow extra sun in winter, when the leaves drop. When selecting plants, consider their mature size.

Grass requires lots of water and maintenance. Do not plant it except where it will be used for play or entertaining--never in the front yard.

"Hardscape"--patios, walkways, paths and planters--can make good use of space and reduce the area that needs to be watered.

Make sure sprinklers operate efficiently. Do not water streets and sidewalks, and do not turn sprinklers so high that water floats away in a mist. When watering, percolate water into the soil, do not run it over the surface. Make sure no standing puddles form after watering.

Group plants with similar water requirements together. Water at night or morning to avoid excessive evaporation.

Fall, winter and spring are the best times to plant. New xeriscaped plants do need plenty of water to keep the roots moist until they are established.

The Municipal Water District of Orange County has a number of brochures and other materials on water-conserving gardening techniques, including sample garden plans. Write to the district office at the following address to request materials (there is a nominal fee for some items):

Municipal Water District of Orange County

P.O. Box 15229

Santa Ana 92705

In addition, the Irvine Ranch Water District maintains a water conservation garden where gardeners can get a first-hand glimpse of xeriscape techniques. The garden, pictured on this page, is at 5 Rancho San Joaquin in Irvine, near the Rancho San Joaquin Golf Course.

Source: Metropolitan Water District of Orange County

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