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Xeria e-Zine Q&A
March 01, 2022

In the last email I sent you,I told you that my goal is to answer your questions about dry gardening, succulents, and the like. I asked, you responded!

March 1 2022

This is one question that I've received recently, and it's got all the things I like to talk about.
Hi Jacki, First, sorry this is so long. Wanted to give you details that might be helpful. Just read your latest issue of Xeria. Sounds like you've had a rough month medically and I hope you are feeling better!

My husband and I live in Vancouver, WA in zone 8b. I'm hoping you could suggest some shrubs and small trees that are drought resistant in our zone to solve a problem.

We have a small lawn area (about 15'x8') on the side of our home that gets the hot afternoons sun in the summer. We don't want to have to water that area very often; we do use sprinklers on the front and back lawn areas for now at least. But we have to manually set up the sprinklers which takes time and we also would like to cut back on our water usage. This is an area where we could start.

I've thought of various scenarios for getting that small area to be more xeric. its expensive to rip out the lawn and add mulch or bark dust or gravel or pine needles etc. and a path, which is what I thought about doing. Often they end up looking messy where they meet the sidewalk (we are on a corner lot) and you have to keep replacing the ground cover material. I also thought of planting a ground cover but that all takes time, money and a lot of tending to and adding to. I don't think that is realistic for us in the front yard where we always want it to look nice.

So what I've thought now of doing is to plant 2 or 3 evergreen shrubs or small trees that are drought resistant and would cast more shade... and if at least one of them had needles, eventually there would be a bare area underneath where the grass wouldn't grow. We are getting older so we don't want anything that would reach beyond about 6 feet in height so they are manageable. Also there is an established mid-size maple on the corner next to that area, about 10'feet tall. We don't want to add more leaves to rake.

My questions for you are: 1. Do you think this will plan would help us eventually water less (In a few years once the shrubs are established)?

2. Do you think these plantings, strategically placed, could eventually provide enough shade to the east of them in the afternoon to help the small lawn area around them stay fairly nice with occasional watering (and would a soaker hose work)?

3. Can you suggest some evergreen shrubs and small trees for this in our zone? I'd like one or two to have needles.

Thanks a lot for your help, Jacki, really appreciate getting your thoughts and ideas! -Anne

So here are a few thoughts; every major change (such as regular gardening to xeric gardening) will look awful for a while. There is no way around it, sorry! But there are ways to diminish this 'midway-through-a-bad-haircut' look.

This is what I would do; add a couple of upright shrubs like junipers or Hicks yew, whichever are most common in your area. If you see neighbors growing them successfully, there's a good chance they already like your conditions. There are also small versions of pine that would work, plus they would fit your criteria of needles. Ask at your local plant nursery for the most well adapted to your climate.

These plants, even though they are drought tolerant, will need to be watered at first, until they get established, so don't put away the garden hose yet! Yes, I often recommend a soaker hose - this gets the water right where it's needed, and not all over the yard.

While the trees or shrubs fill in, use tubs of annual flowers to give more colour and structure. This scheme could eventually give you more shade, but realistically, the type of grass will make the most difference. There are blends of grass seed that are tougher, and require less water, such as those labeled for playground use, with a high percentage of blue fescue.

That would be my fall back. The best way to deal with unwanted lawn is to smother it with cardboard and mulch of some kind (to hide the cardboard and weigh it down).

I hope that gives you a way forward. If you need more ideas and guidance, let me know!

Visit The Hot Stuff Blog for all the latest in newly published (or re-published) pages.
I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Xeria e-Zine! Any questions or suggestions are welcome. Don't forget, the Horticulturist is always in.

Happy Gardening,

Jacki Cammidge, Certified Horticulturist, Webmaster and Artisan

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