Similar to fairy shrimp, countless other organisms have adapted to the desert environment. In fact, desert plant communities are actually more diverse than most people believe. This creates an excellent opportunity to use various desert-adapted plants in our urban, constructed landscapes that will inherently use less water and still look great.
For example, a wide variety of plants use various mechanisms to survive with very little and/or intermittent moisture. Xerophytes, or plants adapted to extremely dry environments, have adapted by becoming one of the following: drought evaders, drought tolerators, or drought avoiders. These general categories of xerophytes allow for greater diversity in the desert because plants’ life cycles/characteristics are different. For example, some plants here in the Great Basin begin blooming early in the spring while snow is still on the ground and moisture is plentiful. They may even die back to the ground before summer arrives. Other desert plants can be found blooming at different times of the year, even well into fall. There are many plants we could potentially use in our landscape and still make it beautiful year-round.
It is also true that not all the plants in our desert environments are adapted to minimal moisture. Some are actually used to increased moisture due to reasons such as proximity to small creeks and oases, or even disparate rainfall amounts due to location and/or elevation.
What does all this mean for our urban, constructed landscapes? Essentially, it means that urban landscapes can be comprised of many different types of plants, both native and non-native, capable of thriving in our harsh environment. Further, these landscapes--if designed properly--can be beautiful and interesting throughout the entire year. Even more important, by properly using these types of plants, we can all conserve water. The key is to place plants in proper locations (i.e. locations that are similar to their natural environments) and irrigate them efficiently. Landscaping in this manner will result in plants that are less likely to develop diseases or other problems—which means less time ‘babysitting’ and/or replacing them.
We at the Conservation Garden Park can help guide you through the discovery of the beautiful plants that will grow well in your landscape.