Water-Wise Planning and Design (I)

May, 2017

Steps to designing a water-wise landscape

  • Start out with a plan of your property that shows the location of the structure(s) and the existing features of the site.
  • Identify the characteristics of your site such as the orientation of its structure(s); desirable views; drainage patterns; natural elements; and the micro-climates resulting from the sun, shade, and wind patterns.
  • Examine the indoor/outdoor relationships between the different rooms in your structure and the garden. Consider which rooms have access to the garden, how you want the site to look from the indoors, and how the sun and shade patterns will affect your indoor spaces during the different times of the day and year.
  • Define the functions that your garden will accommodate.  Indicate the public, private, and service areas of your landscape. Public areas are the most highly visible of the garden; private areas are where most of the outdoor activities take place; and service areas require the least care and water as they usually house work and utility areas that are screened from view.
  • Establish water-use zones in your garden by positioning plants that use similar amounts of water together (see below).
  • Develop a master plan of your garden taking into consideration matters including function and the desired overall effect.  This includes identifying your needs and preferences regarding issues such as color, shade, wind protection, and privacy.
  • Fit plants to the master plan you have developed.  (The principles of plant selection will be elaborated upon in a coming article.)
Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis): A drought tolerant evergreen shrub that is suitable for erosion control and gives a year round green effect. May also be used as a groundcover. (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Juniper (Juniperus horizontalis): A drought tolerant evergreen shrub that is suitable for erosion control and gives a year round green effect. May also be used as a groundcover. (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Rosea Ice Plant (Drosanthemum floribundum): A drought tolerant succulent groundcover that is suitable for erosion control. Has pink flowers. (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Rosea Ice Plant (Drosanthemum floribundum): A drought tolerant succulent groundcover that is suitable for erosion control. Has pink flowers. (image credit: Osman Akoz)

Identifying the main water-use zones in a garden

  1. High water-use zones are small, highly visible, and highly maintained areas in your landscape such as the public area and area around the patio. Plants in these zones should create the lushest part of your landscape, and therefore require regular watering in the absence of rainfall. When designing your garden, place this high water-use ‘oasis’ close to the structure or a terrace, where it would be most regularly and easily used.
  2. Moderate water-use zones blend lush areas with the drier parts of your garden, and require only occasional watering once the plants are established.  For this zone, use plants that can take advantage of rain and possible runoff rainwater from the structure, but that also do not require constant watering. These may include low water-use ground covers and shrubs.
  3.  Low water-use zones are areas that are farthest away from the most active areas of your garden and do not need irrigation once plants are established since its plants are watered by natural rainfall. For this zone, use drought-tolerant native vegetation or imported plants from other regions with similar climates.

Divide your property into high, moderate and low water-use areas. (image credit: Dalia al-Husseini)

Divide your property into high, moderate and low water-use areas. (image credit: Dalia al-Husseini)