A landscape is part of the Earths surface that can be viewed at one time from one place. It consists of the geographic features that mark, or are characteristic of, a particular area.
The term comes from the Dutch word landschap, the name given to paintings of the countryside. Geographers have borrowed the word from artists. Although landscape paintings have existed since ancient Roman times (landscape frescoes are present in the ruins of Pompeii), they were reborn during the Renaissance in Northern Europe. Painters ignored people or scenes in landscape art, and made the land itself the subject of paintings. Famous Dutch landscape painters include Jacob van Ruisdael and Vincent van Gogh.
An artist paints a landscape; a geographer studies it. Some geographers, such as Otto Schluter, actually define geography as landscape science. Schluter was the first scientist to write specifically of natural landscapes and cultural landscapes.
A natural landscape is made up of a collection of landforms, such as mountains, hills, plains, and plateaus. Lakes, streams, soils (such as sand or clay), and natural vegetation are other features of natural landscapes. A desert landscape, for instance, usually indicates sandy soil and few deciduous trees. Even desert landscapes can vary: The hilly sand dunes of the Sahara Desert landscape are very different from the cactus-dotted landscape of the Mojave Desert of the American Southwest, for instance.
A landscape that people have modified is called a cultural landscape. People and the plants they grow, the animals they care for, and the structures they build make up cultural landscapes. Such landscapes can vary greatly. They can be as different as a vast cattle ranch in Argentina or the urban landscape of Tokyo, Japan.
Since 1992, the United Nations has recognized significant interactions between people and the natural landscape as official cultural landscapes. The international organization protects these sites from destruction, and identifies them as tourist destinations.
The World Heritage Committee of UNESCO (the United Nations Economic, Social, and Cultural Organization) defines a cultural landscape in three ways.
The first is a clearly defined landscape designed and created intentionally by man. The Archaeological Landscape of the First Coffee Plantations in the South-East of Cuba, near Santiago, Cuba, is an example of this type of cultural landscape.
The second type of cultural landscape is an organically evolved landscape. An organically evolved landscape is one where the spiritual, economic, and cultural significance of an area developed along with its physical characteristics. The Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape, along the banks of the Orkhon River in central Mongolia, is an example of an organically evolved landscape. The Orkhon Valley has been used by Mongolian nomads since the 8th century as pastureland for their horses and other animals. Mongolian herders still use the rich river valley for pastureland today.
The last type of cultural landscape is an associative cultural landscape. An associative landscape is much like an organically evolved landscape, except physical evidence of historical human use of the site may be missing. Its significance is an association with spiritual, economic, or cultural features of a people. Tongariro National Park in New Zealand is an associative cultural landscape for the Maori people. The mountains in the park symbolize the link between the Maori and the physical environment.
People and the Natural Landscape
The growth of technology has increased our ability to change a natural landscape. An example of human impact on landscape can be seen along the coastline of the Netherlands. Water from the North Sea was pumped out of certain areas, uncovering the fertile soil below. Dikes and dams were built to keep water from these areas, now used for farming and other purposes.
Dams can change a natural landscape by flooding it. The Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River, in Yichang, China, is the worlds largest electric power plant. The Three Gorges Dam project has displaced more than 1.2 million people and permanently altered the flow of the Yangtze River, changing both the physical and cultural landscape of the region.
Many human activities increase the rate at which natural processes, such as weathering and erosion, shape the landscape. The cutting of forests exposes more soil to wind and water erosion. Pollution such as acid rain often speeds up the weathering, or breakdown, of the Earths rocky surface.
By studying natural and cultural landscapes, geographers learn how peoples activities affect the land. Their studies may suggest ways that will help us protect the delicate balance of Earths ecosystems.
The term xeriscaping combines the Green word “xeros,” meaning dry, with the word landscape. It first appeared in 1981 in Colorado when the Denver area was experiencing a severe drought. The idea revolved around using as little water as possible and still maintaining interesting and attractive landscapes.
From a water conservation standpoint, xeriscaped landscapes can be very valuable for Texas commercial property managers who want to save water and money in both normal and drought conditions.
And, what’s more, the cost of a xeriscape can cost just as much as a traditional landscape. The elements that drive up the cost of xeriscaping are typically the same elements that drive up the cost of other landscape styles.
- What Is Xeriscaping?
- Xeriscape Cost Is Impacted By Specific Elements
- Decisions, Decisions
- Xeriscaping: A New Approach to Landscaping
- Xeriscape Cost
- Elements that affect cost
- To spend or not to spend?
- The Truth About Xeriscaping: Common Misconceptions Exposed
- Myth #1 – Xeriscaping is All About Cacti, Succulents & Gravel
- Myth #2 – Xeriscape Gardens are Really Only Rock Gardens
- Myth #3 – You Can’t Have a Lawn With Xeriscaping
- Myth #4 – Xeriscapes are Non Water Landscapes
- Myth #5 – Xeriscaping is Expensive and Hard to Maintain
- What’s in the Bag?
- Selling points
- Misconceptions and mistakes
- Back to basics
What Is Xeriscaping?
As a landscape practice, xeriscaping follows seven key principles.
- Proper planning & design. Planning takes into account typical landscape concerns and issues, as well as any drainage challenges and sun/shade exposure, etc.
- Improved soil. This is key for proper plant growth, as well as enhancing water drainage.
- Smart turf use. Know the turf and sun/shade/water conditions of the landscape and match them appropriately.
- Efficient irrigation. This includes setting up a smart system, as well as regularly checking that parts are working properly and that the system remains effective.
- Appropriate plant selection. Plants appropriate for water-wise landscaping are water conserving and drought tolerant.
- Mulching. Mulches minimize evaporation, retard weed growth, slow erosion and help prevent soil and temperature fluctuations.
- Appropriate maintenance. Proper pruning, weeding, fertilization and attention to the irrigation system will preserve and enhance the quality of a xeriscape.
Xeriscape landscapes can initially cost more than conventional landscapes due to the comprehensive nature of xeriscape design and plant replacement. Experts estimate conversion typically ranges from $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot. But they estimate a 36 cents per square foot savings annually, due to decreased maintenance costs of a xeriscape over time.
Xeriscape Cost Is Impacted By Specific Elements
Xeriscaping costs will go up or down just like traditional landscape costs based on these specific elements that naturally impact installation costs.
- Increased hardscaping. Landscape elements made of stone, concrete or even pavers will always cost more when they are first installed. Hardscapes, as a rule, are usually more expensive than softscapes, or plants, when incorporated into a commercial landscape. However, hardscapes require less maintenance over time, in comparison to turf or plants, so savings add up over time.
- Reduced lawn. Landscapes that have fewer expanses of turf will be more expensive initially because turf is so inexpensive to install. Lawns, however, require more maintenance and water to thrive than other drought-tolerant plants or hardscaped areas, so their costs increase over time.
- Specialized irrigation. Drip irrigation, which waters plants at their roots, is usually equal in price or even less expensive to install than a traditional sprinkler system. It can also be cheaper over time because it directs water right where the plants need it without wasting any. Smarter irrigation systems that use specialized controllers that irrigate based on intelligence, such as precipitation and soil moisture, may cost more initially to install because of their advanced features, but that cost is typically returned later in water savings.
- Custom additions. Landscape additions like rainwater harvesting used to collect seasonal rainfall and reuse it or even retention or detention ponds can cost more money up front but serve a unique purpose in your commercial landscape where water conservation is concerned.
All of these considerations are important to keep in mind when looking at xeriscaping your Texas commercial landscape.
But amidst all of these landscape elements that can impact your total cost, it can be challenging to make the right decision.
Native Land Design’s experts can help you evaluate your landscape needs and where to target your budget to enjoy the best of an aesthetically pleasing landscape and water savings simultaneously. Contact us for a free onsite consultation at 512-918-2270 or fill out our contact form online today.
Xeriscaping: A New Approach to Landscaping
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Discover which elements of a xeric landscape have the biggest effect on cost By Genevieve Schmidt Swipe to view slides
- Using less lawn may cost more at the outset, but you reap the benefits over time with fewer expenses for water, fertilizer, and lawn care services.
- In any landscape, hardscaping such as patios and seating areas will drive up the cost.
The cost of xeriscaping depends entirely on the vision you and your designer come up with, and doesn’t need to cost any more than a traditional landscape if you don’t want it to. In general, the elements that drive up the cost of a xeriscape are the same elements that drive up the cost of any other style of landscaping. Here, professional landscapers share their tips about where you can save money, and where it’s worth it to splurge.
Elements that affect cost
Anything made of stone, pavers, or concrete will cost more. “Hardscape is always more expensive than plants,” says Elizabeth Przygoda-Montgomery of Boxhill Landscape Design in Tucson, AZ. However, hard surfaces take very little maintenance in comparison to lawn or plantings, so you’ll save on time and water in the end.
“A landscape with less lawn will be more expensive to start with because lawn is cheap to install,” says Mike Woods of J&S Landscape in Longmont, CO. However, he points out that the ongoing costs for lawn are much higher. “Look at the cost for irrigating a lawn, mowing, fertilizing – all of that maintenance never ends. Planting beds take a smaller amount of maintenance, and that type of gardening is much more fun.”
A drip irrigation system, as is used to establish a xeriscape and help the plants through the hottest days of summer, is either the same price or less money to install than a sprinkler system for lawn. It’s also cheaper to run over time, because it provides water exactly where the plants need it, with no waste.
Plants in a 5-gallon pot can cost 3 to 5 times more than a plant in a 1-gallon pot, and the cost goes up exponentially from there. Plants which started in a larger pot also cost more to plant and establish, since you’ll need to dig a bigger hole and provide more water during those critical first years.
Many people choose to collect seasonal rainfall, and use rain barrels or tanks to store it so this free water can be used throughout the growing season. The initial cost varies from less than $100 for a tiny DIY solution, to $8000 or more for large, professionally installed underground storage tanks that are hooked into your drip irrigation system.
“With any garden, the cost depends on what you want,” says Rama Nayeri of Creations Landscape Design in Tustin, CA. “If you desire a barbecue area, you will end up spending more money having something custom-made rather than purchasing a freestanding unit.”
There are other considerations to keep in mind when choosing how to landscape. “Xeriscaping isn’t just about the dollars you spend, but the environmental cost to our decisions,” says Greg Frugoli of Ecotones Landscapes in Cambria, CA. “Mowers are notoriously polluting and noisy,” he says, “and there are huge benefits to using less water, fertilizer, and other materials in the landscape.”
To spend or not to spend?
In a sea of landscaping decisions, how do you know what’s worth spending money on and which splurges you should skip? These are personal decisions and will be guided both by your budget and by how you plan to use the space, however some areas of the landscape will give you more bang for your buck than others.
When you’re using less lawn, it becomes even more important to provide a place for you and your family to relax and spend time together. Even if your budget only stretches to a small stamped concrete or crushed gravel patio and pathway, this is absolutely a place to spend money because you’ll notice and reap the benefits of the space every day during good weather.
Using less lawn may cost more in upfront installation costs, but you’ll save money every day on water, fertilizer, gasoline and lawn care services. In addition, many municipalities actually provide a rebate for every square foot of lawn you remove, which reduces the sting of that upfront cost. The verdict? Get rid of as much as you can.
If you’re retired or work from home, you may be tempted to skip the drip system, but most landscapers consider an automated drip system a must for developing the deep root systems that will eventually allow your plants to fend for themselves. Drip systems are more water-efficient than hand watering, too. When hand watering, there’s a lot of runoff and waste, but a drip system delivers the exact amount of water in the exact right spot.
For plants that grow taller than 5 feet at maturity, starting with larger specimens is worth it so you don’t have to wait 10 years for your landscaping to start taking shape. However, for groundcovers, perennial flowers, and small shrubs, buying larger specimens is usually a waste of money. “After the first year, the 1-gallon plant and the 5-gallon plant will look almost the same in terms of height and width,” says Nayeri.
The benefit of rainwater harvesting is that you can reduce your reliance on the city water supply. While you’re unlikely to recoup your financial investment at current water prices, you can certainly feel good knowing that you’re doing your part to preserve water. If budget’s an issue, check into whether your city or local water company offers any rebates, or consider a smaller or DIY solution.
Custom fire pits, outdoor kitchens, big water features and other high-end additions can set the tone for luxurious parties and fun gatherings with friends. However, if your budget is pinched, talk with your designer about creating a design that will incorporate some of these special features over time. That way, you can install most of your landscape right now, and make do with premade barbecues, fire pits, etc. until the time is right to upgrade.
The Truth About Xeriscaping: Common Misconceptions Exposed
Generally, when people say xeriscaping, the image of stones and arid environments comes to mind. There are numerous myths associated with xeriscaping; however, the truth is that xeriscaping is a creative landscaping technique that uses low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants grouped together to form natural-looking landscapes that conserve energy, natural resources, and water.
Myth #1 – Xeriscaping is All About Cacti, Succulents & Gravel
The most common myth is the idea that cacti, succulents and gravel mulch are considered xeriscaping. However, this is not true.
In fact, the overuse of gravel can actually increase the temperature around plants, resulting in even more water use. Instead, organic mulches, like bark, can be used. These types of mulch will actually retain water.
As for the use of cacti and succulents only in xeriscapes, there are numerous plants available, from annuals and perennials to grasses, shrubs and trees that will thrive in a xeriscape setting.
Another misconception is that xeriscapes use native plants only. Again, although native plants are recommended and tolerate conditions to a particular climate easier, there are numerous types of plants that are well adapted for use in xeriscape landscapes.
Myth #2 – Xeriscape Gardens are Really Only Rock Gardens
People also mistakenly believe that xeriscapes have to be limited to one particular style, such as the rock garden. In fact, xeriscapes can be found in any style. Although rock gardens can be implemented, there are an unlimited number of other choices with regard to xeriscape designs.
There are lush tropical xeriscapes, fascinating Mediterranean desert xeriscapes, Rocky Mountain xeriscapes, woodland xeriscapes, or formal and informal xeriscapes. You can have a xeriscape design and still be creative.
Myth #3 – You Can’t Have a Lawn With Xeriscaping
Another myth is that xeriscape means no lawns. First of all, there is no ‘zero’ in xeriscape, and lawns in a xeriscape garden are well planned and carefully placed. In fact, existing lawns may be reduced and new lawns may implement one of the many alternative types of turf to include native grasses, which are less demanding of water.
Instead, think less lawn, not lawn-less. Xeriscaping is simply a better alternative to water-hungry lawns and annuals, especially in areas where arid summers are typical. Not only do these landscapes survive with significantly less irrigation, they harmonize with the natural landscape.
Myth #4 – Xeriscapes are Non Water Landscapes
Xeriscape means only dry landscaping and no water. Again, this is not true. The term ‘xeriscape’ focuses on water conservation through water-efficient landscaping. Appropriate irrigation methods and water-harvesting techniques are an integral part of this concept.
Water is an essential part of the survival of all plants. They will die more quickly from lack of moisture than from any other nutrient deficiency. Xeriscaping refers to the design of landscapes and gardens that minimize the requirements for water, not eliminating them.
Myth #5 – Xeriscaping is Expensive and Hard to Maintain
Some people are misguided into the assumption that xeriscapes cost too much to build and maintain. In fact, xeriscapes can cost far less both to build and maintain than traditional landscaping. A good water-wise landscape can be designed to avoid expensive automatic irrigation as well as weekly mowing maintenance.
Many xeriscape designs need little or no maintenance. Others may think xeriscapes are difficult, but xeriscaping is not difficult. In fact, it can be easier than traditional landscaping. Trying to create a manicured lawn on a rocky site is far more difficult than creating an attractive rock garden on the same site.
There are even those who think that xeriscapes need more water to get started. In fact, many low-water or drought-tolerant plants need only be watered when first planted. Overall, most parts of xeriscapes require less than half the water of established high-water landscapes, even during the first year.
The truth about xeriscaping may actually surprise you. This easy, low-cost, low-maintenance alternative to traditional landscaping can be every bit as beautiful and even better for the environment.
What’s in the Bag?
A word that has several different definitions depending on who you ask and is something that probably needs be talked about more on the West Coast.
Adding xeriscaping to a client’s landscape can not only save water, but it can add diversity and interest, according to 2013 Landscaper of the Year finalist Rod Pappas, President of Xeriscapes Unlimited based in Phoenix, Arizona.
“It was something that our customers brought to our attention,” Pappas says. “Here in Arizona, the architecture just called for a lot of turf. After a few years, the buildings started deteriorating by constantly being sprayed by sprinklers.”
It was the customers who started asking for a solution, and after a little research, Pappas and his team found several cities in the area that offered rebate programs for xeriscaping.
From there, the company started following the industry standard of xeriscaping, or the “Seven Principles of Xeriscaping.”
The seven steps in xeriscaping begin with:
1. Good landscape designing and planning
2. Appropriate turf areas
3. Efficient irrigation systems
4. Use of soil amendments
5. Use of mulches
6. Incorporation of low-water use plants
7. Appropriate and professional maintenance services of plants and irrigation systems
When it comes to xeriscaping, there are the obvious benefits to tell clients like how it can save 20 to 30 percent on water bills or how they will have less maintenance.
Xeriscapes Unlimited was trying to market their services to a large defense manufacturing plant for about two years with no luck until one day – Pappas got a phone call.
When he tried to ask what had changed the company’s mind to converting a few of their acres to xeriscaping, the company gave no answer.
“We went out there, and we removed 20,000 square feet of turf along the street,” Pappas says. “As we were putting in the plants and taking out the turf, their facility guy came by and I said, ‘Why are they doing it along the street and not the internal areas?’”
As it turns out, the sprinkler heads used on the property were used to spray across the sidewalk to spray the other lane of vegetation on the other side. Because of this, a passerby had to step off the curb and go around the sprinklers, which is when a mirror of a bus hit her. The individual filed a lawsuit against the company and won.
“Then we thought ‘Wow, how many other people have done that?’ Pappas says. “We contacted a court reporter and got a publication of all Slip and Fall lawsuits.They came out with a publication that listed some of the properties that people had sued them for like water spraying in their car or tripping over a sprinkler head. The insurance companies just settle them.”
From that point, Pappas and his team came up with a schedule of what it costs per square foot to have turf, including the lawsuits.
“Sure you have maintenance fees and irrigation rebates, but what topped it off was one lawsuit,” he says.
Misconceptions and mistakes
Many times the word xeriscaping is confused with the word “zeroscaping,” which is nothing but a few cacti and granite.
Turf reducing can help save clients a great deal on the water bill but still give the concept of having a lush lawn.
One of the most common mistakes is not caring for the turf after the xeriscaping has been placed. Additionally, the irrigation system doesn’t always have to be changed to a drip system.
“Most turf valves can be converted to drip valve by adding a pressure reducer and filter,” he adds. “Some DIY-ers try and use the turf valves as they are and end up forcing too much water through the system and eventually doing damage to the plumbing.”
Lastly, losing turf does not mean clients lose a landscaper. In fact, it means quite the opposite.
“I’ll explain to clients that from a landscaper’s point of view, mowing grass with a riding mower that can go 15 mph is very easy and quick for us,” Pappas explains. “But, to get out there with a hoe and rake and start hoeing the weeds out of the shrubs is very time taking.”
Even though the frequency is less, a landscaper is still required to maintain the xeriscaped areas.
Check out this before and after:
Back to basics
One of the biggest challenges clients face when switching to xeriscaping is the cost.
According to Pappas, a cost per square foot can be approximately $2 to $5 depending on the features added.
“We had it down to about a $1 a square foot just to go in, take out the turf, cap off the sprinkler and throw some granite down,” Pappas says. “That was more like zeroscaping.”
To add some flavor, Xeriscapes Unlimited started using a variety of plants to season the landscaping including Agaves, Yuccas, barrel cactus and desert shrubbery.
“We then combine those plants with bougainvilleas, lantanas and colorful sage to give it a dash of color,” he says.
Many of Xeriscapes Unlimited residential customers are switching to xeriscaping without hesitation as it becomes more popular.
“They’re all not wanting to mow that grass at 110 degrees,” Pappas says. “Xeriscaping is a popular trend as most of the newer architectural designs call for a more natural setting with boulders, indigenous plants, water features and minimal turf.”
Click through to see some examples of xeriscaping plants: