As climate change becomes an increasingly prevalent issue, water is becoming a treasured and sometimes fought over resource. Therefore drought tolerant gardens are growing to be more of a necessity than a trend.
Drought tolerant plantings once thought of as dry (or xeriscape), sparse, gravelly and full of prickly succulents. But that definition has evolved to mean drought tolerant gardens that are full of shrubs, perennials, trees and ornamental grasses which are thoughtfully selected, deep rooted plants with low water needs.
Once a drought tolerant landscape is established, usually 3 years or so after planting, its water requirements become minimal. In the Pacific Northwest because most of our rainfall is in the autumn, winter and spring, an established drought tolerant landscape will be fine watering it every 2-3 weeks in the summer (providing temperatures are not above 90 degrees for extended periods of time).
When planting a low water garden, it is essential to have well-drained soil because typically, low water plants do not like to have their feet wet. In the Portland OR area there is an abundance of clay soil, so it is important to amend with sand or clean ¼”-10 gravel to improve the drainage and keep the soil friable. This strategy might seem like a “heavy lift” but a landscape will only thrive when the soil is compatible with the plants selected for the site.
This is a Portland landscape which was planted perhaps 9-10 years ago. It is bursting with plant life and receives little to no water except the rain which falls on it.