NPR logo Xeriscaping Still Gets Bad Rap

Plants and People

Xeriscaping Still Gets Bad Rap

Yet again, the art of landscaping with minimal watering takes a hit. In a lushly photographed New York Times article with the yummy title, A Sustainability That Aims To Seduce, author Stephen Orr paraphrases (note emphasis) a few landscape architects as suggesting that xeriscaping can result in "dusty summer yards full of scrappy native species".

I'm not bashing the landscape architects or Orr, per se. The article's thesis is that even people who can afford hiring landscape architects are increasingly environmentally sensitive, and even landscape architects (long-maligned for their lack of expertise/imagination in using plants) are integrating xeric principles and celebration of place into their designs.

What gets me is the lack of acknowledgement that the days of "scrappy native species" are also over. These days, people who love plants and live in hot, dry areas now have unbelievable choices. It's a revolution in gardenworthy species that began in New Mexico with David Salman's High Country Gardeners, and continues around the country and the world.

It's a solid-enough article for the NYT, but if you're not among the privileged and the monied — who often seem to lack the great, good sense that they have to share the planet — this last quote may stick in your throat.

... the message of conservation and environmental responsibility cannot be couched in punitive terms if it is to succeed. "People shouldn't have to make a choice between beauty and sustainability," Ms. Cochran said. "Our work is designed so that I am able to say to our clients during a presentation, 'Oh, and by the way, its also sustainable.' "