Xeriscaping Is Not ZEROscaping! A Photo Gallery

New photo gallery from High Country Gardens showcases the beauty and potential of lush xeriscapes.


xeriscapingRecent data from the National Integrated Drought Information System reveals that over 21 million people across the nation were impacted by drought as of the end of March 2024. Xeriscaping, as most landscapers know, is a style of landscaping that reduces the need for irrigation, and though it can be a beautiful solution in times of critical water restrictions, it can also cause hesitation with many clients who fear a “zeroscape.”

Recognizing this, High Country Gardens, an online nursery and longtime advocates of waterwise plant solutions, have published a photo library of yards transformed by xeriscaping. The images provide evidence that xeriscaping is far from just a bare collection of rocks. View a sampling of these photos in the clickthrough gallery below, then visit here for the full photo library.

Typically, xeriscaping involves reducing large swathes of turf on a property. Here is what industry experts say they’ve heard about top concerns to reducing the amount of turf.

Top 5 Concerns About Turf Removal

  1. It means zero landscaping. “Zeroscape implies that there are no plants and nothing but rock,” shares Shaun Moser, Conservation Garden Park manager at Jordan Valley Water Conservancy District and instructor with Utah’s Localscapes program. Yet Ross Shrigley, executive director of Plant Select explains “Xeriscaping results in fully planted landscapes, where all the plants touch. The plants are not supposed to be far apart, with lots of gravel in between.”
    Cynthia Bee, sustainable landscapes expert and director of communication at Utah Water Ways adds, “One of the biggest challenges is ‘all or nothing’ thinking. It’s either the [traditional] landscape homeowners already have and know—or it’s nothing but rocks. The truth is, it’s replacing one landscaping style with another, more regionally appropriate yet still lush and inviting, landscaping style.”
  2. Losing form and functionality. “Concerns about the aesthetic appeal of turf replacement are common, but there are numerous beautiful features perfect for waterwise landscaping, such as pathways, patios, [and] natural play areas for kids,” explains Paige Payne, founder of Online Landscape Designs. (Look for an article by Payne in the upcoming June “Water Issue” of Turf.)
  3. More upkeep and effort. “Some homeowners worry that a waterwise garden will require a lot of maintenance, but with a well-thought-out plan and reasonable steps, it can actually be lower maintenance than a traditional grass lawn,” says Payne.
  4. Removing turf “the right way.” Shrigley notes that property owners are uncertain about the pros and cons of “removing turf versus killing it and planting directly into dead turf.” Ryan Harter, a Denver homeowner who recently converted his traditional lawn to a xeriscaped yard, comments, “Options include solarization, cardboard mulching, manual removal, or chemical treatments.”
  5. Creating urban heat islands. Bee cites, “pushback and concern about creating the ‘urban heat island effect,'” but reassures, “it’s plants that reduce the impact [of heat], not lawn which is just a specific plant.”



Creating A Xeriscape

Ready to try a turf removal project? Start small. Starting with a manageable project is the key to a successful sustainable yard transformation. Bee recommends, “Pick a small space, like a park strip or side yard, and use that as a learning environment. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you’ll be ready to convert a larger space.”

Payne agrees, “Beginning with a small corner of [a] yard can make the process feel more manageable. If it proves successful, you can gradually convert more sections…  just keep moving forward. Any effort to reduce water usage is a step in the right direction.”

Lauren Carvalho, High Country Gardens horticulturalist, asserts, “there have never been so many lawn replacement options. For those that wish to maintain a more traditional low-growing look, check out water-savvy grass alternatives, mixed micro clover, or durable flowering thyme. Remember, [clients] don’t have to give up [their] entire lawn, reducing even a tiny portion can add big benefits.”

To learn more, visit High Country Garden’s Waterwise Plants Learning Center.

All Photos: High Country Gardens

David Salman

For more information, read an article from High Country Gardens founder and famed horticultural expert David Salman, written for Turf in December 2020. (Sadly, Salman passed away in June 2022.) Experts Choices For Xeric Turfgrass & More


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