California and other states around the US have recently been experiencing dramatically low amounts of rain and increased risk of droughts, though it's nothing new. Expect the trend to continue as well. The ever-increasing human population coupled with rain levels that can fluctuate greatly from one year to another mean there will probably always be a need for water conservation and things like drought-friendly ideas for landscape design.
"If you don't yet have watering restrictions in your area, hold on to your garden hose, because they could be in your future. But you don't have to say goodbye to irises and peonies and hello to cactus and rocks. Learn the principles of xeriscaping--gardening that conserves water--and you'll save money, time, and labor, while enjoying the plants you love."
The article goes on to list a number of different xeriscaping principles. These include:
1. Strategic placement of plants: It's common sense, really. Start by surveying one's planting area and determining drainage and variability in soil wetness throughout the area. Place plants needing less water in drier soil and thirstier plants in wetter soil. Learn about what grows best in one's region, too-- this can be found by going, if necessary, to a local gardening club or home store. As the Organic Gardening piece notes, "The right plant in the right place needs less care overall, (including) supplemental water.
2. Watering when necessary: Xeriscaping is like hypermiling for driving. Just as hypermiling can improve one's gas mileage by as much as 30 percent, xeriscaping can reduce outdoor water consumption by 50 percent. This works in part because with xeriscaping, watering is done on an as-needed basis as opposed to with a schedule. The amount of watering needed varies per plant. Organic Gardening notes, for instance, that some trees only need watering by humans through their first growing seasons.
3. Mulching: Think of a two or three-inch layer of organic mulch as your garden's blanket. The mulch, which can consist of shredded leaves, compost and bark nuggets slows the evaporation of water in soil. It can also add extra dimension and character to one's garden, transforming boring soil.
4. Knowing different types of leaves and how to use them: When they're covering a backyard during autumn, all leaves kind of look alike. It turns out, though, that different types of leaves offer a variety of benefits for gardening. Fuzzy leaves such as lamb's ears have a mat of fine hairs that prevent water loss. Gray leaves like Russian sage reduce water loss by reflecting sunlight. Waxy leaves such as Rosemary prevent water loss through a dense coating. Succulent leaves like stonecrop store water above ground; large, fleshy roots like Adam's needle do this below ground. On a related note, rocks and boulders installed by a landscaping company can also be used for water retention and diversion.
Xeriscaping overall is about maximizing efficiency and not wasting water. In these times, where uncertainty has extended far beyond weather patterns, following these ideals is generally a smart idea.