What are Water-Wise Gardens? How to Make Drought Tolerant Gardens

June 26, 2021

Water-wise gardens (also known as drought-tolerant, drought-resistant, or xeriscaped gardens) are landscapes whose plants require little to no water to survive and can efficiently maximize what little precipitation they do receive. They’re very popular – essential, even – in hot, dry regions, and they’re becoming popular in metro Vancouver, too.

But why would anyone in Vancouver need a water-wise garden?



Droughts and Rainfall

Anyone who’s been pretty much anywhere in Southern California has seen a water-wise garden in action. In recent years, California has been the victim of many severe droughts – in fact, the longest drought in their recent history ran for nearly 8 years (from 2011 to 2019) and forced thousands of residents to reconsider the ways in which their landscapes could better conserve precious water. Installing drought-tolerant gardens is not only the new norm – it’s actually a legal requirement in some regions.

But why is this relevant to Vancouver? Vancouver isn’t exactly known for its lengthy dry spells. Quite the opposite. In fact, Vancouver is the 4th rainiest city in Canada in terms of precipitation levels. Though our summers are typically warm and dry, the nine rainy months of the year we have to endure must surely eliminate any need for drought tolerance, right?




Why Should You Make a Water-Wise Garden?

The simple answer? Many Vancouver residents are still choosing to plant water-wise gardens to cultivate an attitude of environmental stewardship, for which one of the central guiding principles is water conservation. Moreover, the rapid ongoing population growth in this area has led many municipalities to re-prioritize their water usage: as of now, an estimated 25% of all water used in metro Vancouver goes toward plants, lawns, and outdoor use, which is why we always seem to be facing water restrictions in the summer despite our abundance of rain.

As a result, many people are asking:

  • How can I install a garden that requires little-to-no irrigation or hand watering?
  • How can I use plants that can survive year round in all conditions?
  • How can my garden add unique or rare plants and textures to my landscape?

We’ll let you in on a little secret: it’s easier than you think.


The guiding principles of water-wise gardens

Water-wise gardens look great, but they can take a great deal of planning to properly install. When it’s effectively designed, it should be installed with the flowing goals in mind:


To use water-efficient plants

There’s seemingly no end to the list of plants that can thrive in dry conditions. A water-wise garden will avoid using thirsty plants – especially grass! – and will instead opt for drought-tolerant plants that reduce the need for irrigation or hand-watering. Scroll down for a list of water-wise plants we like!


To make effective use of mulches and aggregates

Mulching is the practice of adding a layer of organic or composted matter such as leaves or bark to your garden. Mulch helps the ground retain moisture, and can also suppress the growth of thirsty weeds, which will sap away precious water.

Another common practice in creating drought-resistant gardens is adding a layer of aggregate river rock or gravel, which not only adds contrast, colour, and texture, but can also help suppress weeds and retain ground warmth.


To eliminate the need for irrigation

 As stated above, using drought-tolerant plants and minimizing lawn space will help drastically reduce your need for irrigation, but the plants in your water-wise garden will still need some water. Remember: rainwater is free, unchlorinated, and clear! Make use of rain barrels or cisterns whenever possible to collect rainwater from your downspouts on the off chance we experience drought.


Water-Wise Plants

When many people think about water-wise or drought tolerant plants, desert plants tend to come to mind (like cacti). The truth, however, is that there are many plants out there that love warm, dry climates, but can still easily thrive in rainier areas, too. Here are a few:

  • Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
  • Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia fulgida)
  • Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Lavender (Lavandula augustifolia)
  • Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • New Zealand Flax (Phormium tenax)
  • Yuccas
  • Succulents
  • Jasmine
  • Asters
  • Euphorbias
  • Sedums
  • Foxgloves



Thinking of making a water-wise garden?

At Para Space, we love to take on new and exciting projects – especially ones that take seriously the central tenets of sustainability and environmental conservation! Our accredited team of landscape designers is experienced in a broad spectrum of projects, and our Landscape Services supervisors and crews are committed to efficient and perfect completion of all designs and installations. So, if you’d like a hand coming up with some design ideas, get in touch now for a consultation!

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