August 14th, 2004
My Garden Without Me

How long does your garden look nice without you?

Our third day of wonderfully cool temperatures in a row has got me out nosing in the garden again, tidying up here and there.

During my week stay with my parents in Las Vegas, I continued to be very much impressed with the xeriscape designs along the streets and medians as well as the very small, but well-landscaped yards. Two-thirds of Las Vegas didn’t exist when I lived there as a teenager. The desert is bull-dozed as new development is laid like a giant grid in the valley and the landscaping is newly installed, a bit crisp, clean and artificial like the houses. All the neighborhoods are sheltered from the major streets with cinder block walls. Most of the newer developments also include a wide (not greenspace but) planted space between the street and the walls. The design of these xeriscape spaces is delicately fluid and much more attractive than either mown grass or decorative rock landscapes of my past.

The yards tend to be very small. Most have no lawns. The plantings are geometric, but not overly so. People have discovered a much wider range of plants for the xeriscape garden than cactus. These yards look nice with a minimum of fuss.

This has fed my growing dissatisfaction with my yard, which is more a mess of plants than a garden. I can’t be away from it for more than a few days without it looking shabby. Something must be done. I’m tired of fussing over it. Maybe I need to borrow some of Tom Spencer’s Soul.

Bear with me. I know I’ve been grousing about this all year. I think it’s time for the spade and shears. Fall will bring a change.

by M Sinclair Stevens

2 Responses to post “My Garden Without Me”

  1. From margaret:

    Please explain to a Britisher what xeriscape is. Is it a specific type of layout for a garden? use of some particular type of plants – you mention cactus. Good luck with the past-vacation clear up.

  2. From William Hyland:

    I share the frustration of feeling that even a few days away from my garden allows the plaids and stripes to mix along with the unshaven. There is a fun book called “The Landscaping Revolution” by the Wasowski’s that contains a chapter on maintenance of native landscapes. While I like the attitude of the book very much, I think it paints an unrealistically optimistic view of the level of maintenance necessary for a native plant garden. The sad truth is rows of Ligustrums, Dwarf Yaupon Hollys, Nandinas and Photinas are quite easy to care for compared to a diverse garden that seeks to provide visual interest year-round. When I bring guests through my garden, they see what is blooming in various spots, and don’t see the areas that are looking ratty at that time. So I know this is more an issue of the standards I hope to achieve for my garden. My job is to try to get past this as best I can – a tall glass of wine helps.