Words by Nelisa Wuilliez. Photos courtesy of www.caribbeanbotanicaldesign.com.
The term 'Caribbean landscaping' often conjures images of lush, green, rainforest-like gardens with morning dew on the leaves. However, if you are not fortunate enough to live in the shadow of a tropical rainforest, this might not be a possibility. Water resources on some islands are scarce and on others, there are no perennial streams or rivers to provide fresh water. Island nations such as The Bahamas and Antigua import fresh water via tank ships, while countries like Barbados and the Virgin Islands rely on expensive desalination plants to process fresh water for everyday use, which often includes landscape irrigation. It is no wonder then, that homeowners and landscape designers in the region are looking for the most cost effective and environmentally friendly ways to maintain their Gardening with the environment in mind gardens. Xeriscaping is one approach gaining momentum that can be used to maintain a beautiful garden whilst conserving water.
Derived from the Greek word for ‘dry’, xeriscaping is also called ‘dry gardening’ and is fundamentally about water conservation. Originally developed for water-restricted areas, it has found broad appeal as water becomes an ever more limited resource across the globe – it is purported to reduce landscape water use by fifty to seventy-five percent. What is more, as xeriscapes do not have one particular look, and the principle can be applied to both new and existing landscapes, it seems the appeal of dry gardening is gaining ground swell.
The?fundamentals of xeriscape design:
Consider your garden
Planning and design are fundamental aspects, especially for new landscapes. Spend a day getting to know your yard. Make note of the areas that get sun and shade; consider the contours and drainage patterns; reflect on the use for each area. This will ensure that the right plants are placed in the right areas.
Limit your lawn size
Lawns require an immense amount of water, so when possible limit or reduce lawn size and use water-saving grass species adapted to your region.
By grouping plants with similar water needs together and using the right type of irrigation, you can greatly reduce water consumption. Also make sure to install moisture sensors so that sprinklers are not on during or after rainfall and use drip-irrigation or soaker hoses as they deliver water at the plant’s base, reducing moisture loss from evaporation.
Improve soil by adding organic material such as compost. This will help trap moisture as well as help to keep it aerated.
Mulching is one of the best landscape practices to use with xeriscaping. Not only does it aid soil to retain moisture, it also reduces erosion and helps prevent weeds from taking root. Plus, the Caribbean has some of the best mulch materials available. Chipped coconut husk and discarded cocoa shells make great mulch as well as being inexpensive recyclables.
Use appropriate plants
Make use of local and native plants that are acclimated to your particular region, as they are better suited to tolerate the climate.
Xeriscaped gardens require less maintenance, less need for fertilisers and pesticides and can increase property value.