Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: The Water-Saving Garden

Buy a copy on Amazon
When Pan Penick asked me to review her new book, I was somewhat reluctant knowing that it was written for gardeners in the whole country and not just Florida. But once I received her gorgeous book, I was entranced by all her cool water-saving ideas and innovative designs.

Florida is NOT a desert!

First let me say that since Florida averages 50 to 60 inches of rainfall annually, it is not a desert and so we cannot have xeriscapes. The stone-scaping that works so well in arid climates, doesn't work that well here. Our climate and rainfall ensures that any bed of stone will be filled with weeds before too long. On the other hand, we do have a 7-month dry season which can make us feel like we live in a desert. So we DO need water-saving ideas.

Saving water

Many of the water saving ideas are obvious such as using rain barrels or cisterns and using drought-tolerant plants instead of thirsty lawns, with an emphasis on using native plants. I'm a native plant enthusiast, so seeing so much space devoted to natives made me happy. Other water-saving design ideas make sense once you think about them, but are not as obvious. One example is replacing a small front lawn with a steep slope, which dries out quickly because the water drains away with terraced beds that are level. Yes, you've replaced the lawn, but also the water stays in place better on a level surface. There are good ways to save water using container gardens, as well.

Pam also discusses the ripple theory of saving water where you can plant any thirsty plants close to your house, but as you move away from the buildings, the plants there will need less and less water. This is not particularly going to save you water, but this design idea means that you need to think about water resources when you plant and since we are talking sustainable landscaping here, it is certainly more sustainable to limit plants that need extra care close to the house.

Saving the aquifer

In addition to saving water in the garden, Pam talks about permeable paving and rain gardens to make sure that whatever rain you get is absorbed into the landscape and not rushed into the storm drains. The more water that soaks in, the better it is for the aquifers and our precious fresh water supply. 

Emulating water

As humans, we are drawn to the water, so Pam shows us some ways to emulate the serene feeling of water with colors in the landscape, flowing grassy areas, and with other tricks such as mirrors. Small water gardens can be added to soothe our need for water, but not use much water at all.

Good design

Pam is a garden designer located in Austin Texas, which receives about 30 inches of annual rainfall so her need to save water is greater than ours. Her beautiful book includes color photos of landscapes in many areas of the country on every page. She included many before and after examples, which make it easy to see the difference. She also wrote Lawn Gone and continues that theme in this book. There are so many beautiful ways to leave your lawn landscape behind. So just do ityou can have a beautiful landscape and save water, too.

I recommend The Water-Saving Garden to help you save water beautifully.

What are your favorite water-saving ideas for landscapes?

Green Gardening Matters,
Ginny Stibolt 


  1. "First let me say that since Florida averages 50 to 60 inches of rainfall annually, it is not a desert and so we cannot have xeriscapes." We CAN have xerisscapes here in Florida. Xeriscape doesn't mean using stone(with plants), just planting out the area completely with drought tolerant plants-no lawn.

    1. The definition of xe·ric: (of an environment or habitat) containing little moisture; very dry.

      Yes we can and should have landscapes that need little or no additional irrigation, but we do not live in an arid climate.