For The Answer
Saturday, March 27, 2004
By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, SAWS, and Horticulturist
XERISCAPE CONTEST AND GARDEN TOUR
Does your neighborhood have some low-water-use landscapes and would like some recognition and a little cash? Consider the Xeriscape Contest and Garden Tour sponsored by SAWS, Edwards Aquifer Authority, Garden Volunteers of South Texas, San Antonio River Authority, and San Antonio Botanical Garden.
Here is how it works. Obtain an application from the Garden Volunteers of South Texas office located at 6798 Culebra Rd. (phone 522-9220), SAWS main office located at 1001 E. Market St. (Conservation Department phone 704-7354), or your local nursery. The application is easy to complete. You list the addresses you want considered (four or more). Of course, you will need the homeowner’s permission. The judging team will visit the landscapes sometime after April 10 and make their decisions.
The winning landscapes (4—6) in the winning neighborhood receive a $200 gift certificate to their favorite nursery and the winning neighborhood receives $1000 for a pre-approved neighborhood landscape project.
An important part of the contest is the Mother’s Day weekend tour. The winning neighborhood (usually two) will have to be accessible to on Saturday, May 8, and Sunday, May 9, to visitors seeking to view the winning landscapes.
The judges look to certain factors in making their decision.
· Water Conservation and Function—The landscapes entered should actually be low-water-use examples. Your water bills should reflect that you have not needed to use excessive water to keep the yard attractive.
· Functional Use of Turf—Lawn grass can be part of a xeriscape landscape but, since grass usually requires high amounts of water to stay green in the summer and it requires considerable maintenance, it should only be used where it is needed. Lawn grass can be important to pets, children’s play areas, as an aesthetic feature, and for games. Zoysia, Bermuda and buffalo grass are more desirable than St. Augustine because they can go dormant if required.
· Creative Use of Hardscape—Permeable hardscape such as brick without mortar, decomposed granite, or rock pathways are especially desirable as part of a xeriscape landscape because they do not use any water, allow water to penetrate to tree roots, and are attractive.
· Color—We can have 12 months of color in San Antonio. Landscapes that utilize lots of color plants score highly in the judging. A landscape with paperwhites, Texas mountain laurel, cemetery iris, Texas gold columbine, daylilies, Salvia greggii, coral honeysuckle, Katy Road rose, Salvia leucanthas, esperanza, cape honeysuckle, butterfly rose, firebush, and fall aster would have 12 months of color. There are hundreds of other combinations that would attract the admiration of the judges.
· Mulches are a key part of every xeriscape landscape. A variety of mulches are available including leaves, shredded brush, and bark. They can be attractive as well as conserve water and prevent weeds. A compost pile is a good source of organic material for the low-water-use landscape.
· Efficient Watering—Efficient watering is an essential part of a prize-winning xeriscape. Drip irrigation and hand watering are the most efficient methods. Rainwater harvesting, graywater use and condensate utilization will also attract the attention of the judges.
· Attractiveness—Xeriscape landscapes can be very distinctive but should incorporate good design methods. Plants should be placed in locations where the mature size is appropriate. A low-water-use landscape that is neat and an asset to the neighborhood will be a high scorer.
For more information on the Xeriscape Contest and Garden Tour contact Dana Nichols at SAWS at 704-7323. Remember, April 10 is the deadline. If you are considering converting your St. Augustine dominated landscape to xeriscape or have a new landscape to complete, visit the new landscape exhibit at the Botanical Garden; you can compare a traditional landscape to five different xeriscape landscapes: Spanish Courtyard, Hill Country, Wildscape, Cottage, and Manicured. Each landscape surrounds a small theme cottage and includes signage that identifies every plant. SAWS will provide a rebate for its customers that retrofit a high-water-use landscape or select a xeriscape landscape for their new house.