Dry Gardens / Xeriscapes

DRY GARDENS encompass a variety of garden styles, including Mediterranean and certain Rock Gardens. Gravel gardens are another variation of the dry garden. They are best suited to drier climates and light, well-drained soil. The plants often are indigenous to Southern Europe, alpine regions, or South Africa. Raising or berming the plantings promotes good drainage. Rocks or boulders are an important feature and provide ideal habitats for alpine plants. The Mid-Columbia can be very suited to this style of gardening, especially toward the east end of the Gorge. 

XERISCAPES are drought-tolerant, water-conserving gardens. Appropriate native plants and plants from similar drier climates, such as the below-mentioned perennials and herbs, are an important component. Lawn is used sparingly, and if so, grass cultivars with low water needs are chosen. The plants in Xeriscapes and dry gardens are drought-tolerant once established, usually two years after planting. Subsequent summer watering is infrequent, but thorough. Winter wetness can be detrimental, therefore good drainage is essential, and fertilizer should be used in moderation. Pea gravel can be used as mulch, but it can be difficult to keep free of soil and debris.

DRY CREEK BEDS (also called dry streambeds) control the flow of rainwater or excess water across the landscape or other areas. They consist of a shallow swale or trench lined with stone substantial enough to withstand a serious downpour. Larger boulders are set along the sides to resemble a gently meandering waterway or stream. Dry creek beds are appealing, ornamental features if designed to look natural, and blend with the surrounding plantings. Rock gardens and Xeriscapes complement dry creek beds. Streamside shrubs may be planted along larger features. Dry creek beds retain water during rain events and release it slowly into lower-lying areas or drain tile, reducing erosion and easing strain on storm water drains. They do not contain water the majority of the time.

PLANTS FOR DRY GARDENS: The plants themselves possess hairy or leathery, waxy leaves to protect them from desiccation. Some of these plants die back to the ground by early or mid summer, to underground bulbs or tubers. Their foliage is often evergreen or evergray, and frequently aromatic. Many plants from dry habitats flower in spring or early summer, providing a colorful display early in the season. Ornamental grasses are quite drought-tolerant, and make suitable companion plants in dry gardens, adding fall and early winter interest. Hardy cultivars of Agastache, Lavender, Oregano, Penstemon, Russian Sage, Creeping Thyme and Rosemary are plants of the dry garden, and thrive in the Mid-Columbia, provided that they are grown in well-drained soil. Most of these plants display flowers attractive to hummingbirds.

 

Private Residence in Hood River

A Dry Creek Bed winds its way through the lower-lying part of the residential back garden, absorbing excess water and storm drain runoff. Extensive drain tile directs rainwater away from the home, and a dry well absorbs additional water.  The “banks” of the dry creek bed are planted with large sweeps of drought-tolerant ground covers and perennials, primarily Sedums and Creeping Thyme. Boulders and different sizes of drain rock give the illusion of an actual stream.

 BEFORE PHOTOS
(Please click image for an enlarged view)

At the start of home construction, the back landscape is yet to be defined

At the start of home construction, the back landscape is yet to be defined

The curving concrete patio has been installed, and shaping of the back landscape has begun

The curving concrete patio has been installed, and shaping of the back landscape has begun

 AFTER PHOTOS
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Four years later, the plantings and ground covers have filled in, June

Four years later, the plantings and ground covers have filled in, June

The ground covers are maturing nicely, in June, six years after planting

The ground covers are maturing nicely, in June, six years after planting

Detail of the ground covers along the dry creek bed

Detail of the ground covers along the dry creek bed

A close-up of the ‘Nutmeg’ Creeping Thyme handsomely hugging stepping stones

A close-up of the ‘Nutmeg’ Creeping Thyme handsomely hugging stepping stones

Drain detail at the southwest corner of the residence

Drain detail at the southwest corner of the residence

 

Owner’s Property

Along the entire west side of the owner’s property, a 250 foot long dry creek bed was installed to catch runoff from higher-lying neighboring properties.  Serviceberries, Columnar Maples, and native shrubs were planted along the complete length of the property line.

 BEFORE PHOTO
(Please click image for an enlarged view)

A shallow drain trench was dug to accommodate the dry creek bed, November

A shallow drain trench was dug to accommodate the dry creek bed, November

 AFTER PHOTO
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Blooming Serviceberries along the completed dry creek bed, a year and a half after planting

Blooming Serviceberries along the completed dry creek bed, a year and a half after planting

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