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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Successful Drought Tolerant Gardening, Let’s Talk Plants! February 2009, No. 173

Photo credit: Cindy Sparks.
View from above Cindy Spark's backyard which she re-did according to some of the principles presented in the Successful Drought Gardening series.

Edited by Cindy Sparks.

This kicks off a year-long series of articles on:

· Why water conservation is important.

· How a drought tolerant garden can be good for you, the birds and bees, your water bill and your property value.

· Setting a water use goal.

· Identifying your requirements to meet your goal, including cost, time, and labor limitations.

· Planning a drought tolerant landscape.

· Picking plants that will succeed in your growing conditions.

· Installing and establishing your new landscape.

(Current Editor's note: To read the whole series, please access all the 2009 Newsletters under the "Past Issues" button on our website.

These articles will provide helpful websites and county-wide resources to give you new ideas and examples of beautiful drought tolerant plants. So, join us and learn how to create a garden you’ll love while slashing your water consumption.

Photo credit: Cindy Sparks.
<Rachel italicize botanical please> Purple Cordyline "Festival Grass Burgundy", a variety which does not form a long neck like most of the cordylines. The silver plant is Calocephalus brownii, and the blue is Senecio mandraliscae.

Why Water Conservation is Important -

By Vincent Lazaneo, UCCE Urban Horticulture Advisor Emeritus.

Photo credit: Cindy Sparks.
<Rachel italicize please> Ceanothus griseus var. horizontalis 'Diamond Heights'.

A gentle rain is falling as I write this kick-off article on gardens that conserve water and respect our environment. Most landscapes are not yet sustainable. As you read the articles, take a fresh look at your landscape and its impact on our planet.

In past years, plentiful, low cost water encouraged us to use too much. Most landscapes use several times more water than the native vegetation they replaced. They are sustained mostly with imported water and we can easily use less.

The Facts -

Of the past eleven years, eight have produced below-normal rainfall, including the driest year on record. Our accumulated deficit of 21.75 inches (Lindberg Field) dried out native vegetation, fueling two major wildfires. Our water sources are 10% local, 55% from the Colorado River, and 35% from northern California. Reservoirs in eight western states have been severely depleted by drought that could last another decade. Court rulings to protect endangered fish could reduce northern California water up to 50% for years to come. A long-term decline in rainfall could further reduce our future supply.

If not now, when?

In 2008 the demand for water exceeded our county supply. The allocation to some farmers was cut 30%. Everyone was asked to reduce water use by 10% - but we achieved only 5%. In 2009 water districts are poised to implement mandatory conservation measures.

Changing decades-long habits requires a commitment, yet provides rewards. Conserving water will keep more “green” in your wallet. Local water districts will pass along 2008 wholesale cost increases of 11.9%. San Diego increased its water rate 6.5% and its sewer fee 8.75% in 2008. Similar increases will occur in 2009 and 2010. Expected increases in energy costs and measures to reduce carbon emissions will also increase water rates. Nineteen percent of California’s total power is used to transport and process water. Conservation will reduce both power and water use. Conversely, being able to afford as much water as you want is not a good reason to waste our precious resources.

If not you, who?

So, this is our challenge: to significantly cut landscape water use and minimize water expense!


At the time of the original writing of this article - Series editor Cindy Sparks was a member of the SDHS board and is also an enthusiastic Master Gardener. Author Vincent Lazaneo is the founder of the Master Gardeners of San Diego and was the SDHS Horticulturist of the Year in 2004. Cindy’s garden, pictured here, includes several kinds of lavender, Bay laurel, Polygala cv., rosemary, Alstroemeria, Salvia leucantha, Bread seed poppies, Artemesia ‘Powis Castle’ and two aged Japonica camellias which survive without supplemental water.


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