In areas that suffer from frequent droughts and subsequently deal with water bans, the use of drought-tolerant plants in landscape design is a must. But even those areas that don’t battle drought can benefit from smarter installations, which don’t require frequent watering. Still, many believe that a drought-tolerant landscape is not only challenging to create, but produces a lackluster result. Fortunately, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Mark Fockele, president of The Fockele Garden Co., offers some of his favorite tips, plantings and lessons learned.
One of the biggest misconceptions about a drought-tolerant landscape is that it’s automatically going to be boring. “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that a drought-tolerant landscape can still be beautiful,” he says. “There are so many drought-tolerant plants to choose from so there’s no reason for it to be boring. You can do a beautiful garden that people will think was designed for beauty, not for drought tolerance. Visitors literally won’t know the difference.”
Some of Fockele’s favorite drought-tolerant plantings include dwarf conifers, rosemary, hypericum and Asiatic jasmine. “The important thing is to get a grip on what plants qualify as drought-tolerant and then put together a plant list for your project,” Fockele says. “There are many plantings you may not even realize fall into that category.”
Fockele says that one of the biggest challenges of producing a successful drought-tolerant landscape may actually be educating the client. You can go through all the work of creating a more sustainable garden only to have the client overwater it anyways. That makes education critical. He uses the illustration of baking a cake to help teach people how to water. “You can follow the recipe exactly, but you don’t really know if it’s done until you stick a toothpick in it,” he says. “It’s the same with dirt – you have to be willing to stick your finger into it and feel whether it’s dry, moist, or soggy. You obviously don’t want dry or soggy.”
It’s also problematic that an overwatered plant looks similar to an under-watered one. In both cases, there’s wilting. “The most important thing to convey is that too much water is just as bad as too little,” Fockele says. “So we try to help teach our clients to use just the right amount of water so that their garden can thrive.”
This story is one of three that appeared in Lawn & Landscape's Water Works e-newsletter. To continue reading about Mark Fockele and how he has added sustainable services at his company:
Adding rainwater harvesting to your portfolio: Proper training is essential for expanding into these eco-friendly practices.