Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE SOUTH'S WATER DILEMMA Landscaping Strategy Uses Best-Suited Plants

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE SOUTH'S WATER DILEMMA Landscaping Strategy Uses Best-Suited Plants

Article excerpt

Byline: Dave Williams, Times-Union staff writer

ROSWELL -- When Glynn Groszman moved onto a shady side street in this city just north of Atlanta 14 years ago, his front and back yards were covered with grass from one end to the other.

But try as he might, he couldn't keep his lawn growing in the shady areas without using copious amounts of water, a practice that made the environmental activist uncomfortable.

"After a while, I was knocking my head saying, 'Why am I trying to grow this where it doesn't want to grow?' " said Groszman, water-issues leader for the local chapter of the Sierra Club.

Gradually, he started covering the shady areas with pine straw, creating a border around the perimeter of his quarter-acre back yard and islands around the trees.

"I kept shrinking the grass,'' he said. "Eventually, the islands and borders merged. Now, I have islands of grass.''

What Groszman is practicing is a form of "xeriscaping,'' (pronounced zeer-ih-scaping) a term coined during a water-conservation landscaping initiative launched by the Denver Water Department in 1981. It's an approach to landscaping that saves water by taking into account what grows best in a given area.

"You plant suited to your climate,'' said Mary Ann Dickinson, executive director of the California Urban Water Conservation Council. "Local plants don't require extra irrigation because they're native to the area to begin with.''

Xeriscaping isn't widespread in suburban Atlanta, an affluent expanse of manicured lawns irrigated by built-in sprinkler systems. Water conservation wasn't an issue before the region was hit by the current drought, now into its fifth year, and by rapid population growth that has begun to put stress on available water supplies.

But it's the law of the land in some parts of the country. In the desert Southwest, Albuquerque, N.M., has required xeriscaping in all new development since 1995. Owners of new homes are allowed to cover no more than 20 percent of their property with "high-water'' turf.

Jean Witherspoon, the city's water conservation officer, said her department has published a guide and two videos instructing owners of residential and commercial properties in xeriscaping techniques. …

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