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There’s a quiet gardening revolution going on that’s bucking the trend of water-hungry, luscious front lawns and quite literally ‘rocking’ the gardening world.

Xeriscaping 101

Xeriscaping is about using native and naturalised plants to deal with drought-tolerant places so that you’re getting the most out of your garden when you have the least at your finger tips,” explained Hugo Jackson, Landscape Attendant at Coast Aggregates.

Succulents ready for planting

It’s a departure from the luscious green lawns of glossy magazine covers in favour of an architectural landscape with carefully selected plants which need significantly less water.


Aside from saving water, one of the major benefits of xeriscaping is that it saves time.

“It’s about getting the most out of your garden using the least amount of effort. Drought-tolerant gardens and low-maintenance gardens usually go hand in hand because if you’re not having to water it you’re not having to go in there and maintain it as often. It’s pretty much left to do its own thing,” said Jackson. Less time pampering your non-natives also means more time spent around the fire pit with friends. It’s a win-win!

Rock Bed Xeriscape Garden
Rock Bed Xeriscape Garden

Creating your Water-Efficient Landscape

Step One: pH Perfect

Before creating your beautiful, balanced landscape of drought-tolerant plants, the first step, explained Jackson, is to work out what type of garden you want.

“Are you wanting a predominantly acidic-loving garden or an alkaline-loving garden?”

After settling on your selection, the next step is pH test on your soil.

“Find out what pH level you’re sitting at with the native soil, then whether you want it more acidic or more alkaline.

“If you want more alkaline you’ll need to add some lime to your soil. If you want it more acidic then you’d add more of the amender that we sell here.”

While amending your soil, you might want to add additional soil or compost, both of which are available at Coast Aggregates no matter the size of your garden.

“You could even come in a [tiny hatchback] with a few pails in the back.” said Jackson. “We want to make sure everyone can have access to good soil.”

Step Two: Selecting Your Plants


You’re not just limited to a back yard of palm trees and prickly pears. Many native plants, such as the Dryopsis fern, are ideally suited for xeriscaping; as are Japanese varieties such as Skimmia japonica and Aucuba japonica which also grow well here, Jackson explained.

Skimmia Japonica

Non-native plants such as dogwoods also thrive in the Squamish climate.

And the biggest gardening fashion, explained Jackson, is grasses. From the Japanese Blood Grass with its purple-red tips, to Mescanthus (commonly known as Elephant Grass) which grows up to three metres tall.

“Grasses are a fantastic way of dealing with drought because they give you good foliage, great form and are good for privacy too.”

Japanese Blood Grass

Step Three: Face the Right Way

“You next need to work out what direction you’re facing. Whether you’re a south-west facing garden, an east facing one…because that will determine the hours of sunlight that you’ll get.”

One way to do this, Jackson explained, is to plant up your varieties in pots, place them on a deck during the early summer and watch the way they track the sun.

Photo: Neslihan Gunaydin

“Once you’ve worked out the direction you’re facing and the hours of sunlight that you get, you can start selecting the locations for your shade loving plants, sun-loving plants and everything in between.”

Step Four: Dig up Some Dirt

After making sure you have adequate drainage (essential, even in drought-tolerant landscapes), and planning out your garden beds, it’s time to get digging.

Cut out your garden beds first, advises Jackson, then mix together some soil and compost amender.

“If you’ve got certain plants that need a full-growing season to be good, then you need to get those in the ground first…so that they got a good season of growth.”

After that you can leave it as is, or add river rock and bark mulch to complete the xeriscaping look.

“The nicest thing about gardening is that you don’t do it all at once,” said Jackson. It’s something that can fit around your budget.


Bang on Trend

Xeriscaping is becoming more popular around Squamish; more people are choosing options such as rock gardens, instead of putting the traditional lawn in the front of the house. “There’s an Asian influence too,” explained Jackson. “It used to be about English Country Gardens, and now it’s gone structural…Lavish green lawns just aren’t really the direction we need to be going in anymore.”


To speak with someone about getting the most out of your soil, call us at 604.898.5015 or come by the Landscape Depot at 2600 Centennial Way, Squamish.