How To Create A Dry Water Garden

This is not some magical method of creating a water garden without water, but rather ideas on ways to give the illusion of water by using plants. If you are wanting to save water these ideas will be particularly relevant and will enable you to enjoy the best of both worlds. Learn how to make waves with grasses, turn on a fountain of arching leaves and even create a living waterfall. I came across these ideas in an article by Pam Penick which I found on the Garden Design Magazine website.

In the 1800s, American pioneers driving wagon trains west across the Great Plains glimpsed in the rolling, tall-grass prairie an echo of the ocean. Grasses evoke the movement of water so well that a horizon-wide view of them can make us feel as if we are at sea. Grasses aren’t the only plants, however, that suggest water. Many others share this quality, whether through cascading or fountain-like form, or through color that, when massed, brings to mind a river or pool, or even through an uncanny resemblance to undersea life like coral and seaweed.

Savvy, creative gardeners can use such plants in their water-saving gardens to create an illusion of watery abundance. Choosing dry-adapted plants to accomplish this sleight of hand makes the illusion even more satisfying. Here are some tricks to keep up your sleeve.

Make Waves with Grasses

Photo by: Pam Penick.

Mass grasses to create a sense of watery movement, especially on breezy days. For low ripples, try meadowy sedge (Carex spp.) or plains-native buffalograss (Bouteloua dactyloides). To conjure the illusion of billowing waves, use taller ornamental grasses: cloud-like bamboo muhly (Muhlenbergia dumosa), rosy love grass (Eragrostis spectabilis), and cotton candy-colored Gulf muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris).

Turn On a Fountain of Arching Leaves

Photo by: Pam Penick.

Choose plants with an arching or vase-shaped form to introduce a fountain effect in a dry garden. Planted singly, rather than en masse, fountain-shaped plants gain power through contrast with other forms, like mounds, cones, or sprawling groundcovers. Try appropriately named fountain grass (Pennisetum spp.), prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), and purple moor grass (Molinia spp.). Strappy yuccas, phormiums, and cordylines have “spraying” forms too.

See more at the Garden Design Magazine


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