I recently had the opportunity to speak at the Glen Park Garden Club. They are a wonderful organization, filled with like-minded individuals who absolutely love to garden and have spent a lifetime growing a wide assortment of plants. When they asked me to talk at their meeting, I thought, “What better topic to discuss than the changing California landscape?”
As I considered our changing landscape, and the terrible situation we’re in with our vanishing water supply, and the worry and concern that this drought might last for much longer, and the drying and dying of the non-irrigated landscapes within San Francisco, and the photographic images and informational memes on the internet of the groundwater receding, and the water bills that appear to be growing exponentially, I began to wonder if there was more to using succulents in our landscapes than just being responsible and water-wise for the greater community.
It’s been easy for me to talk to people about using these plants to create xerophyte gardens. When soaring water bills hit our wallets, it helps us connect to the fact that there is a problem and that we would like to be part of the solution. Fundamentally, succulent plants can fill a yard and not need to be watered much, if at all. So if you are wanting to have plants in your yard, and you want them to be manageable, to not drop tons of detritus, to be elegant and architectural, colorful and sensual, to give you weird beautiful flowers that last a long time, and to not need much of that precious H2O, then succulents are going to provide you with a wonderful and passionate solution.
But if you are a different kind of gardener, such as the horticulturalists I met at the Glen Park Garden club; if you garden as a part of a lifetime of curious exploration of the world; if you garden as a peaceful means of meditation; if you garden to provide sustenance to yourself, your family or your community; if you garden as part of your personal mental health regimen, and to pack dirt under your fingernails for use as an anti-depressant; if you garden to nurture nature and receive nurturing from nature; if gardening is your way of sharing a deep communion with our earth; then succulent and other xerophytic gardening might be your best bet to continue gardening, even in the face of an actual lack of water.
And, when you plant large agave and aloe near your home, you have the added bonus of having a whole aggregation of your own personal reservoirs, full of water, and ready to protect your home in case of fire!