At their Arlington home, Mark Arneson and his wife, Patty Decker, were tired of watching thousands of gallons of water wash down the road each time the sprinkler system irrigated the front lawn. It made Arneson’s heart ache because he is well-versed on successive droughts faced on a family farm in Red Cloud, Neb.
“Many generations ago, my people pioneered in the Midwest,” he explains. “I grew up with parents who grew up in the ’30s. Water conservation is important.”
Serendipity intervened through Dustin Compton of the Arlington Water Department. Compton had arranged a series of lectures on water conservation, and Arneson attended and found a kindred spirit.
Water conservation, or xeriscaping ™AP style is lc, was first pioneered by the Denver Water Department, and Texans refer to the concept as SmartScaping. The implementation of seven water-saving principles — planning and design, soil analysis and preparation, practical turf areas, appropriate plant selection, efficient irrigation, mulch use, and appropriate maintenance — benefits homeowners, the environment, even our future, as water shortages continue to loom.
Compton estimated Arneson’s water usage for irrigation, and Arneson says it was an appalling figure. The water department presentations taught Arneson to map out his west-facing property so he could see how the sun affected each area. He learned the value of drip irrigation, both as a benefit to plants and in cost savings to him.
After securing approval from the couple’s homeowner’s association, Arneson says he found local resources to help him at every step of his new project. First, he had to remove the front lawn. He killed the turf grass, rented a roto-tiller to knead the heavy clay, added compost from the city of Arlington, tilled again, then added 3 inches of free mulch from a tree removal company.
Finally, he converted his sprinkler system to drip irrigation with help from an irrigation company.
Compton’s classes also guided Arneson in plant selection. Water conservation doesn’t necessarily mean just rocks and cactus. Arneson learned he could still create a beautiful and inviting landscape.
‘He’s xeriscaping with roses!’ is a bemused phrase Arneson often hears. “But I learned we don’t have to leave all the roses to East Texas if we select the right ones for our area,” he says.
Arneson buys from local nurseries and chooses only hardy, Earth-Kind roses. He isn’t concerned with varietal names; just with color and fragrance. Representations include multiflora, old-fashioned, climbing, and tea roses in apricot, yellow, coral, pink, red, and white.
A deep red, sweet-smelling ‘Don Juan’ climbs an arbor. It came from a cutting someone shared with him. Rosebushes are planted with plenty of space on all sides for air flow (keeping down the need for fungicides) and interspersed among them are perennials hardy for this area — cornflower-blue bachelor’s buttons that self-seed each year and Spanish lavender, a wiser choice than the English or Munstead lavenders gardeners may be more familiar with. The yellow irises did well down the street, so a neighbor gladly shared some. Hardy hibiscus hibernates within the garden to appear later.
“We expand as we learn,” Arneson says.
With this new style of garden in its second year, he has added pots of vegetables that will provide color now and good eating later.
As far as Arneson and Decker are concerned, the project has been a success. Water usage is significantly reduced. Maintenance is minimal. The property is lovelier and more interesting. Even some of those skeptical neighbors offer praise. “Flowers look good!” they’ll holler as they jog past.