Water-saving horticulture: the best bet
June 6, 2007
Water conservation at its best begins with planting wisely in the high mountain desert climate. Think native plants. Think drought-resistant plants.
Park City Public Works reports nearly 70 percent of all water consumed in summer months is used for irrigation.
At Recycle Utah’s Annual Native Plant Sale this Saturday, members of the Utah Native Plant Society will ask, not about color preferences, but "where is the garden?" And "how close is the garden to the faucet?"
"If you live on a mountain or a hill, it’s completely different from living in Prospector," says Insa Riepen, the executive director of Recycle Utah.
"Our area here in Summit County has a lot of extremes in weather," she adds. "We have high winds, we have droughts, we have frost and tons of snow. Whatever wants to grow here has to be quite hardy. Native plants are hardy. They can survive."
The sale will feature native shrubs from Wildland Nursery in Southern Utah. Varieties will include one- and five-gallon chokecherry, golden current Apache plume, fernbrush, sumac, and oakleaf. Perennial native plants available will include brilliant penstemon, hyssops, golden columbine and Rocky Mountain penstemon.
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"They will need some water to start off with," advises Riepen," but they can thrive in the soil that isn’t good enough for other plant material. We have lousy soil in Utah throughout the entire state, we only have two-and-a-half inches of topsoil."
Expert native planters, like Utah Native Plant Society member Linda Karz, will be on hand at the sale to offer advice.
Karz grows several drought-tolerant and native shrub, trees and flower varieties in her half-acre Silver Springs garden.
"Eighteen years ago, we built our first house and I got involved with the Utah Native Plant society," she says. "In the beginning, it was really a challenge it was hard to buy a native plant."
Things have changed, however. These days, Karz notices an increase in the amount of information and products available. Park City Nursery, for instance, stocks its shelves with high-altitude seed blends, native wildflowers and shrubs.
Weathermen anticipate a summer drought, so Karz is watering more frequently these days, however she is far from the every-other-day city limit. Last summer, Karz watered her garden once a week. This year, she waters every four days "the important thing is not to over-water them," she says.
But Karz promises planting native plants is not just about being practical.
"What I think people are surprised about with natives is their color," Karz explains. "Natives are just so much more adapted and beautiful."
There are rules. According to Karz, every backyard is a microclimate unto itself, with shady regions, sunny spots, drier and wetter areas.
Mulch, in the form of glass, rubber, and bark will also be on sale Saturday, along with a show-and-tell truck full of pulled weeds, to help attendees identify noxious weeds that are quickly invading Summit County soil. Park City Public Works will hand out free water-saving devices.
Riepen anticipates people will leave the native plant sale with a better bargain than they expected.
"The good thing about this plant sale is that within an hour or two, people leave here with a bunch of plant material that they know something about, rather than just buying a pot and planting it," notes Riepen.
Recycle Utah with help from members of the Utah Native
Plant Society will hold the annual Native Plant Sale Saturday, June 9 from 9 am
to noon at Recycle Utah’s Center at 1951 Woodbine Way.
For more information, contact Insa Riepen at Recycle Utah, 649-9698.