There’s a Lot of “X” Out There! and X is for Xeriscape


This blog post by Gayle M. Irwin Gayle_CactusForest_nearLakePleasant

During this month’s A to Z blog challenge, I drew the letter “X” … and frankly, that letter scared me! When I learned what my letter was to be, my brain nearly x-ploded, so I quickly x-plored the possibilities: x-ray, x-rated, x-chromosome, even x-axis and “X marks the spot!” I conducted an internet search and discovered there’s a lot of “X’ out there! (see

Flowering Catcus_OrangeSince April is National Gardening Month and since I live on the Great Plains where the weather is arid … and because I enjoy the desert so much … and because need to write about something starting with the letter X, in this blog we will learn about xeriscape. When a person xeriscapes his/her yard/garden, s/he uses plants that conserve water, those which are meant for arid or semi-arid areas. Drought-tolerant plants come in a variety of colors and sizes, from groundcover to bushes. Some examples include ice plants, thyme, coneflower (also known as echinacea), lavender, sunflower, coral bells, and hen and chicks as well as cacti and yucca. The wide array of plant variety and color reminds a person that Yucca and rocksxeriscape doesn’t mean gray, brown, and boring. Instead, the lively lavenders, bouncing blues, perky pinks, yapping yellows, and roaring reds create festive gardens and lawns that don’t drink a lot of water … or digest a lot one’s financial budget! And those vibrant colors attract necessary pollinators, such as bees butterflies, whose numbers are dwindling drastically.

Dougs AZ HouseMany home owners and gardeners in Wyoming and surrounding states, such as Colorado and Montana, implement xeriscape landscaping. Green lawns are pretty but not always practical. With California in such a historic drought and that state’s governor recently declaring stringent watering rules, even more western homeowners, gardeners, and landscapers will likely look into the practice of xeriscape.

When I visited Arizona back in March, I was reminded of the beauty of the desert. Wildflowers and cacti of the Sonora desert were brimming with color. The ancient saguaro stately stands amidst the chollo, yucca, desert evening primrose, and ocotillo. Colors of crimson, butter, and eggplant mingle with duller shades of gray and brown, enlivening the sandy and spiny Arizona ecosystem.

Coneflowers_side gardenOne of my neighbors doesn’t have a lawn – she’s filled her front and side yards with rocks and endless types of flowers. From iris to coneflowers, Mexican hats to blue flax, each season brings a variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. My friends whom I visit in Arizona have a desert yard, not a green lawn that drinks water and money.

I am not much of a gardener; I didn’t inherit that talent. I have been able to raise herbs, such as mint, tarragon, rosemary, and lavender. My parents, on the other hand, are very successful with both vegetables and flowers. Although they have a lawn at their Montana home, they have also established several rock gardens filled with columbine, blue flax, white daisies, hens and chicks, and hollyhocks. They rarely have to water these areas. Each spring they look forward to the welcoming blooms that grace their front and back yards.

Mexican hat_MontanaColorado State University’s “X-tension Service” has a website and several informational pamphlets about xeriscape. Learn more about this gardening/landscaping technique at

Remember there’s a lot of “X” out there … and it can be quite colorful!

For other gardening information and encouragement, including how-to videos, visit

Do you grow a garden? What are some of your favorite things to grow? Do you or have you ever landscaped with xeriscape plants?

Rabbit Brush with Butterflies

Post A-to-Z Road Trip [2013]     A to Z

Gayle M. Irwin is writer, author and speaker. She is the author of several inspiring dog books for children and adults, including Sage’s Big Adventure, Walking in Trust: Lessons Learned with My Blind Dog, and two dog devotion books: Devotions for Dog Lovers: Paws-ing for Time with God and Devotions for Dog Lovers 2: Sage Advice. She is also a contributing writer to five editions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. She’s also authored a guidebook for owners of blind dogs, available on Kindle. She has a passion for pets and the environment and she looks forward to composing more stories about animals and the beauty of the natural world.  Visit her website at

SageBigAdventureFront-small   SageLearnsShareFront-small   Walking_FrontCover_small   Dog Devotion Book_Cover_Final   Dog Devotions 2 Book Cover Sage Advice Cover   Blind Dog Ebook Cover_updatedMay2014


10 thoughts on “There’s a Lot of “X” Out There! and X is for Xeriscape

  1. Well done, Gayle. A few weeks earlier, on my walks on the park trails through the neighborhoods, I saw all these colors you mentioned. Reds, yellows, purples, pinks. On the way up one of the mountaintop lookout points in Death Valley, I came across fields of wildflowers ablaze in colors. That 0.25 inch rain we had Saturday and hopefully a few more we’ll have over the upcoming monsoon season will (keeping my fingers crossed) result in a wildflower explosion in the Las Vegas region next spring.


  2. Isn’t it wonderful to enjoy such vivid colors in regions we consider “arid?” I enjoyed my trek into your region back in March, Mike, and I’m so glad you’re having fun discovering the vastness and vividness of nature in the desert. Thanks for stopping by to comment on my post!


  3. I’ve been fascinated with xeriscaping for years, but , I can’t grow a blessed thing. All in all it is still worth considering. Well done, and loved the X you chose. Keep up the good work. Doris


    1. Doris, I’m like you — I don’t have a green thumb (not even much of a brown one!). I’ve gotten a few things to grow such as tarragon, but not much else — maybe that’s why xeriscape is so appealing to me! Thanks for your kind words and for stopping by the blog post!


  4. You did the letter “X” proud Gayle. I learned a lot of new things and want to look into the Xeriscape plants for our rock garden at the lake. I have been though the desert many times driving from Mexico to Tucson and there is so much beauty during blooming time. It’s like a piece of brown and green instantly comes alive with some of the most beautiful colors on the planet. We have been planting wildflowers near the house and perennials in the front. I’m going to check out the links you provided for more info. Thank you! (btw, I am not a gardener but I grow beautiful roses. Lucky for me I married a farmer)!


    1. Linda, thanks for stopping by the post and commenting. I love flowers, wild and domestic, and I’m thankful for the people who grow them as well as for the trees and shrubs. As you know, I love nature, but I’m not not a gardener in any sense of the term. I “bask” in other people’s abilities and in the beauty of nature! Happy planting and growing!


  5. Great post, Gayle. I’ve never heard of Xeriscaping but we do have it in the ‘winter gardens ‘ of our local parks in Aberdeen city. There is a wonderful cactii house at Duthie Park that even has a ‘taking’ plant to entertain the kids who wander the landscaping.


  6. Gayle,
    Although I don’t live in an arid area I took notes when reading your blog. I prefer plants that come back each year and multiply. I was surprised by how long the list was that you came up with. Thanks for sharing.l


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