Homeowner associations are frequently on the lookout for ways to cut the budget without cutting services. In many, the answer is staring you right in the face…your landscaping.

Many HOA common areas are vast expanses of verdant turf complemented by durable but uninspired bushes and plants with and an occasional flower thrown in. It was designed more for ease of maintenance than beauty. But consider the advantages of integrating a "xeriscape" design into your plan. You can not only reduce maintenance costs, but significantly increase the aesthetic appeal.

Xeriscaping is a term for low water landscaping which has been implemented where there are restrictions on water usage, where the hot dry climate can quickly kill fragile plants or where there is a desire for conservation.

There is a common misconception that xeriscaping consists of prickly cactus-like plants intermingled with rocks. But most xeriscape designs are more concerned with proper irrigation and water use reduction than eliminating water altogether. The main idea is to mix low water use plants with a few carefully chosen areas of irrigation. Rather than having a large lawn, have a smaller lawn bordered by low water plants and flowers. The result can be a colorful array of plant species that require little maintenance.

It is not necessary to have only indigenous plants when planning a xeriscape design. Irises, roses and tulips are examples of plants that will thrive in a dry garden. One of the benefits of xeriscape landscaping is knowing you can leave, even in a time of drought, and it will still be alive when you return. Some plants that are xeriscape appropriate Lavender, Mount Atlas Daisy (ground cover), Lamb's Ears, Oriental Poppy, Yarrow, Purple Coneflower (Echinacea), Dusty Miller, Black Eyed Susan, California Poppy, Indian Paintbrush (Celosia), Spirea and Columbine.

There are many other choices suitable for your particular climate and location. Consult with a landscape design consultant for ways to xeriscape your existing landscape plan into an earth and flora friendly environment that will help conserve a precious resource. You will reduce your maintenance and water costs and help preserve the environment at the same time.

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