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The word xeriscape is derived from the Greek word xeros meaning dry; xeriscaping literally means dry landscaping. Xeriscaping, involves selecting plants that are suited to the moisture conditions of a given site. Selecting native, drought-tolerant plants requires minimal watering once established. Using native plants also provides suitable foraging and nesting sites for native animals.

The Challenge

Several years of drought combined with changing attitudes about water conservation and natural landscaping practices led to a proposal that turned one person’s back yard yard into a landscape that others have learned and benefited from.

Project Description

The Rockyford Urban Xeriscape Demonstration project was established in 2003, and it highlights urban landscape water conservation. The goal of the site is to serve as a model of reduced reliance on urban water supply and chemical inputs. One impetus for the project was several years of drought throughout Alberta. Contrary to many people’s idea of a xeriscape, the Rockyford Urban Xeriscape demonstration site shows that with the right plants and water capture system, you can have a lush, colourful landscape with minimal outdoor water use.

Successes and Outcomes

The demonstration garden provides owner Claudette Lacombe with enjoyment year-round. The strategic placement of hedges and trees has helped to moderate her home’s temperature. She has also observed many wildlife species that benefit from the plantings and feed on the berry patches and crab apples. The project has been so successful that Claudette holds annual plant digs for the public. People are invited to visit the site, dig up plants that need dividing, and take them home to try. Through this many Rockyford residents have been inspired to adopt elements of xeriscaping in their own yards.

Overcoming Barriers

The first barrier was funding and manpower. This was addressed by gaining the support of a local watershed stewardship group and municipal leaders, and by pursuing corporate funding. The project received a significant in-kind contribution of 11 workers from Quicksilver Resources (then MGV Energy) to work on the garden for an entire day.


Costs to maintain the garden have been reduced because fertilizers and pesticides are not used. Instead, Claudette seeks advice and pest monitoring from the Wheatland County weed inspector and a local horticulturist. She also finds that dense ground covers used have reduced the establishment of weeds in her garden.

Additional cost savings have been achieved by growing plants that are suited to the climate and by using less gas for the lawnmower. Claudette has also saved money by growing her own strawberries, raspberries, herbs, garlic and onions in the garden.

Learn more about the principles of xeriscaping and how you can incorporate this in your own yard.

For more unique and interesting examples of stewardship in action in your community, request a copy of the Green Communities Guide today.

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Photo credit Claudette Lacombe.

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