The first time I’d ever heard the term “xeriscaping” was 16 or 17 years ago in my friend Mira’s lovely garden in the Hollywood Hills. Mira did many things earlier than the rest of us, including xeriscaping. She met a really great guy early, a guy with a really great job in television that meant that she could give up on the world of work early. So she mastered many domestic arts way before any of my other peers, including gardening and cooking, and did them with such style and humor that she left me, at 30, breathless with admiration.
Anyway, I had never even raised a shovel at this point, and her garden looked miraculous to me–a hillside full of grey-leaved plants with subtle straws of flowers in smoky colors. And then, on the deck, a hot-tub and a several huge pots filled without the most outrageous, lush-looking rose bushes.
It was really well-managed. It was really Californian, too–a great combination of rugged and absurdly civilized. Xeriscaping could be gorgeous, I learned, but it struck me as an L.A. thing, like seeing bands on the Sunset Strip and having coffee at the beach on a Sunday morning.
Or so I thought until this last month. The weather has been glorious this summer in upstate New York–Elizabeth will confirm–cool, sunny, but very, very dry. As far as I can tell, it has not rained here in Saratoga Springs, NY in an entire month. Given our sandy soil, a week without rain is a disaster. But a month?
I’ve had a sudden realization. In the sunnier parts of my yard, even ordinarily tough plants like daylilies and baptisa are not cutting it. On my hell strip, the crocosmia–supposedly a drought-loving bulb–dried to a crisp without ever blooming. It’s gone beyond everybody’s perennials wilting. That happens on any hot day here. People’s shrubs are now dying.
I suddenly understand that I need to think like a Westerner…margaritas and xeriscaping.