October 3, 2022

As the drought continues, we are fine-tuning how to live with less water. The landscape designers I know say that hardscape gives you patio areas and paths that increase the space you can enjoy outside while eliminating the need for water. Water conservation educators are saying to cut back on the amount of grass in the yard and replace it with low-water landscaping filled with drought-tolerant plants and alternative materials and ground covers. Utah’s designers and builders have been attuned to this for a while now and offer some great examples and inspiration. 

Photos by Scot Zimmerman

St. George is becoming a leader in low-water landscaping. In this newly constructed home (Kayson), grass is limited to a small swale in the front. Instead, pavement dominates the front with desert plants and specimen rocks surrounded by gravel with small palms. 

low-water landscaping

The absence of lawn doesn’t detract from the charm of this turn-of-the-century home update in the Ninth and Ninth neighborhood (Living Home, SLC).  With the update, a double garage was built in the rear with alley access, but the former drive was retained as a front off-street parking and patio space shaded by umbrellas to the side of the home. 

low-water landscaping

Essential Photo Supply created a neighborhood gathering place in front of its Ninth and Ninth store in Salt Lake by removing the lawn and replacing it with a meandering patio surrounded by drought-tolerant ornamental grasses. 

The water demand of this Park City area home (designed by Gigaplex; built by Sausage Space) is minimal. The extra-wide concrete entry path is welcoming and maintains the proportions of the porch. The perennials planted in rows amid bark use very little water.

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low-water landscaping

Another Park City home (Upwall Design) similarly has a wide paved entry path leading past the outdoor fireplace with drought-tolerant plants providing color and texture. You may notice the grass to the rear: it is the golf green. As the homeowner said, “With the golf course, I have more than enough grass around me.”

low-water landscaping

Staying in Park City, for this Old Town home (Think Architecture), the living roof cools the home and manages rainwater. The wide driveway, paths and stonewalls add to the proportion of hardscape requiring no water, and the planting boxes are filled with colorful perennials. 

low-water landscaping

One might think that removing a lawn would detract from a traditional historic home. Upwall Design demonstrates how the right hardscape, flowing walkways, variations in the heights of the shrubs and trees and a fountain as a focal point weave together to show this Marmalade Hill home to its best advantage. 

The green ground cover in the landscape for this home (Arthur Dyson, FAIA) is clover and not grass. I have 20 pounds of clover seed at home now, ready to be planted. I have been reading up on clover. Once established, one has to water it only weekly or sometimes only twice or three times a month. Clover adds nitrogen to the soil, so there is no need for fertilizer, and the nitrogen discourages weed growth. Soon I’ll report how it goes with overseeding our grass and filling in a former garden space with clover. 

Listening to long-term predictions, drought and low-water years are the new normal. We will be facing new restrictions and pricing for water, and now is a good time to think of redesigning for less outdoor watering. At least for me, I see really some really appealing options that I am excited to try. 

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Learn more on water-wise gardens here!