Blue Mountains News

Drought Oasis of Opportunity for Green Thumbs

Source: Deep Hill Media
Posted: 2 Sep 2019
Photos: David Hill, Deep Hill Media
Drought conditions and water restrictions should be viewed as a green opportunity rather than a garden disaster, Blue Mountains master landscaper Shannon Decker has said.

"Don’t be afraid of developing and spending on landscaping. In fact, now is the time to do it."

With Level 1 water restrictions in place since June 1, the Now & Zen Landscapes owner encouraged green thumbs to reimagine their gardens incorporating modern, more environmentally-friendly practices and products.

"While it’s unfortunate when plants die during drought, especially large trees and those that have historic or sentimental significance, it can be a great opportunity to reassess things and consider how you can make better use of the space, how you can work with the land rather than against it, how you can harvest rainwater and what colour and texture palette you want for the future."

Now & Zen, which has operated in the Blue Mountains for 20 years, supported the xeriscaping garden method that encouraged sustainability and resourcefulness and drastically reduced or completely eliminated the need for supplemental irrigation.

Rather, it emphasised the use of pervasive plants such as Dietes Tiny Dancer (wild iris), Erigeron (seaside daisy) and Dymondia (silver carpet); managing water loss; and reducing fertiliser use and pest control.

The xeriscaping method, which supported permaculture principals, began with planning and design of a garden to conserve water by steering water through the natural terrain towards irrigation areas and harvest points such as dams, ponds and underground tanks.

Plants were then introduced in areas with the most appropriate irrigation levels, followed by landscape features such as stone walls, decking, limited lawn areas and seating.

"Drought is also a good time to give your soil attention, making sure it is 'living', well aerated and rich with lots of critters like worms and beetles and healthy bacteria by loading it with compost," Mr Decker said.

In line with Level 1 water restrictions, xeriscaping encouraged efficient watering by using drip irrigation systems, infrequent deep watering to encourage root absorption and safeguard against soil erosion, and before 10am and after 4pm to avoid evaporation.

Mr Decker encouraged people to use drought tolerant plants such as Australian natives and those from similar climes such as parts of the US, South Africa and the Mediterranean.

"You don’t have to stick with Australian natives either. There are many plants grown in environments similar to ours like parts of America and the Mediterranean that would do well here, like proteas from South Africa."

Other drought tolerant and/or fire retardant plants included Brachyscome, Cordyline, Ficus pumila (creeping fig), Stachys lanata (lamb’s ear), Westringia Zena, Caprosma Rainbow Surprise (mirror bush), rosemary, lavender, Grevillea, Helichrysum italicum (curry plant), Agapanthus, Anigozanthos Ranger (kangaroo paw) and, of course, succulents.

Acknowledging the perception that Australian native plants were spindly and sparse, he said many new species (cultivars) were lush and bushy.

As well as mulch, Mr Decker recommended gardeners experiment with new products such as coco and peat logs, water crystals, mulches and certain soil fungi helped retain water and prevent evaporation.

"Your garden doesn’t have to be arid and shrivelled just because of the drought. And remember: whatever you catch from the sky is free."

Now & Zen Landscapes (derived from the common saying "now and then") is the yardstick for the highest end bespoke garden market in the Greater Blue Mountains and Central West where projects are limited only by imagination.

Now & Zen is also the exclusive distributor between the Blue Mountains and Bathurst of the WaterUps watering system, which brings 21st century design to the age-old concept of wicking by emulating what has occurred naturally on earth since rivers first formed.

The water-saving irrigation method involves moving water through soil by capillary action so plants absorb water from below without the help of gravity. Water wicking beds last up to four weeks without watering, in contrast to surface watering which is needed more frequently.

Mr Decker himself is the local industry authority, recently headhunted by one of Australia’s oldest recognised training organisations, The Management Edge (TME Trade Training), to run its NSW Horticulture division working closely with industry and employers.

Shannon Decker, Now & Zen Landscapes
 
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