The homes no one seems to live in … whether they’re on your block or not, you’ve seen them.  The mailboxes are riddled with rust and pizza delivery and Chinese take-out food fliers are piling up near the doors.  Their yards are overrun with weeds, shrubs, trees and flowers.

A blight on the neighborhood?  Probably.  But do they have any value left?  Definitely.

In fact, you might want to scoot on over and do a little research (although we don’t, of course, advocate trespassing).  Because that hideously neglected lawn can tell you what grows in our neck of the woods without aid of human intervention and might save you from the future shock of sky-high water bills.

We’re talking about xeriscaping, which you’ve probably already heard of unless you’ve been living under a rock at that scary house.  According to the National Xeriscape Council, more than 50 percent of the country’s residential water usage is applied to landscapes and lawns.  Xeriscaping, however, can reduce landscape water use by 70 percent or more.

So what is xeriscaping?  It’s the use of native plants that grow naturally in our region or non-native ones that will thrive in the hot and dry Texas sun (they’re also known as adaptive plants).  The idea is that these native or adaptive plants are naturally suited to thrive on the amount of rainfall we normally receive each year and therefore require less maintenance.

Gardener George Dreher started xeriscaping in the late 1980’s.  He went through a Master Gardener program in 1992 and was hooked.  “The fact that North Dallas residents use a much higher amount of water per person per day than most other areas in Texas also was a motivation,” Dreher says.  “I’m not big on wasting resources.”

Challenges of xeriscaping:  Having “an interesting and visually stimulating garden throughout the year.  I think the way to do that is a mixture of evergreens and evergrays supplemented by perennials and self-seeding annuals.

What makes his xeriscaping unique:  “I have absolutely no lawn in the garden at all.”  Most people respond to his rear garden by saying it “doesn’t even look like Dallas,” he says.

Favorite xeriscape-worthy plant for Texas:  Ornamental grasses, followed by autumn sage and the salvia family.

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