flowerssarah from blossom and branch

xeriscape inspiration

by SarahB

So here we are in the thick of a frigid East Coast winter, and for many of us, it seems like the ice, snow and gray skies might never end. As usual, this time of year has me dreaming about my native climate in Southern California (I might have mentioned?) :). One of my favorite things about Southern California is the year-round outdoor lifestyle, and the design principles based around this. Because of the mild seasons, lack of rain and drought concerns, many people there utilize a landscape style called “Xeriscaping” (also referred to as “Zeroscaping” or “Zerogardening”). The term “xeriscape” derives from the Greek word “xeros” (meaning “dry”) and refers to a landscape design that uses native plants and minimizes the need for supplemental water from irrigation. Although Xeriscape was popularized in the 1970s in drought zones like Colorado and California, it is gaining momentum in many climates as a sustainable and sophisticated way to beautify.

Below, I have selected some sample images of Xeriscape gardens to give you a sense of this look. After that, I will show you a few decor ideas inspired by Xeriscape colors and designs. — Sarah

The image above is from the “sustainable landscape” galleries on the City of Santa Monica website. I love the use of the low succulents planted in the gravel next to the fountain. I also find the subtle green and purple monochromatic hues very soothing. Oh, to need the shade of this garden right now!

The image above is from the Surf City Waterscapes website in Santa Cruz, CA. This landscape has wispy millet in the foreground along with the muted plum colors. Even the mini white irises in the background need very little water.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the post and flower arrangements after the jump!

Images above from Design Sense landscapers in San Diego. Xeriscape gardens range from very minimal foliage with lots of stones, rocks and other silvery elements (first image above) to abundant and romantic with flowering plants (second image above).

The image above is from the Xeriscape Demonstration Gardens in Colorado Springs. How spectacular are those lavender bushes Russian sage bushes?

Xeriscape Tablescape

Inspired by Xeriscape and possibly a little burned out on creating flower magic for a recent dinner party, I opted to use three sustainable elements to make a dramatic statement on my table: 1) dried pods, 2) sparkling candles, and 3) a single manzanita branch.

I started by layering “shabby chic” elements on the table for a warm feel. I used vintage table linens with an array of dishes and glasses (we don’t have a full set!) and paired them with my grandmother’s flatware.

Next, I took a few vases I had lying around (never a shortage around here) and filled them with reusable “flowers.”

Here, I used dried lotus pods and dried echinacea. I love the whimsy of the pods and the rich, brown color.

Just one manzanita branch (recycled from a recent wedding) placed in a vase lent height and interest to this end of the table. Also, people were able to see around this “centerpiece,” so conversation flowed across the table.

For the finishing touch, I added several sparkling candles down the center line. No water required for any of these elements (unless, of course, your guests get cute with the candles!).

Sedum, Millet and Smokebush

I certainly used water here but included elements such as sedum, millet and smokebush, which are excellent plants for Xeriscape gardening.

I love the “charred” tones of the sedum and smokebush when paired with a feminine orchid or rose.

Xeriscape Wedding

Photographer Inbal Sivan captured these images of a recent Blossom and Branch wedding for which the bride requested a wild garden look. I used rose hips and thistle along with more traditional blooms to create this style.

Succulents and Astrancia

As always, a few succulents are a simple way to reference Xeriscape. The purple astrancia are another low-water-usage flower, and they have a natural garden look. When paired with geranium, these delicate purple buds are quite sweet.

Xeriscape-Hued Bouquet

I created this bouquet for a no-fuss bride getting married at City Hall. Although I used bulb flowers like hyacinth and ranunculus here along with the calla lilies and clematis vine, the untamed structure and plum shades made it feel like a moonlit California garden.

Stay cozy, flower lovers, and check back in two weeks for the next Flowers A–Z post, when “g” will be for . . .

Suggested For You


  • Oh, this makes me miss California and its plants so much. I have very happily relocated to Vermont, but still ache for all of those gorgeous western natives.

  • Fantastic! I’m so excited to learn about xeriscaping. Would you be willing to do another post about a bit different climate of southern Arizona? Thank you for sharing!

  • Those lavender bushes in the Colorado garden are probably Russian Sage. It’s great for us because it can stand the cold and dry.

  • Like the reader from Chicago, we are mired in a bleak winterscape here in Detroit. These lovely florals make us think of sun and warmth ,both is short supply here.

  • Beautiful photos and a great topic! More garden design posts would be awesome! Just a small correction…”astrancia” is actually Astrantia major and it’s not a low-water-usage plant that would be appropriate to xeriscaping. In fact, it loves moist woodland settings. Just wanted to mention in case anyone wants to try growing it (which you should as it’s a great plant/flower).

  • Beautiful photos and lots of inspiration! It’s nice for people to see that xeriscape can look lush and colorful. I think too often people are intimidated by the idea of trying it out in their own homes.

  • I’d love to switch to xeriscape, but I have yet to come up with a great way switching out the lawn in front of my midcentury house without over modernizing my block. My first goal is to help better my lower class neighborhood. I know that helping everyone switch to low water alternatives is a way to do that, but it’s hard to imagine taking out the nice looking lawn that the locals kids have gotten used to playing on.

  • brilliant photos. brilliant writing. inspiring designs.
    so this could also be “X” is for “Xeriscape”?

  • Beautiful photos & lots of inspiration! Looks like this could be “X is for Xeriscape”!

  • So, I have to admit that I wasn’t in love with your “Xeriscape Tablescape”… until I saw the last pic of it with the lights dimmed and the candles lit. The pods and branch took on a much more interesting, dramatic look! And I love your mix of dishes. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ah, one thing you never mentioned was the scents – I love how the west smells in the sunshine! Thanks for the wonderful landscapes. Keep giving us more!

  • @ Amy Reams:

    If you’d like to keep a ‘lawn’ but want to save water, try switching out the species to a xeric native. Buffalograss forms a wonderfully thick turf if you’ve got at least 6 hours of direct sun a day.

    Or try reducing the lawn area, say, into an oval in the center, and ringing it with plantings like the pics above. I think those kids would be fascinated with the plants’ forms, scents, colors, and textures. You’d also attract a rich array of native pollinators. Do it for the kids!

  • Love the “xeric” use of manzanita and dried seed pods for table vases — easy on the eyes, easy for conversation to flow across the table.

  • Different climate zones tolerate different ranges of plants. If you are concerned about water use in your yard, you can choose plants native to your area; they can survive without supplemental water. High Country Gardens (.com) is a great place to see the many different textures and color combinations possible in a water-wise landscape. They are the company that turned me on to agastache, an incredibly long blooming, colorful hummingbird magnet with deliciously scented foliage. They also have gorgeous pre-designed garden kits full of color and texture.