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The Water-Saving Garden


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A guide to growing beautiful gardens in drought-prone areas utilizing minimal water for maximum results.

Table of Contents

part one: DRINK UP the beauty & ingenuity of a water-saving garden 5
+ dry-garden journey to a courtyard oasis 9
+ zen inspiration for a concrete jungle 12
+ embracing the desert for outdoor living 14
+ holding on to every drop of rain 17
+ painting a dry slope with color 20
+ bold foliage takes center stage 22
+ evoking water in a dry garden 25
part two: make your garden a WATER SAVER, not a WATER GUZZLER 29
1 hold that liquid gold 31
2 think saltines: choose permeable paving 59
3 irrigation without irritation 69
4 the nitty-gritty on soil and mulch 85
5 throw some shade and shoot the breeze 101
part three: PLANTING the water-saving garden 113
6 lose the lawn 115
7 grow native-but enjoy well-adapted plants too 133
8 ripple-zone planting and rethinking lush 141
9 timing Is everything: when to plant 147
10 hot pots: saving water in container and balcony gardens 153
part four: oasis or mirage? creating the ILLUSION of water in the garden 163
11 the water feature as a symbol of abundance 165
12 water-evoking plants 171
13 squeezing water from stone 183
part five: 101 PLANTS for water-saving gardens 195
acknowledgments 223
recommended resources 224
photography and design credits 226
index 229

About the Author

PAM PENICK is a landscape designer, photographer, award-winning blogger, and the author of Lawn Gone! She is a contributor to national gardening magazines including Fine Gardening and Garden Design, and won the 2013 Best Magazine Writing award from the Garden Writers Association. She lives and gardens in water-challenged Austin, Texas.


"Penick (Lawn Gone!) proves that conserving water does not mean giving up gardening with her engaging, instructing, and nudging treatise. She approaches the politics of water conservation firmly and frankly, especially in her powerful introduction, asserting that 'there's no one "right way" to plant a garden that saves water.'...Penick is practical and reassuring throughout, convincing readers that vibrant water-saving gardens are viable."
- Publishers Weekly

"In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, THE WATER-SAVING GARDEN could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer's eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!"
- Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

"For those interested in both beautiful gardens and being good stewards of our precious water resources, The Water-Saving Garden is a timely must-read."
- Jim Peterson, Publisher, Garden Design Magazine

"Packed with design inspiration as well as practical advice, this timely book is a much-needed resource on creating and maintaining beautiful gardens with less water."
- Susan Morrison, Landscape designer and co-author of Garden Up! Smart Vertical Gardening for Small Spaces

"From eye-popping design-regardless of budget-to nitty-gritty DIY details, The Water-Saving Garden takes us down the creative path to gorgeous gardens that spare the water and pump up our style. Purpose, practicality, and passion: it's all right here."
- Linda Lehmusvirta, Producer of Central Texas Gardener on Austin PBS

"The Water-Saving Garden blends a passionate homage to water's importance for all life with practical, detailed advice about using less of it in the garden. Illustrations show enticingly diverse gardens and water-wise alternatives to lawns."
- Evelyn Hadden, author of Hellstrip Gardening and Beautiful No-Mow Yards

"In The Water-Saving Garden, Pam Penick repositions water-conscious gardens as a central concern for all gardeners. Rich with inspiring examples and sage advice, this book boldly declares that water-wise gardens no longer need to be about sacrifice or compromise, but pleasure and abundance. An excellent resource for gardens in any climate."
- Thomas Rainer, landscape architect and co-author of Planting in a Post-Wild World

"We all need access to nature for our well-being. Pam Penick has written a useful guide for creating beautiful gardens where saving water naturally follows."
- Steve Martino, landscape architect

"In an era of drought and unpredictable weather patterns, The Water-Saving Garden could not come at a better time. With striking photographs and a designer's eye, Penick shows us just how gorgeous a water-wise garden can be. This is the must-have garden book of the year!"
-Amy Stewart, author of The Drunken Botanist and Wicked Plants

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