Putting Spring in Our Step

After the cold, wet, grey winter…and before pre-season madness, I took a little jaunt to Tucson, Arizona.  It was late February and spring was just beginning. The complete opposite of Maryland, Tucson brought me sunshine and 80-degree days.

Since I’m always preaching about storm water management (being a certified Master Watershed Steward through the Watershed Stewards Academy) and the people of Arizona have harvested rain water for centuries, I knew the trip would tie into Architectural Gardens’ sustainable landscape practices. Two hikes during my extended weekend stay did not disappoint.

A walkabout at Tohono Chuf Park’s Sin Agua (Spanish for “without water”) detailed how rainwater runoff is channeled for water harvesting. By doing so, Arizona’s average of a meager 12” annual rainfall hydrates like 40” of rain. Add in native and adapted plants and a landscape is created that uses little or no supplemental groundwater.

As a comparison, Maryland gets an average of 42” of rain a year. Without the hardships of Arizona, (harsh, dry conditions/expensive water), think of the possibilities.  Here in Anne Arundel County, we harvest the water, capturing it into a rain garden – concaved bowls in the ground collect storm water.  Fill these with our native plants, the water filters in slowly, and contaminants go into the ground. Saves the Chesapeake Bay!

So, about those native plants… Hiking in the Saguaro National Park – the desert, I thought, “This is nothing but cactus!” But then, I started to notice all the different shapes and sizes and textures, and saw it was really beautiful! Here’s this desert – all green and brown, but you can see each cactus, depending on its form and its shape. The plants stand out in their natural setting. What a pleasant surprise!

In Maryland, we have shade gardens, but with a palette of greens. Imagine a few of our interesting native plants like the Maidenhair Fern and Flowering Dogwood, layered with Hostas and the fine leaves of a Japanese Maple. Combine different shapes, forms and textures, and you create a beautiful garden.