Meet With an Expert on Xeriscaping

Meet With an Expert on Xeriscaping

Every month our City Council representatives conduct informal public meetings with residents, to discuss, listen, and inform. For April: guest speaker Kathryn Martin on Xeriscaping. This Saturday, 9:00 AM. Details below. 

Last year I had to dig up and replace some of the sprinkler lines in my lawn, and add some new ones to areas that have been in need for years. To dig the new trenches I thought, “No problem, I’ll go over to the Home Depot and see about renting a trench digger.” Put it in the trunk, take it home and rip out a few easy straight lines, get it back with an hour’s rental time. Uhh, no. Those things are huge! They had to be rented with their own trailer. I bought a narrow little shovel instead. It was a hard job, several hot sweaty hours every day for a week. Maintaining my grass turns out to be a pain in the back. Who knew? I grew up with grass all around, green lawns just grew and were always the “default” choice. Now I think not only of the “pain in the back” but the continuing expense of taking care of the pretty green lawn.

Sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt when I think of the chronic long-term drought we’re in, and how much water goes into keeping my green grass green. And more twinges too, when the water bill comes every month. It seems wasteful, and being wasteful is not generally in my nature. Some of our neighbors here in Southern Gables have done something about it.


Saves water, looks great, and the bees and butterflies love it.

Removing thirsty plants and replacing them with landscaping such as plants that don’t need much water, if any at all. Xeriscape. Funny word, that one. Sounds like “zeriscape.” It came from two Greek words and just means dry landscape. The word was made up in 1981 by our big-city neighbors at Denver Water. Instead of using grass lawns and plants that need lots of water to thrive, xeriscapes conserve water by using drought-tolerant plants.

Switching from turf grass to xeriscaping can be beneficial in our dry climate for several reasons:

Water conservation

Colorado is a semi-arid state, and water is a scarce resource. Xeriscaping can significantly reduce outdoor water use because it requires less watering than traditional lawns. According to the Colorado Water Conservation Board, xeriscaping can reduce water use by 60% or more.

Drought tolerance

Xeriscaping is designed to use plants that are adapted to Colorado’s dry climate. These plants are more drought-tolerant than turf grass, which means they can survive and thrive with less water.

Cost savings

Xeriscaping can reduce the cost of maintaining a lawn because it requires less water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Additionally, many xeriscape plants are perennials, which means they don’t need to be replanted every year.

Environmental benefits

Xeriscaping can benefit the environment by reducing the need for fertilizers and pesticides, which can pollute waterways. Xeriscape plants can also provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife.

Overall, xeriscaping can be a smart choice for homeowners in Colorado who want to conserve water, save money, and promote environmental sustainability.

Learn About Xeriscaping: This Weekend, Free

The April Ward 5 meeting will cover this important topic. The meeting is free as always, and will feature Kathryn Martin, an expert on the subject. When and where? 

Saturday, April 1 (No foolin’), 9:00 – 10:30 AM — Ward 5 Meeting at Westwoods Community Church, 7700 West Woodard Drive. Visit with Ward 5 City Council members Wendi Strom and Mary Janssen in an informal setting, share ideas and learn more about your community. The April meeting will feature a discussion of xeriscaping and an optional visit to the Kendrick Lake Park xeriscape garden with a member of the city’s greenhouse staff.


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The Emerald Ash Borer

The Emerald Ash Borer

With spring right around the corner, and trees a critical part of the beauty of the Southern Gables neighborhood, you should know about this destructive, invasive species. The Emerald Ash Borer is responsible for the deaths of tens of millions of ash trees across the United States… It has been found as near to us as Arvada, and it’s on its way south.  

By Marcel Guajardo

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The Emerald Ash Borer, or EAB for short, is a tiny beetle about 0.3 inches long that originated from northeastern Asia. Known for its shiny, emerald color, it was first discovered in the United States in 2002 in Michigan. It likely was introduced from shipping materials and pallets from overseas. In its native habitat in Asia, the ash tree species have evolved to resist EAB, and predators include a species of parasite wasps that were only recently introduced as a biological trial in certain areas of the United States. Outside of its native habitat, it is highly destructive to ash trees throughout Europe and the United States. It has spread throughout the U.S. and has been found in every state east of Colorado. In Colorado, the Boulder area was the first “ground zero” for the EAB. The city of Boulder has spent a considerable effort to manage the spread of EAB, including measures such as removing ash trees, chemically treating healthy ash trees in public right of way, and educating the public.

Leaf cluster. Photo from Colorado State Forest Service.

First though, do you know if your or your neighbor’s tree is an ash? In the spring when leaves come out it’s easy to tell – the individual leaves are over with a pointed tip, and grow in groups with leaf pairs joining to a woody stem directly across from each other and a single one at the end. In winter or early spring it’s not as obvious but you can see the branches are all across from each other rather than staggered, and the bark of a mature ash will have diamond-shaped ridges.

Diamond pattern bark on mature ash tree. Photo from Colorado State Forest Service.

The beetle kills the ash trees by laying eggs into the crevices of the bark of the tree. Once the larvae hatch, they chew on the bark and the outer layers of the tree trunk, creating tunneling that prevents the tree from distributing water and nutrients properly, thus killing it gradually.  Once a tree is infested, it is only a matter of time until the tree dies, and this varies between 2 to 5 years. Once a neighborhood is infested, all ash trees are expected to die within 10 years unless mitigation is taken.

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Adult beetles prefer to lay eggs on stressed trees but don’t avoid healthy trees altogether. If you have an ash tree that you don’t regularly water, it will more than likely be susceptible to EAB infestation.

While there are various Ash tree types, including green ash, black ash, white ash, and blue or sometimes known as purple ash, the green ash and black ash are the most susceptible to EAB. The blue or purple ash tends to exhibit the highest resistance to the EAB, likely due to a higher amount of a chemical called tannin which the EAB does not prefer. The EAB can survive in outdoor temperatures down to about -22F, so a significant, sustained cold snap is required to mitigate the population.

There are a few actions you can take to protect and mitigate your ash tree. First of all, you want to regularly water and prune the ash tree to keep it healthy. The healthier the tree, the less likely that the EAB will be able to wreak havoc on it. However, it is expected that all ash trees will eventually become infected and die due to EAB, so you might be just buying time and making it less susceptible that your ash tree is one of the first to be infected. To give your ash tree the best chances of surviving EAB, you can have a certified arborist apply an insecticide. For our single, majestic green ash tree, we have a company called The Natural Way come every other summer and inject an insecticide into the trunk of the tree. We’ve been doing this for the last 4 years, and so far, there is no evidence of EAB in the tree. Doing this in perpetuity will prolong the life of the tree by avoiding EAB infestation. Another option is that you may elect to remove the ash tree, especially if it already shows signs of infestation or stress. The common sign of this is a tree whose canopy is dead, and new branches or “shooters” are growing at the bottom of the trunk.

Marcel Guajardo is originally from Houston but came to South Lakewood early enough to say he grew up here. He and his family are writers, artists, and musicians, and love the Southern Gables area for its arboreal beauty. Marcel has a green thumb and is a reliable authority on tree care.

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This week we are pleased to introduce a Southern Gables writer who is traveling on a wide-ranging adventure. Brooklynn Rich is “on the road,” experiencing these United States and meeting wonderful people while attending college classes, holding down a journalism responsibility, and pursuing a faith avocation. We are hoping she will continue to let us in on her travels across this great country we share. 

By Brooklynn Rich

Growing up in Southern Gables, small acts of kindness surrounded me. Whether it was a graduation party saved by a neighbor who spent her morning picking up blown-away invitations or a smile and a wave from a passing dog-walker, these moments created the feeling of home in my neighborhood. Adjusting to being alone on the road has been a sharp learning process. One of the things I am most grateful for is the continuous interactions that remind me of the kindness of home. Often these conversations are so sporadic that I don’t catch a name, but their welcoming presence remains in my memories.

The Penny Man, Cocoa Beach, Florida

Living in a van in Florida has its ups and downs. Long days at the beach swimming in the water make up for the particularly hot days spent searching for an air-conditioned place to catch up on homework. On one of these sweltering afternoons, I stopped at a gas station to momentarily ease my overheating body with a cold soda. As I stood in line waiting to check out, the older man in front of me reached down, almost falling over, to grab a penny he had spotted near the register. Turning around, he asked, “Do you want a lucky penny?” Smiling, I accepted the penny and reminisced on the family tradition I have attached to pennies. Pennies on the ground represent my Nana thinking of you, reminding you she is watching out for you and ensuring it will all be okay. What a lucky time to have needed a cold soda.

Liz and Konrad, Dallas, Texas

My college dorm room, classroom, dining hall, and transportation system.

Texas greeted me with an ice storm that reached the headlines in the national news. One thing about driving in my van is that I’m not only driving my brand-new car but also my brand-new home. So when the weather gets bad, I’m stuck wherever I am to fend for myself. Unfortunately, I also run off solar, so I’m in quite a pickle when I’m stuck for multiple days with no sun. Lucky for me, I met just the right family in Dallas who took me in and gave me a home away from home for the week. For four days, I spent my mornings, afternoons, and nights inside the Eysink home, drinking hot coffee, eating soup, petting three dogs and three cats, and hearing stories about my host family’s lives. The generosity of the Eysink family to welcome a stranger amidst a storm is quite an example of sacrificial love. Having nothing to offer, I was the lucky stranger crashing a sweet family’s home.

60th Birthday Girl, New Orleans, Louisiana

My first Mardi Gras was spent on the streets with my new friend, Karen, celebrating the first day of the parades and her 60th birthday. Being in New Orleans for Mardi Gras might have been one of my more dangerous adventures, but it has also become one of my favorite memories from the road. That night standing on the street alone amidst a bunch of really under-the-influence people, Karen took no time to find a spot for me in the crowd’s front row and begin to get to know me. Karen is a New Orleans native with three kids and a few grandkids. She constantly reminded me of how proud she was that I was traveling alone and how worried she would continue to be when I picked up and left again. I spent a safe night next to my new friend, gathering way too many beaded necklaces, magnets, pins, coins, and stuffed animals. I’m not sure I’ll ever make it back to see Karen, but I can be sure I’m in her prayers, just like I’m in the prayers of so many of my sweet neighbors back home. Until I return, I’m grateful for all the people who remind me of the friendly streets of Southern Gables.

Brooklynn Rich is pursuing a degree in journalism through Liberty University. By taking her classes online, she plans to spend her college years traveling across the country in her self-converted Ram ProMaster van. In addition to her classes, she works as a journalist for The Borgen Project, a nonprofit that fights against extreme poverty. Brooklynn tells us, “I enjoy learning more about how I can best support those in greatest need. I also spend time visiting churches across the country, exploring what the body of Christ looks like in different places in the US.” 


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