Native Texans know that the recent heavy rain and widespread destructive flooding is an aberration in the weather pattern. Dry weather, bordering or deep in drought is the normal state of soil conditions in Texas. The Water-Saving Garden: How To Grow A Gorgeous Garden With A Lot Less Water by Pam Penick might just help you plan for the next dry spell and beyond no matter where you live.the water saving garden


A major thrust of the book is the theme that a water saving garden does not have to be just cacti and succulents. First, you as the gardener have to accept the idea that your garden has to adapt to the local environment and not the other way around. As homeowners here recently were reminded both visually and economically it is very hard to maintain certain types of grass filled lawns when severe water restrictions are enacted and enforced.


Broken into five parts this colorful book opens up with “Part One: DRINK UP the beauty & ingenuity of a water-saving garden.” Through text and numerous photographs of examples in gardens in Texas, Arizona, and elsewhere that illustrate the concept of taking advantage of stopping water runoff.  Various landscaping techniques are illustrated as to what can be done to make sure that the rainfall that happens is either captured and contained or diverted so that  it does not just wastefully  flow into the streets and ultimately the city sewer system.


Capturing the water is also the theme of theme of “Part Two:  make your garden a WATER SAVER, not a water guzzler.” Starting on page 29 going beyond rain barrels and cisterns, which are discussed in various sizes, other options are covered such as a “rain garden.” This is an area of your yard that is depressed and filled with plants that don’t mind being flooded. Dirty water from your drive way, down spots, and are other surface areas that would not allow rain to penetrate is channeled into this area. The plants clean the water as it is collected. That cleaner water eventually soaks in and moves its way down to the groundwater table and underground aquifers. Other ideas such as micro basins, berms, swales, terraces, irrigation techniques, paving choices, and more are discussed here accompanied by numerous photographs to illustrate key points.


“Part Three: PLANTING the water saving garden” on page 113 starts off with obvious idea– get rid of the lawn. The plants that would do better are discussed and showcased. This includes various native grasses that give one the illusion of a lawn with far less water or mowing. Suggestions for various additional garden features as well as native and “well-adapted” plants are found throughout the book as well as specifically in this section. Get away from the idea that plants need to be in rigid lines and embrace a sort of organized chaos where groups of plants all gather and thrive together. The point is also made that beyond the air pollution caused by leaf blowers is the fact that their use can strip topsoil and nutrients from your landscaping which is damaging in the short and long run. A nice added bonus to this section is the piece on container gardening for those in apartments or condos who have limited space.


One can also bring water features to such porches and that idea is a small piece of the ‘Part Four: oasis or mirage? creating the illusion of water in the garden.” Most of the ideas and techniques discussed here starting on page 163 apply to landscaping, but some can be modified for those of us apartment and condo dwellers.


“Part Five: 1001 Plants for water saving gardens” comes next. Because the detailed list is for the entire United States it may contain plants that are considered “invasive” in your area or region. As the author points out, you should make sure you check the list for your area and avoid plants that are considered invasive–even if sold in local stores– so that your help protect native plants and habitats.  The list begins with trees on page 198 and goes through perennials, grasses, ground covers, and more before ending on page 222.


An acknowledgement page, a two page resource list followed by three page photography and design credit list, and a five page index brings this colorful and inspirational book to a close.


The Water-Saving Garden: How To Grow A Gorgeous Garden With A Lot Less Water by Pam Penick is an informative and visual treat for readers, gardeners, and others. The 330 page book is packed with informative tips and suggestions all geared toward making you being as successful as possible when you decide to transform your landscape. It doesn’t do the work for you, obviously, but it can certainly save you a lot in time, effort, and financial resources if you consider the suggestions found here.


The Water-Saving Garden: How To Grow A Gorgeous Garden With A Lot Less Water

Pam Penick

Ten Speed Press (The Crown Publishing Group)

February 2016

ISBN# 978-1-60774-793-2

Paperback (also available on eBook format)

240 Pages



Material supplied by the good folks of the Plano Texas Library System.



Kevin R. Tipple ©2016


Be Sociable, Share!