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Cover of "Xeriscaping in the High Desert"

"Xeriscaping in the High Desert" is available free from the OSU Extension Service

Flowers and color are two of the things I enjoy most in life. But that doesn’t mean I want a showy garden of bright blooms.

Why not?

Because we live in the High Desert and I believe we should respect that environment, work with it, and celebrate the plants that are well adapted to it — not try to make the desert into something it’s not. I loved my rhodies and tended them lovingly when I lived in Seattle. But I would never plant rhododendrons here because they don’t belong here. Yes, with enough shade and water they will survive. But they don’t look right because they aren’t right.

I hate the fact that so many landscapes in Central Oregon look as if they could be in the Midwest, or New England, or the Willamette Valley. Wake up, gardeners! An English country garden belongs in England. Lush greenery is naturally beautiful on the wet west side of the Cascades. It doesn’t belong here.

There’s a lot of color and seasonal interest to be found in low-water-use plants that are native to this area, or to similar high mountain dry environments like Idaho, Colorado and Utah. If you doubt it, read Amy Jo Detweiler’s fantastic well-illustrated publication “Xeriscaping in the High Desert,” published by OSU. It’s free at the Deschutes County Extension office at the fairgrounds, or at the farmer’s markets in Bend on Wednesdays and Prineville on Saturdays. Just look for the OSU Master Gardeners table and ask for one.

Thanks to Slow Food High Desert, I discovered this “Nightline” segment on a family who grows all their own food, keeps chickens and goats, harnesses solar power, recycles graywater and makes their own biodiesel — all on a regular-sized suburban lot in L.A. Watch this amazing video!

Summer solstice has me thinking about energy. Since our solar photovoltaic panels were installed Feb. 12, we have generated 1201 kilowatt hours, or 38% of our electric consumption. In addition, we’ve sold 188 kilowatt hours of excess power back to Pacific Power. And we have all our domestic hot water and much of our home heating from our
solar hot water panels. Our garage roof works hard.

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