Water wisdom

Unthirsty plants helped this gardener save irrigation dollars

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Choice plants from California and Australia

Three local nurseries helped Kus create an eclectic but stunningly beautiful mix of mostly drought-resistant plants. She worked with Planet Earth Growers in Fresno, which specializes in California and Australian natives, Intermountain Nursery in Prather, which specializes in native California plants, and Mountain Valley Growers in Squaw Valley, supplier of herbs. Kus kept plants that need more water, such as Japanese anemone and iris, closer to the house for an oasis effect.

More than 600 different species and varieties of plants now grow in this garden. Among the showiest are acacia, grevillea, melaleuca, olive tree, rosemary, and California natives such as ceanothus, manzanita, Matilija poppy, redbud, toyon, and four species of oak. There are native wildflowers, which reseed each year, a multitude of flowering perennials (including a diverse selection of salvias), and roses, ornamental grasses, and fruit trees.

Water-saving strategies

To manage the little water available, Kus has an elaborate drip-irrigation system that includes more than 1,000 emitters and microsprinklers, operated by 21 valves and 2 automatic controllers. Among the many features of these state-of-the-art controllers is one that allows watering times to be easily adjusted to weather or water supply.

As automated as the irrigation system is, it still needs regular maintenance to deliver water efficiently. Cleaning emitters and repairing damage caused by rabbits and coyotes is a constant chore, but to Kus, it's well worth the effort. All beds are mulched with chunks of redwood bark.

Water management tips from this yard

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