Ever wonder why it's so hard to keep grass green in Denver? Erratic weather, freezing winters, burning summers, high winds, bad soil and a miniscule amount of rainfall may have something to do with it. Enter Xeriscape, a word that was invented and trademarked by the Denver Water Department in 1981 to help frustrated Denver gardeners save water and keep the areas around their homes lovely without having to fight Colorado's naturally dry climate. The key is to let go of the American ideal of a green lawn. Just try it for a moment: It's not easy, but it helps to have some direction, which is why the folks at the water department run a series of seminars in the late winter and early spring to teach people the principles of Xeriscaping and give them ideas of what to plant and how to landscape. They also have a ton of free pamphlets and other information, a hotline and a demonstration garden located at department headquarters. And if they sometimes sound a little defensive, it's hard to blame them. Many people have the wrong idea about Xeriscape. "[It] is NOT ugly, brown, rocks and cactus. A properly-designed Xeriscape is lush, colorful and easy to care for," according to departmental information. "It's good to bring attention to the fact that we basically live in a semi-arid desert," adds Liz Gardener, conservation manager for the water department. "Especially this year. We've been lucky for the last decade, but I don't think it's going to stay like that."
And, yes, that is her real last name. Gardener says that after a divorce, she didn't want to keep her married name and she didn't want to take back her old name, so she chose a new one. "I asked myself, 'What makes sense for me?' I love to plant seeds of thought in people's minds almost as much as I like to plant seeds in my garden," she says, "so it's perfect." And "Xeriscape" just didn't work -- as a last name, that is.
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