Sunday, June 1, 2014

Book Review 326: The Watersmart Garden

THE WATERSMART GARDEN: 100 Great Plants for the Tropical Xeriscape, by Fred D. Rauch and Paul W. Weissich. 236 pages, illustrated. Hawaii paperback, $24.99

“TheWatersmart Garden” could be helpful in most hot, dry areas but Fred Rauch and Paul Weissach work in Hawaii and the book is targeted to the islands. Specifically, the rich part, as about half the selections are tagged as specially suitable “for the beach garden.”

“Xeriscape” was coined in 1982 in Denver. Most parts of America west of the 100th meridian are dry, sometimes very dry, but desert chic has not caught on very strongly in Hawaii. People want the leeward side to look as “tropical” as the windward, although the tropics are not naturally lush everywhere.

Perhaps tiered pricing will push owners toward xeriscape, but the market approach doesn’t work so well when the problem lies where the richest people live. About the time “xeriscape” was being first pushed on Maui I visited a homeowner in Maui Meadows -- naturally about like southern Arizona -- and commented on his jungly yard.

His reply, as I recall was, “Yeah, the house had a dry garden when I moved in, but I ripped it out. This is Hawaii.”

He could afford to think that way.

“The Watersmart Garden” is not merely Hawaii-centric but Oahu-centric. I bet not even half their recommendations are commonly available at Maui nurseries. Dwarf poinciana, for example. I cannot recall ever seeing that for sale, and seldom or never in Maui landscapes.

There are some notable absences, too, like smooth hala.


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