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March 14, 2003

You may have noticed that the landscaping at the library has changed: Our book return box is gone.

I think this makes the corner by the alley look nicer, but that was not our intent. We took it away for a while to give some intellectually challenged vandals a chance to think of something else to do.

We know the book return box is a great convenience, but we’ve lost too many books recently to vandalism. Fortunately, the library is open 7 days and 70 hours per week, minimizing the inconvenience, perhaps.

If you know who’s been throwing snow, dirt, sticks, and stones into the book return, you might give him a spanking or send her to bed without any supper.

It’s too bad, really, when you consider how the book return has been part of the library’s landscape for at least a couple of decades. Some day, we’ll try it again.

This is a good time to talk about landscaping, though, with the days getting longer and warmer. Continuing drought might prompt you to consider xeriscaping. The library has a good collection of books about xeriscaping, dry-land gardening, and gardening in the Southwest and Rocky Mountain West.

We’ve just added a few more books, with others on the way. One you might want to look at, dry year or not, is “Tough plants: unkillable plants for every garden.”

This would be my gardening bible. I have a lovely Fittonia in my office, a gift that has suffered such neglect that it has often hung over the edge of its pot like limp lettuce.

I would water it again, and in a day or two it would be plump, although misshapen. It once had a round aspect, like a maple, but now it is hangs and swoops beyond the rim, like an ancient oak tree.

My most successful gardening accomplishment was a bountiful crop of tomatoes. I’d picked an old flower bed fully exposed to the sun. The plants did wonderfully and produced fruit into the fall. My future as a small farmer looked bright.

Then one dry fall day, when I hadn’t watered the plants in some time, I spied the glint of moisture beneath chaff and fallen leaves covering the soil.

Yes, the old septic tank was overflowing, gently seeping into the garden, keeping the tomato plants well-fed. I ceased to enjoy my tomatoes, but I got to watch the construction of a large septic system.

Some of our garden books are not geared for this climate, but we have them anyway — for creative and persistent gardeners, and for dreamers: “Tasha Tudor’s Garden,” “Climbing gardens,” “The water garden.”

For now, you might consider “Xeriscape handbook,” “Xeriscape plant guide,” “Xeriscape color guide,” “Xeriscape flower gardener.”

If you’re tired of the word “xeriscape,” try “Dry-land gardening,” “The dry garden,” “Water,” “Shade and color with water-conserving plants,” “Dirr’s hardy trees and shrubs,” “The undaunted garden,” “Natural by design,” “Conserving water in your mountain landscape (video).”

Also coming, “Beth Chatto’s gravel gardens” and “Creating the prairie landscape.”

Colorado is the source of much research and information about xeriscaping. For instance, several of our books are published by the Denver Water Board.

GreenCO, an umbrella organization for Colorado landscaping associations, has just developed a xeriscape plant rating system, using “X,” “XX,” and “XXX” designations for drought tolerance.

It’s a perfect scale, if whimsical, but I have to wonder how their website will fare with Internet filters.


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