I did not initially rush out to get Pam Penick's new book, "The Water-Saving Garden" because I pictured it as something more useful for gardeners in hot and dry climates like Texas where she lives. We've had a couple of sustained serious droughts here in Wisconsin in my memory, and years with a particularly dry spring or mid-summer, but usually lack of water is not a serious concern here. But given the unknown of climate change it seemed like a smart move to see what Penick had to say. I have her first book, "Lawn Gone." In fact it includes a number of Mark's photos, some of our own garden and lots of good ideas which I've adopted.
I found a number of concepts to be of great interest to me in her new book as well. Alas, the first is something I would have done from the start in creating this garden if it had ever occurred to me. Penick calls this idea "ripple zone planting." Put the things that will need more water and attention closest to the house. Put the things that are the tough ones that make it on their own on the outer edges. (I'm giving you the crib notes version here, she devotes a chapter to this concept.)
To a certain extent my garden is set up the opposite way. There's a faucet at the far reaches of the garden but that defeats the concept which is to plant more things that require less water and less work. I can't believe the number of garden lectures, classes and books that have influenced me over the years. But I have no recollection of hearing this excellent idea until right now in Pam's book.
The other concept that I thought Pam really has down pat is how to have the look and feel of water in the garden using little or no water. The pictures above and below are two of the ways we use small amounts of water to big effect in our garden. Last year we had a stone retaining wall put in and our artist/contractor put a number of boulders with depressions all along the top of the wall to catch rainwater. These are the kind of things Pam suggests among a host of other creative ideas.
For me, the other noteworthy chapter in Penick's book is one showing how to suggest the flow and movement and sparkle of water USING PLANTS! Living in Texas where gardeners have been dealing with serious drought has given Penick the real-world experience that she's used to create another excellent book, one full of information and ideas that the rest of us can use as well.
You can find lots of great gardening and water-saving ideas on Penick's blog, Digging, as well. You can order her book here. And for folks in my area the Southwest Wisconsin Library System has seven copies of book available to check out.