WORLD NAKED XERISCAPING DAY Landscaping, by any other name, is still placing trees, plants, rocks, and other features into the environment in an aesthetically pleasing way. Gardening is just one part of landscaping, and one of the best ways to make it ae

WORLD NAKED XERISCAPING DAY
 
Landscaping, by any other name, is still placing trees, plants, rocks, and other features into the environment in an aesthetically pleasing way. Gardening is just one part of landscaping, and one of the best ways to make it aesthetically pleasing – as well as enjoyable – is to do so naked. But there are caveats to both gardening and nudity if you live in the desert southwest.
 
Xeriscape [say zair-a-scape] is a word coined to describe gardening in an arid environment. It is a combination of the word xerophytes (plants needing very little water) and landscape. And every xerophyte has some method for gathering and conserving water. Let’s start with the most commonly known, the cacti.
 
One characteristic of a cactus is the lack of leaves and the proliferation of spines – thus the danger in xeriscaping in the nude. (Watch where you are going, both forward and backward!) Botanists claim that the spines actually shade the plant from the hot desert sun and spines do not transpire (lose water) nearly as quickly as leaves. Of course, without leaves the photosynthesis occurs in the skin of the plant. 
One spiny giant of the Sonoran Desert is the saguaro [say suh-wah-roe] cactus. It has a very shallow, but very broad, root system so that when it rains it can gather as much water as possible and store it. Its tall body (as well as any arms) is fluted and can expand or contract like an accordion. Less rain, smaller diameter – more rain, larger diameter. Also, it has a lot in common with a number of other cacti, the characteristic of blooming at night, which means that it is cooler and less evaporation takes place. This is also true of the night blooming cereus [say seer-ee-us]. And, yes, it also has some vicious spines!
 
Some of the plants simply lose their leaves until water is available. A very common one in the southwest deserts is the ocotillo [say oh-coe-tee-oh]. When it is dry, it looks like long, dead sticks – sort of an upside-down teepee. But when it rains, it suddenly sports green leaves all up and down the “sticks,” topping each with a fiery red blossom. Wet or dry, it has long, ugly spines and is sometimes planted as a living fence to corral livestock. Naked or otherwise, you do not want a run-in with an ocotillo!
 
The palo verde [say pal-oh vair-day] is a tree, not a cactus, that has the unusual ability to survive completely without leaves for as long as necessary. Its chlorophyll is in its bark – the only tree in the world for which this is true. When the rain comes, it suddenly acquires both tiny green leaves and a cloud of yellow blossoms. Another southwestern tree is the mesquite [say mess-keet] which can drop its taproot over 100 feet into the dry desert soil to successfully find water. 
 
And a bush called the creosote [say cree-uh-soat] is allelopathic. It puts out chemicals from its widespread roots that eliminate (poison) the competing plants. Voila! Every drop of rain within about 10 feet belongs to it! Oh, yes, I might mention that some of this chemical has been known to create a rash on a naked gardener!
 
Another group of xerophytes are the succulents. Although cacti are a type of succulent, the more commonly thought of plants are the ones that have leaves or roots that swell to store water and become flatter by tapping the resource during the dry season. One of these is the yucca (pictured with me) that stores water in fleshy bulbous roots and blooms in the spring with gorgeous white blossoms. Another is often the lifesaver for a sunburned naked gardener – the aloe vera. This well known plant stores the water as a gelatinous substance that can be tapped to alleviate both the red color and the sting of the burn. Just break open a leaf and spread it on the skin.
 
There are dozens of other plants that have diabolical schemes to conserve water, but I would like to conclude this article with the mention of the jojoba [say ho-ho-bah]. It rotates its leaves so that each leaf is parallel to the sun’s direct rays and it stays thusly positioned (through rotation) all day long. Then during the night it rotates back to greet the morning sun edge on, repeating the performance of the day prior.
So garden where you will and do so naked when you can. Hopefully xeriscape and naked will not be contradictive for you. 
 
 

Taken from the AANR Monthly Bulletin, "Across the Board" brings information and thoughts from the Governing Board of AANR to you. The Board values your membership and wants to make sure that it is doing what is right for the members and clubs. The first step is good two-way communication.