Over A Barrel: Master Gardener Is an Advocate for Water Conservation
Ten years ago conservationists suggested that the issue of water conservation should be addressed, but few listened or acted on the ideas.
Master Gardener Marissa Back, of Seven Lakes, became an advocate of water conservation and began to educate others who were willing to listen. Today Back is ready to educate anyone who wishes to learn about this imperative issue.
"Now we really have to deal with a water crisis," she says. "And if everyone will begin to do all that is possible, we can continue to produce beautiful gardens and landscapes. All it takes is some thoughtful changes."
The once unthinkable idea of our lakes drying up is becoming a reality. This situation not only affects landscapes across the county but landscapers and production of garden beds as well.
"It is not a matter of convenience, but something to be taken seriously," says Back. "There are several ways to conserve water, yet maintain an attractive garden."
Back has utilized four rain barrels over the past 10 years.
"They are the siphon type of barrel," she says, "and they have done an excellent job. Each collects approximately 30-plus gallons, which allows me to keep up with the landscape."
Although Back has had to rethink her landscape needs, the yard contains a mixture of plants that announce this gardener's concerns.
"I use ornamental grasses such as miscanthus, and muhlenbergia," she says. "They are a great backdrop and also absorb any chemicals that happen to be flowing near the water."
Back says that Callicarpa or American Beauty Berry is one of her favorites.
"Hollies and wax myrtles are beautiful in the landscape, and the birds just love the shrub, not only as protection, but for the berries," she says.
Back's yard has been certified as an official wildlife habitat.
"It is not the most colorful garden," she says, "but it works. As a matter of fact, the bluebirds nest in the serviceberry tree and protect it from other critter invasion, including humans. Other plants that don't require much water are New England asters, liatris or blazing star and yarrow, all of which add to the beauty of the garden."
Another of Back's favorites is asclepias.
"This butterfly weed is known to attract monarch butterflies and is such a beautiful bloomer," she says.
She also includes spotted bee balm and a ground cover, wireless sage, among her favorites.
"You can visit UNC Botanical Gardens and purchase special seeds from them during the year," she says. "Just call and find out when they have the seeds available. It's a nice addition to the yard, especially when you are trying to make it a native sanctuary."
Back is proud of the hellebores in her yard.
"The white Lenten rose is so pretty," she says. "And my aromatic Daphne is huge and elegant. You can start Daphne from cuttings."
Her yard also boasts abele, sourwood, and verbena.
"I love verbena," she says, "because it requires no care, attracts butterflies and spreads in the sand. The purple and gold finches happily visit the plant to eat the seeds off it. Now what more could you ask for?"
Back has always been a water conservationist and maintains that everyone can follow suit.
"You can build your landscape on water conservation," she says, "which amounts to having a wildlife habitat."
A popular plant, lantana is a great drought-resistant plant.
"'Miss Huff,' the perennial, now measures about seven feet tall," says Back. "The Buddleia does well during drought times, as well as crepe myrtles, sassafras and sourwood. They grow without working at it."
Back's garden is unique, and one might say appealing in its contents.
"My garden is not cultured and square like a lot of others," she says. "I let it go the way nature wants it to be."
Like most of us, Back hopes for more rain.
"Hurricanes bring the rain," she says, "so long as there is no damage. With Alberto, we got five inches of rain. With Ernesto, we received almost four inches of rain. And, of course, Katrina brought three inches."
Back maintains that each one of us, through proper education, can increase our knowledge of conservation and work as a unit.
"Most of us are sensitive to change," she says, "but this is a good time to learn about new directions in the landscape. We can become informed via the Internet, which offers an abundance of information on drought landscaping and gardens. Our own Extension Service is a great place to call, and the Master Gardener Hotline is most useful."
Back says that at the St. Patrick's Parade held in March, tables will be set up by the Pinehurst Conservation Commission to inform people about water conservation and their yards.
"This is wonderful, don't you think? she says. "We have the means and the people who can assist us during the drought situation. There are so many alternatives and we just need to be aware of them."
We can all plan and design a water-wise yard with a variety of flowers, shrubbery and trees, says Back.
"All we need is a positive mindset to move it forward."
Freelance writer Anita Stone may be reached at email@example.com.
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