New Waves May 2007

Breaking news about water resources research and education in Texas

Texas Urban Landscape Guide Web site launched

By Kathy Wythe

Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas Nursery and Landscape Association and Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) recently cooperated in developing a Texas Urban Landscape Guide. The guide, and its accompanying Web site, is a resource of science-based information on the design, installation and maintenance of WaterWise landscapes in Texas.

A WaterWise landscape is defined as a landscape designed and maintained according to basic good horticultural principles that allow for a beautiful healthy landscape with minimal supplemental irrigation and no adverse runoff from the landscape property.

Dr. Don Wilkerson, Extension horticulturist and one of the developers of the urban guide, said the guide targets three audiences—homeowners, horticulture professionals and municipal government and water utility personnel— with different tracks of information for each audience. Each track contains resources and links to different Web sites with specific information for the target audiences, he said.

“The type of information needed to implement WaterWise landscape practices varies considerably depending upon whether you are a homeowner looking for information to design your home landscape, a green industry professional seeking information of a specific nature for a business application, or a municipal water management agency employee needing specific guidelines related to urban landscape water use,” Wilkerson said.

One of the guide’s main components, and common to all three tracks, is the PlantSelector database that rates 1,000 plants using the EarthKindTM Index. EarthKindTM is the environmental stewardship program developed by Extension Horticulture to combine the best of organic and traditional gardening and landscaping principles to create a horticultural system based on real world effectiveness and environmental responsibility.

The index, with ratings of 1 to 10, evaluates plants on their drought tolerance, heat tolerance, pest tolerance, soil requirements and fertility requirements for seven regions in Texas, Wilkerson said. The higher the index, the better suited the plant is to the selected region. The plants were rated by 20 experts knowledgeable about the best plants for their regions.

Users of PlantSelector enter their zip code and select various attributes of plants they need or want, such as exposure, bloom period and leaf characteristics. The PlantSelector will then produce a list of plants suitable to their region. Users can also enter a specific plant to see its characteristics and determine if it is suited for their regions.

“We don’t want to tell the consumers what to buy,” Wilkerson said. “We want to provide them with educational information to make informed decisions.”

Wilkerson said The Urban Landscape Guide Manual, downloadable from the Texas Urban Landscape Web site, supplements the Water Conservation Best Management Practices Guide 2004 that was produced by the Texas Water Conservation Implementation Task Force as directed by TWDB. The manual, written by consultant Chris Brown, is designed to assist municipal water utilities in implementing best management practices.

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