- Photos Courtesy of Gardensoft and Medford Water Co

Water-savvy and beautiful

If you've been wanting to dig up your gas-guzzling, water-slurping, fertilizer-munching lawn but don't know what to put in its place, Medford Water Commission has your back.

The commission launched a new website last month, reachable through the commission's homepage at www.medfordwater.org, aimed at giving gardeners and homeowners a bevy of visual aids and hands-on help to make their jobs easier.

The site, complete with photos of numerous water-wise gardens and landscaping projects in Medford, is a virtual how-to guide for creating a water-savvy yard.

Working with a California company called GardenSoft, the commission took to the streets, hunted down water-wise gardens, interviewed local landscape architects and snapped photos of projects that will give local homeowners practical ideas for becoming water misers.

The site contains photo galleries of front yards, backyards, patios, decks, commercial landscapes, streetscapes, hillsides, walkways, arbors and gazebos. A dozen gardens were photographed in depth and posted as virtual tours. Some of the gardens were recommended by local landscape professionals and garden clubs. Some were sniffed out by Water Commission staffers who drove city streets looking for yards worth emulating. They even attended local garden events, such as the Soroptimist Club's annual garden tour, searching for landscapes to feature.

"We've been working on it for a year, and 90 percent of the photos are local," says Laura Hodnett, Medford Water Commission public-information coordinator. "We went to 30-some projects in one day and went to 20-some yards on other days.

"Our goal," Hodnett says, "is to show that you can have landscaping that doesn't use as much water but that's still attractive, and it doesn't have to be all rocks and cactus."

Hodnett was especially impressed with local garden clubs, which provided much of the information on specific plants that will do well in the Rogue Valley's often arid climate.

"It's amazing how well they know their yards," she says. "It ended up being a really fun project, and hopefully it offers people some ideas they can use."

For instance, she says, the site contains an extensive plant list, arranged under headings such as "ornamental grasses," "attracts butterflies," "attracts hummingbirds," "attracts birds," "lawn substitutes" and "screens and hedges."

"You can say, 'I want a shrub that blooms in spring and has red flowers,' and you'll find it," Hodnett says.

The site contains 60 pages of plant photos listed by both common names and botanical names, along with hot links and resources on topics ranging from irrigation systems, drainage and mulch to plant design, working with professionals and a watering guide customized by region.

"The correct irrigation system, when properly scheduled and maintained," the site reads, "can result in significant water savings and lower water bills. The goal of an efficient watering schedule is to irrigate using only the amount of water that is needed by the types of plants that are used."

The watering guide covers such topics as "What time of day should I water?" "How long should I water?" and "How often should I water?"

A related menu offers tips on types of watering devices, common irrigation challenges and sprinkler-scheduling basics.

The site even contains photos and information on water features such as ponds and fountains, proving that a water-wise landscape doesn't have to look like the Mojave.

"We haven't eliminated water features, and we'll add more over time," Hodnett says. "It's not a completed canvas, and it won't ever be. We can continue to improve it."

Reach Mail Tribune Features Editor David Smigelski at 541-776-8784 or dsmigelski@mailtribune.com.

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