Good design, plant choice can override using cisterns

The Tucker Historical Society, www.tuckergahistorical.org, held its annual garden tour last weekend. One of the landscapes had two cisterns installed under a deck. They provoked many comments. Mostly positive and of the wishing sort. Cisterns aren't cheap. Not that I saw the cisterns, or any of the landscapes. My landscape was on the tour, too.

I showed off my landscape and asked, often, among the thread of hundreds of visitors, "What have you liked in the other landscapes?"

One visitor showed me digital pictures of the cisterns. He had several angles, probably to save money by copying the mechanics for do-it-yourself. From the first mention of the cisterns I knew they weren't for me. My landscape doesn't need cisterns.

Finally, I began telling anyone who told me about the cisterns that my landscape was fine without them. Each time it was the same response, "What do you mean you don't need cisterns?" And each time I responded, "Look around." They were surrounded by dwarf Indian hawthorn, dwarf abelia, antique roses, oakleaf and "Anna Belle" hydrangeas, conifers, cleyera, azalea "George Tabor," daphne, helleborus, hosta, holly fern, dwarf mondo, liriope, Virginia sweetspire, crepe myrtle, Chinese snowball, Japanese maple, viburnum, windmill palm, lavender, rosemary, thyme, dwarf plum yew, aucuba, mahonia, nandina, ivy "Gold Heart," hollyhock, rudbeckia, pieris, camellia and more. Pathways of stone, arbors swathed in Carolina jasmine, stone terraces edged with brick, benches, chairs, tables, focal points, ponds, songbirds, butterflies and fragrant jasmine floating in the slight breeze.

They looked around, asking again, "What do you mean?" Repeating, "I don't need cisterns." Most, not all, of my landscape is mature, "all of the beauty you see survived the water ban with vigor."

Buckets from the shower were used on container plants and a few mophead hydrangeas. The rest of the landscape fended for itself, fabulously. Proof, good landscape design and placing the right plant in the right spot is the best conservation. Cisterns, no. But the inconvenience of buckets in the shower, they're too heavy to carry, will force the purchase of a rain barrel.

Obviously I don't have a vegetable garden. It couldn't survive a drought and water ban. My few tomatoes and cucumbers are in pots. And my plant list, above, is mostly complete for a reason. Use it as your template. I hope it brings you as much beauty and joy as it does to me.

Intuitively copying the landscapes of mentors, and Italy, gave me a landscape effervescent with thriving plants and no worries about water bans. Been there, done that, and my garden laughs in flowers-shrubs-trees. Designed correctly and planted correctly, a landscape sincere about conservation will not need cisterns.

Stone Mountain resident Tara Dillard designs, installs and writes about gardens. E-mail her at taradillard@agardenview.biz or visit www.agardenview.biz.