Go native to save water and money!

By Maxwell Schaffner, IRU intern

This native landscaping at Dragin' Wing Farms is a great example of how water savings can be achieved by going native in your yard. "After planting a native garden your water bill will drop significantly," says Sean Dahlman, a native plant specialist with the Foothills Learning Center.

This native landscaping at Dragin' Wing Farms is a great example of how water savings can be achieved by going native in your yard. "After planting a native garden your water bill will drop significantly," says Sean Dahlman, a native plant specialist with the Foothills Learning Center.

The idyllic domestic landscape is so often portrayed as a sprawling field of Kentucky bluegrass and white picket fences that it has become a cultural cliché.

The desire for this easy-to-maintain and singular species of vegetation in our front yards, however, is disastrous for our environment, our native flora and fauna, our water resources, and ultimately our pocketbooks. A switch to a native vegetation-based landscape is an effective way to be environmentally responsible. 

The crux of the issue is the absurd amount of water that non-native grasses require to maintain. The largest strain on domestic water use in the Treasure Valley is application water to keep lawns alive. This type of water use puts unnecessary strain on the water resources of the Treasure Valley and adds to your water bill. 

“I’ve found that with all issues of environmental importance the most effective way to reach people is through their pocketbooks,” said Foothills Learning Center Native Plant Specialist Sean Dahlman. “After planting a native garden your water bill will drop significantly.”

The beautiful and sprawling microcosm of Idaho’s native plant community found at the Foothills Learning Center is a great example. Every inch of the space is teeming with native pollinators. Dahlman was excited, in fact, that he’d recently found a species of bee he had never before seen in the garden. Dahlman characterized the Foothills Learning Center’s as a near pristine example of what an untouched local ecosystem can look like.

Although the Foothills Learning Center and other native gardens in Boise—such as the Idaho Botanical Garden’s Water Conservation Landscape or the Water Efficient Garden on the south side of the state capitol building—are useful to help visualize what a native landscape really looks like, you will have to visit one of Boise’s nurseries that sell native plants to begin doing your part. 

Nestled on a quiet side street in Northwest Boise, Draggin’ Wing Farms is an organic nursery that not only sells native plants and gives advice on how to incorporate this vegetation into your landscaping, but the grounds also contain numerous test gardens that show what future water conscious homes could look like. 

Much like the Foothills Learning Center, Draggin’ Wing Farms is teeming with local pollinators and even in the heat of summer contains an array of colorful flowers like sulfur buckwheat and blue flax. Seeing the beauty that is being ignored in our fascination with ornamental lawns is disheartening but not discouraging. 

Knowing there are organizations—many of whom are IRU water-wise partners—and individuals who are passionate about encouraging native plant landscaping serves to inspire more people in the Treasure Valley to make the aesthetically and financially sound switch to a native plant-rich domestic landscape. 

For more about water wise practices, please visit these IRU partners: