Xeriscape and HOAs
Xeriscape landscaping is a simple technique that lets you plant and care for your yard so that it looks great, saves water and protects the environment. And who wouldn't want to wander through a water-wise landscape bursting with color and texture?
The term Xeriscape originated in Denver, Co., during a drought in the early 1980s. Landscape professionals joined water managers in developing this commonsense solution to a common problem: Water wasted in landscape. Although developed in the West, Xeriscape's seven principles can be successfully applied anywhere. Many Florida residents, business owners and local government planners have adopted these seven water-saving principles at home and at work.
Water savings vary depending on the landscape's location, size, soil, existing vegetation and the vigor with which the principles are applied. Some studies of Xeriscape landscapes have shown a water use reduction of between 30-80%. Widespread savings on this scale are needed as Florida's growing population and frequent periods of low rainfall place burden on our limited water supply.
Additionally, Xeriscape landscaping requires less maintenance than landscapes developed without applying the principles. For example, mulching reduces evaporation and weed growth. And making improvements to the soil increases its ability to hold water, reducing the need for irrigation. Xeriscape landscapes also typically resist droughts, diseases, and pests better than yards developed without the principles. This reduces the need for plant replacement and chemical pesticides and herbicides. Not only is this good for the environment, but it saves money.
Xeriscape has proven so successful, that Florida law now requires that seven principles be used in the landscapes of all newly-built property that is owned by the state. The principles also must be phased into all existing state-owned property. Moreover, some local governments are passing ordinances that require new large-scale developments be landscaped with Xeriscape principles. Although private homeowners are not required by law to adopt these principles, those that do will save water, money and time while protecting the environment.
The word Xeriscape (zir'-eh-skape) comes from the Greek word xeros, meaning "dry". Xeriscape landscaping is defined as landscaping that conserves water while it protects the environment. In Florida, professionals use the technique's seven simple principles to create and maintain lush and lively landscapes. You can apply these same principles to your new or existing landscape to save water, time and money.
Xeriscaping and Home Owners Associations (HOAs)
The Home Owner Associations (HOA) trump the lack of law in every way. Each HOA can have its own declarations and covenants. These declarations and covenants are public records and should be read thoroughly with regard to changes. The best and possibly only way around this is to change the HOA restrictions through the process of internal homeowner's lobbying the Board to do so. We recommend that you tackle clotheslines and solar panels while you are at it. As for xeriscaping and local environmental laws, until there are more moves toward conservation, there will not be any legislation that strenuously recommend smart practices like xeriscaping. We know that WATER is a more precious commodity than OIL.
Constructively, perhaps one could improve "damaged" or "diseased" foliage areas slowly, and less dramatically, and the seamlessness will "appear" to have always been there . At times, as long as it looks aesthetically attractive, and while there might be written declarations directing that prior architectural committee approval is necessary, one might be able to inform them of changes AFTER the fact, with no problems. Maybe the worst case scenario is that they ask that it be removed. However, if you make unauthorized changes, the fines could be considerable, depending on the HOA. Make sure you read your bylaws before you decide how to proceed.
If you are not a regular attendee at HOA meetings, now's the time to start. Once you've gone month after month, you will be viewed as part of the team instead of a homeowner that does not carry your own weight with the responsibilities. They will be more open to your ideas.
Remember - xeriscaping does not mean that you will be creating a desert landscape, which is the major misconception when people deny your right to make your property show a little of your personality using xeriscaping. There are lush gardens with paths of green lawn that are more beautifully striking than any '50s style suburban home landscaping with wall-to-wall grass. Maybe they are afraid that you will be one-upping them with your more beautiful front yard, and it will make theirs look unoriginal in comparison?