Gardeners Roundtable: Waterwise Gardening

Learn all about waterwise gardening techniques from three experts as GardenWise magazine editor Carol Pope moderates their discussion.

Credit: iStock

2009 Northwest Flower & Garden Show

February 18-22
Washington State Convention & Trade Center, Seattle

To purchase tickets,
call 206-789-5333 or go online

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show is fast approaching, and in honour of this year’s theme—“Sustainable Spaces. Beautiful Places.”—we thought we’d organize some of the event’s seminar speakers for a Gardeners Roundtable on conserving water in the garden.

Our waterwise gardening experts are Nan Sterman, Paul J. Tukey and Mary Ann Newcomer (see full bios at bottom).

GardenWise magazine editor Carol Pope moderated the roundtable, asking the gardening experts the following questions:
(Click the question to see the answer.)

Can a gardener truly have a lush, abundant garden using waterwise techniques, or is a waterwise garden condemned to having a shriveled, dry, spindly feel?

How does a gardener “reform” a guzzler garden? Are there quick fixes or is the gardener required to rip everything up and start from scratch?

If there was one quick fix that every gardener should do this spring, what would it be?

If someone is starting a new garden from scratch, what steps would they undertake to create a waterwise landscape around their home?

Is an eco-friendly landscape a lawn-less landscape, or is there some compromise here for people who would like to have some grass for recreation areas?

Can an waterwise lawn be a healthy-looking lawn in your experience, or is it likely to look sparse and brown?

Would having a waterwise lawn include getting it off drugs? Is there a danger than pesticides and herbicides would leach into groundwater and drainage systems?

While we’re on the topic, do herbicides and pesticides make a beautiful place a dangerous place, or is this blowing things out of proportion?

Is there an eco-friendly way to using grass clippings in the garden instead of putting them curbside for recycling pickup?

Can you grow food without having a guzzler garden? Is having a good garden a good eco decision? What is the best strategy for watering food gardens?

Is adding a pond or waterfall to your landscape an eco-friendly decision or not?

Gardeners Roundtable Bios

Nan Sterman, an award-winning garden communicator, horticulturist, garden designer and gardening coach who lives in Encinitas, California. Her expertise includes drought-tolerant plants, sustainable gardening, low-water landscape design, fruit and vegetable gardening, and gardening how-to. She contributes to many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, Sunset, Organic Gardening and Better Homes and Gardens. Her book California Gardeners Guide vol II (Cool Springs Press) is a primer on low-water, Mediterranean climate gardening that includes hundreds of beautiful and easy-to-grow plants for California gardens.

She’ll be speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show seminar “Best Waterwise Plants—Have Your Plants and Low Water Bills Too!”

Paul J. Tukey, who lives in Maine, is the cofounder of SafeLawns & Landscapes, a franchise-based service company that currently expanding from its Connecticut origin, in an effort to make organic lawn care available to homeowners across North America.

He’ll be speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show seminar “Natural Lawn Care—Essential Tips to a Healthy Organic Lawn”

Mary Ann Newcomer, a native daughter of Idaho, has spent over twenty years supporting and working in horticulture. She served on the Idaho Botanical Garden’s Board of Directors for over a decade, raising fund for the garden’s educational programs and plant collections. She is now the owner/designer of Greenwoman Designs in Boise, specializing in town and country environmentally sound designs. She is also a writer for, a garden blog for the Rocky Mountain west. She is the founder of the Lunaria League, a horticulture outreach, education and fundraising organization, past president of the Idaho Botanical Garden Board and a member of the Garden Writers Association. She is a regular contributor to The River Radio, 94.9 in Boise as the Dirt Diva, wisdom and advice on all things for the garden. She has designed and installed several gardens for the Boise Flower and Garden Show.

She’ll be speaking at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show seminar “No Water? No Problem!—Beautiful Low Water-Use Garden Design” February 20, at 6:30 pm.