July 25, 2008

Mount Dora City Hall Saves Water By Xeriscaping

By Martin E. Comas, The Orlando Sentinel, Fla.


When it comes to saving water, city leaders say it's time to practice what they preach -- starting with the front lawn at City Hall.

In the past few weeks, workers have been busy replacing the city's water-thirsty St. Augustine grass and landscaping on Baker Street with drought-resistant plants and grass.

Mount Dora also is replacing City Hall's "outdated" irrigation system with state-of-the-art sprinklers that only water when the plants and grass need it, said John Burt, Mount Dora's parks and recreation director.

It only makes sense, city officials said. After all, Mount Dora recently began requiring builders to use Florida-friendly plants and drought-resistant landscaping in new developments.

The city also is encouraging residents to do the same with their yards.

Mount Dora decided to start by setting the example, council member James Yatsuk said.

"This is going to be a great example of what you can do," Yatsuk said. "A lot of people have the misunderstanding that Xeriscape means zero landscaping. They think your yard will look like something in the Southwest. But that's not true. . . . It's all about planting the right plant in the right place."

The City Hall landscaping project -- expected to cost about $38,000 -- should be completed by mid-August.

The city is planting lantana, Indian hawthorn, magnolia and azaleas. The plants all can withstand drought conditions in Florida and provide colorful blooms.

The city also is installing ornamental grasses from Australia that can hold up during long stretches without water, according to city officials.

Workers stripped out the water-hogging St. Augustine grass and put in Empire zoysia grass, which uses less water and resists weeds.

Martin E. Comas can be reached at [email protected] or 352-742-5927.


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