Zeroscape Versus Xeriscape

Plant a xeriscape for a zero-maintenance yard.

Mignon Fogarty
Episode #095

Today's topic is the word xeriscape.

This is kind of a self-indulgent podcast for me. I've been house hunting lately, and I swear if one more real estate agent tells me about a property's wonderful zeroscape, I'm going to rent for the rest of my life.

What Is a Xeriscape?

The word is xeriscape. X-E-R-I-S-C-A-P-E. It comes from a combination of the word xeric, which means "having scant moisture," and the word scape, which in this case refers to a type of land. So a xeriscape is a type of landscape where the plants don't require a lot of water, and it usually doesn't require much other maintenance either. That makes it a wonderful thing in my book, and I can see why people get confused and think the word is zeroscape, because it requires zero maintenance, but according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word was coined by the Denver Water Department in 1981, and the word is xeriscape.

The root xeric in xeriscape come from the Greek prefix xer-, which means "dry." There aren't many English words that use the xer- prefix. Xeroderma is dry skin, xerography is a type of dry printing, xerophagy is eating dry food, and besides xeriscape there are just a few others.

Photo courtesy of Laura Herman, Tampa, Florida

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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