Friday, August 7, 2009

Dry Creek Beds

On August 1st, I wrote about Xeriscaping and pictured a dry creek bed. The question has been asked, "What's the point of a DRY creek bed?"

Most dry creek beds (I'll use DCB) are not always dry. They have several valuable purposes.

In an area where there are very hard big rains only a few times a year, a dry creek bed lines the path where the rain floods and runs off. Most of you have noticed the 6-12 inch deep crevices cut in fields, ditches and yards this Spring. They were cut by the power of fast running water and took the soil and vegetation with them.

If the path of the runoff is gently hollowed out and lined with smooth river stone or rip rock, the soil nor vegetation will be ripped out and moved. Assuming you follow the general path the water wants to take, you can sometimes make small changes to avoid some areas or to let the water flow to a more suitable location.

A Zen or an Oriental garden sometimes has a DCB simply as a suggestion of water without using water. It's part of the overall emotional and spiritual statement.

Other DCBs are used to receive the water from drain spouts. These are gently directed towards ponds, plants or gardens. Think of it as a permanent hose.

For DCBs that do not collect moving water, the options for lining material expands. Smaller or more decorative material may be used because the purpose is not to hold soil from moving. These dry creek beds may hold some water when it rains but it does not move - it eventually sinks into the soil underneath the liner.

Liners for DCBs, if used, should block weeds but allow water to drain through. Using liners requires more/heavier rock to hold in place and perhaps to edge the bed. Nothing makes a DCB look cheesier than hunks of black plastic shining through the rock or sticking out the sides.

Material for decorative DCBs can be field rocks, shells, decorative garden glass **, brick, copper sheathing, and others. If you are into "outsider art", I've seen them lined with Barbie Dolls but that takes me way beyond my comfort zone. When using smaller material, make sure your bed is deep enough water won't force it out over the sides or move it into piles when it rains hard.

DCBs should have a visual objective. They take the eye from one place to another. They may move around an object to surprise the garden stroller with a vista. Even if they are for a very real purpose of holding the soil in place during hard rains, they should still be visually pleasant, as if nature carved it out of a mountain.

If you desire straight lines, the chance for it resembling a city viaduct is probable. Cement is also a recipe for the industrial look. Only the very talented garden designer can pull off industrial materials and designs for a DCB and not have it look like a sewage runoff. It can be done and done beautifully but I am issuing a word of caution.

** Wholesale standard glass pebbles (whether from recycled auto glass or other) runs about $2-$10 a lb. It is beautiful and adds sparkle-like water texture. A small amount here and there on your DCB stone adds a bubble-like sparkle. Not for use around little children; not because they can get cut but because they could put in their mouth.

Check out who claim their glass is from 100% recycled material. Their glass is all tumbled so there are no sharp edges.

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