Xeriscape Garden with sign
Image by Dona Crawford

Xeriscape garden at SUNY Ulster

Xeriscape garden
Image by Dona Crawford

A water-saving garden also can be beautiful!

Xeriscape Garden

Visit the Garden and Pollinator Meadow

The Xeriscape Garden, located at the SUNY Ulster campus (491 Cottekill Road in Stone Ridge) is a lovely place to wander and enjoy throughout the seasons. It is open daily to the general public, and Free Guided Tours are available for your group or organization by calling the Master Gardener Hotline (845-340-3478).

About the Garden

Started in 2000, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County Master Gardeners designed and installed this water-wise xeriscape garden, in conjunction with SUNY Ulster, to promote water protection and water quality through fundamental gardening practices.

Xeriscaping is a form of gardening which reduces the need for supplemental watering. Started in Denver, during a period of severe water shortage, it utilizes seven principles which are appropriate for any type of garden.

The Xeriscape Garden started with plantings of more than 55 drought tolerant, disease resistant, low maintenance plants in 9 beds. An additional 3 beds were later added in addition to an information kiosk/pergola (one for composting demonstrations; another as a nursery area to hold plants for our annual plant sale or demonstration classes; and a third as an alpine garden).

In 2014 a “rain garden” was built to expand the purpose of the xeriscape garden and illustrate how road runoff can be handled in a more environmentally friendly manner. Still to be installed is an accessibility garden and seating area.

About the Meadow-Established 2019

We are slowing changing a plot of land at SUNY Ulster which was once a farm field, and then a rough lawn, into a pollinator meadow. We are doing that because pollinators are essential to many food crops (1 out of 3 bites of food Americans eat are thanks to pollinators) and most flowers need pollination to make seeds and reproduce. Due to climate change, loss of habitat, too many chemicals, many millions of insects have disappeared, and pollinators have become much more rare.

Lawns are a dead zone to almost all insects, since they provide almost no food for most insects. They also require weekly mowing, and the fossil fuels that entails, a lot of fertilizer, again sourced from fossil fuels, sometimes other chemicals, and water. Because of climate change, we face a lack of rain for long periods but if we plant the meadow using xeriscape plants which don’t need any introduced water or fertilizer after the plants are established, we can have a beautiful space without too much effort. There is no water access in the meadow, so we need to use plants that can survive without it. A meadow can be mowed once a year, and sometimes even less often. That eliminates the time and carbon that mowing entails.

Meadows, as opposed to lawns, provide carbon sequestration. research shows grasslands, like meadows, provide excellent carbon absorption. Considering how long it takes a tree to grow, meadows can do the job as well or better than a forest. Grasslands currently hold about 20% of the world’s carbon. One acre of land can hold 4 1/2- 40 tons. That is 70% more than a turf lawn.

So for the sake of pollinators, as a carbon sink, to do less work, pay less for gas for the mower, and to have a lovely place, we are creating a meadow.

Xeriscape Garden and Meadow Events

From May to October, Master Gardeners “Learning in the Garden” workshops at the garden including our  Plant Sale featuring plants from the xeriscape garden and Master Gardener gardens. One workshop in the Learning in the Garden Series is "Perennial Division" where you can take home newly divided plants while learning how to do your own divisions.

Want to learn more about the Xeriscape Garden and Meadow or schedule a guided tour? Contact us!


Courtney Churchill
Master Gardener Coordinator/ Agriculture Program Assistant
845-340-3990 ext. 335

Last updated April 6, 2023