Mr Garcetti, tear out this lawn

Yesterday the Los Angeles Times ran an editorial calling for the end of the Occupy LA encampment around City Hall. Among the reasons given were, “They’re killing the lawn in one of downtown’s rare green spaces, which will have to be replaced at taxpayer expense, and they may be damaging City Hall’s majestic fig trees.”

As one of the paper’s garden writers, I beg to differ. Having been to Occupy LA on Thursday, I can see that the encampment is, indeed, acting as human sheet mulch, a powerful technique for removing lawn. Yet once it’s killed, why replace it? Killing the lawn in a water-strapped region is one of the most beneficial things that any citizen can do. The water utility run by the Council inside City Hall has been paying rebates for home owners to do just that for several years now. That Occupy LA is smothering lawn for

The Dry Garden: Especially everything

Last winter the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden asked what we the public wanted from it. The arboretum held workshops and even hired a professional to run up an online questionnaire. Last month, it published a summary of our responses.

This much can be said about us: We’re not picky. We want everything. According to the new strategic plan, we want a prettier entrance, better signs and more fabulous gift shop. We want to save water and to celebrate the existing water-glugging collection of plants, while perhaps “de-accessioning” a few old soldiers. We want to emphasize food plants for kids and to preserve a lovely collection of native oaks up the knoll. We want a first-class library with the right kind of onramp to the information superhighway. Did we mention we want invasive plants contained? We do. We also want spiffo management and a fine-tuning of

Occupy outdoors

If proof were needed why I am not a professional photographer, this post is it. But somehow I had to salute a weekend spent at two delightful events — the Los Angeles Community Garden Council gathering of community organizers from all over the LA Basin and the fall festival at Rancho Santa Ana’s Grow Native Nursery at the VA Hospital in Westwood. Both were packed with the best kind of people — gardeners. Both had too many good speakers to count, including LA’s leading horticulturist Lili Singer, seed saver David King, mycologist and Victory Gardener nonpareil Florence Nishida, and Tim Dundon, provisioner of craptonite (aka composted stable manure) to the Foothills. Dundon, it should be added, didn’t lecture but performed “Born to be Wild” while stamping a hoe. The picture is out of focus because I was dancing while taking it. Jeff Spurrier will be covering

The Dry Garden: Being John Goodman

Left to their own devices, these newly planted New Zealand flaxes, called Phormium 'Sea Jade,' would each reach five feet in diameter -- fast. They've been put in a new public garden one-foot-on-center to create a quick sense of fill. Nurseries and landscape designers take the praise and money and then run. The facilities manager who inherits this garden, or the homeowner who innocently emulates it, will be left with an ensuing maintenance nightmare.

The single hardest thing to remember in fall planting season is restraint. After summer dormancy, everything looks so fresh. Salvias are pushing out their autumn blooms. We gardeners are full of pent-up expectation. Everything feels possible! Many things are. Keep that elation. Just resist the urge to crowd young plants during installation, a temptation so strong that almost everyone does it.

The problem may be that we treat young plants like babies, which in some ways

‘Dry’ or ‘wild’ winter for Southern California

“For the second winter in a row, La Niña will influence weather patterns across the country,” reports the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,  “but as usual, it’s not the only climate factor at play. The ‘wild card’ is the lesser-known and less predictable Arctic Oscillation …”

Click here to keep reading NOAA’s winter outlook published today.

By way of spoiler, the predictions are dry for the already fried Southwest, wet for the already soaked Northwest and Northeast, and vague for Southern California, leaning towards dry. If it’s dry the way last year was dry in Los Angeles, we could get near record rainfall.

keep looking »