Full metal garden


To harvest rain from your roof for the garden, first you have to catch it. This requires gutters. Gutters are by no means universal appurtenances. Some home styles, such as Craftsman, Spanish and Colonial lend themselves so happily to gutters that they usually come with them. The rolled metal amounts to jewelry around the eaves.

However, put the same gutters on a modern home and you have a problem. The handsomeness of the structure is often defined by the lines of the roof and eaves. Gutters look dumpy; downspouts amount to vandalism.

The upshot? To those of us who live in midcentury homes and want to practice water conservation, the question of whether or not to put up gutters can feel like a choice between looking good or being good.

Click here to keep reading part one on capturing rain in the Los Angeles Times and here for part

The Dry Garden: Engineered to fail

As the days of Occupy LA’s tenancy around City Hall Park became numbered last month, I wrote in the op-ed pages of this paper that the city should seize the opportunity to replace the trashed lawn with a model garden demonstrating state of the art storm water capture and drought tolerant planting. The Mar Vista Community Council immediately began a campaign to support it. The Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, California Native Plant Society and Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants each wrote the Department of Recreation and Parks calling for the city to seize the opportunity. But the most forceful argument came in the one-two punch of the November 30 windstorm swiftly followed by this week’s rain.

Click here to keep reading in The Dry Garden column in the Los Angeles Times about why floods follow winter windstorms and what this has to do with trees.

The Dry Garden: Into the tall grass, tentatively

There is nothing lovelier than tall ornamental grasses, backlit and waving in a breeze. Even vacant lots can produce stands of car-crash-inducing beauty. So when gardeners hope to capture some of that lyrical action for their own homes, it’s logical to assume that all one need do is stop mowing the lawn. Alas, that would be wrong. Harnessing the tousled romance of ornamental grasses (and plants that look like these grasses) is so hard that even experienced horticulturists factor generous time and space for trial and error into their approaches before they have, in effect, allowed the right plant to do its stuff in the right place.

Click here to keep reading this week’s Dry Garden in the Los Angeles Times on landscaping with native ornamental grasses.


Elden Hughes and Cadiz

If it were possible to raise Elden Hughes from the dead, the release today of the draft environmental impact report on the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project would do it. A recipient of the Sierra Club’s John Muir Award for his work protecting California deserts, Hughes — who died on Sunday in Joshua Tree — was an integral part of the drive that in 2002 temporarily defeated a scheme by Cadiz, Inc to mine an ancient reserve of groundwater near the Mojave National Preserve.

For background on the Cadiz project, click here. To hear Hughes on KPCC’s Larry Mantle Show after the Cadiz project was revived in 2009, here. Do, while reading, be sure to click here for a fine obituary on Hughes by the LA Times’s Louis Sahagun.

The Dry Garden: After the storm

After the storm, we have no coroners, no priests for big trees. There will no autopsies, no last rites for the shredded jacaranda and more than 50 damaged trees at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia, the fallen oaks of Fair Oaks Avenue or mangled magnolia trees of Orange Grove Boulevard in Pasadena. Ceremony, if it can be called that, will involve gas-fired buzz saws and insurance adjusters.

So how do we mark what happened? For that matter, what did happen? And what, ultimately, will we make of the night the trees fell?

Click here to keep reading in the Los Angeles Times about the massive tree losses across the Los Angeles foothills during record winds last Wednesday night.