‘After the lawn’ launches at KCET

Posted on | February 20, 2015 | No Comments

Robert Perry. Photo: Emily Green

“We’re just in this messy transition,” says landscape architect Robert Perry of the wave of gravel and cactus rebate gardens sweeping Southern California. To read more, click on the image to go to KCET’s new series on the many faces of landscape reform.


Deal allows L.A. to plow Owens Dry Lake bed

Posted on | November 17, 2014 | No Comments

Tillage @ Owens Lake, Master Project, Source LADWP

Zig-zag plowing of Owens Valley dry lake bed is proposed by the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power. The technique, called “tillage,” is a preferred low-water alternative to shallow flooding for dust suppression. Image: LADWP Master Project

A deal struck last week between Los Angeles and the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District puts the city back on track to satisfy terms of the Owens Valley dust suppression agreement struck under Mayor Richard Riordan in the 1990s. While oversold in the Los Angeles Times as a “truce in a decades-long dispute over water and dust,” the new deal ends a three-year-long court bid by the city to avoid on-going environmental remediation work that it didn’t want to do, spending money that it didn’t want to spare and sacrificing water that it wanted to keep. Read more

Proposition 1 analyzed for voters

Posted on | October 23, 2014 | No Comments

Screen grab PacInst reportCalifornians, whether you love, hate, or have heretofore been unaware of Proposition 1, a measure on the pending November 4 ballot that would raise $7.12 billion in public money for water projects, here is the best-considered and most impartial breakdown that you are likely to find. Everyone who reads the Pacific Institute’s Prop 1 summary or report itself is likely to have at least one takeaway line.

Mine is: “water conservation and efficiency efforts would be allocated a mere 1%.”

Fourth year in the garden

Posted on | October 17, 2014 | No Comments

Helianthus annuus. Photo: Emily Green

Helianthus annuus flowers. Bees, finches and squirrels will keep visiting even cut flowers — if you leave them outside — for nectar and seed heads.

When I remarked to a neighbor that a group from the Los Angeles County Arboretum was coming this week to tour my garden the response was: “Why?”

Bragging never ends well.

That said, it’s as good a time as any to link to this photo essay of the fourth year in the garden.


Starve the lawn, not the tree

Posted on | October 1, 2014 | 3 Comments

Tree Failure Report. Source: University of California

Photos: University of California Tree Failure Report Program

It’s encouraging to see residents of greater Los Angeles cutting back on lawn irrigation and/or switching to less thirsty ground-covers. But there has been an unintended consequence. Civic-minded homeowners have been under-watering — or not watering — their trees. While deciduous trees register the stress palpably enough that many homeowners are alerted to the need to irrigate, most evergreens can’t wilt. Rather, their leaves furl and their needles droop. Formerly turgid and healthy limbs become brittle and vulnerable to boring insects and the diseases that the bugs too often carry. Stress a big tree enough and it becomes prone to what monitors of our urban canopies call “tree failure” (an interesting term for an outcome that is almost never the tree’s fault, but that of those managing it). A treeless Los Angeles would be a harsh, hot and bleak place. To prevent that from happening the Urban Forest Council has issued this brochure. Click here for more about common causes of tree failure, and here, here and here for an excellent three-part guide to planting trees from horticulturist and Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden fellow Barbara Eisenstein.

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