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.

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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.

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Giving thanks for wattle

Homeowners can easily recycle grass and leaves. But why give city green bins woody trimmings that can be made into borders. Why not use these sticks, whose old world name is "wattle"? Wattle on.

The Dry Garden: A shear education

One of the first things that I wanted to do in my new garden last year was to cut down the persimmon tree at the center of the large backyard. As early rains stripped the last of the leaves from its limbs and crows pecked at a few fruit, it looked less like a tree and more like an accident scene. Had the person who pruned its tangle of stumped and crossed limbs been a maniac? A gaping crack where the main branches met the trunk looked like it had been smote from heaven.

Only catching sight of its last fall leaves at twilight stopped me. A year later, restoring that wounded tree has become one of my passions. After scant fruit last year, this fall the tree — perhaps 10 feet tall and 12 feet wide — has produced so much fruit that I’ve called in friends and told

The Dry Garden: Empathy for the underground

To learn more about why poisoning gophers is to kill indiscriminately, click on this graphic by UCLA Environmental Studies student Christine Danner to be taken to the site Urban Carnivores.

Plant ecologist Paula Schiffman came to praise gophers when she packed a lecture last spring hosted by the Los Angeles chapter of the California Native Plant Society. It was awkward for the Cal State Northridge professor, given that most of the audience filling a cold, no-frills Santa Monica meeting room had come to learn how to kill the animals.

The atmosphere only got colder as Schiffman’s live-and-let-live message began to sink in: Gophers were here before us, they are integral to our local ecology, and one of the most common ways that we kill them also can accidentally poison a whole host of other animals.

Click here to keep reading The Dry Garden’s “Detente with the gopher

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    Emily Green by e-mail at emily.green [at] mac.com
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