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

Helianthus annuus, now and then

SUNFLOWERS are the true American beauty. They have it all: stamina, fast growth, architecture, fecundity, attitude and, above all, color. The proportions twixt stem and head are so sweetly comical that all it takes is the sight of a sunflower display at Trader Joe’s to defuse the rage that brews daily in its parking lots.

In the wild, sunflowers are so stunning that driving down the 110 past Dodger Stadium, it is hard not to crash as one catches sight of a freeway verge studded with gold. As L.A.’s hillsides turn brown in late summer heat, somehow wild sunflowers still glow from the brush.

Click here to keep reading about how the only thing different from the sunflowers that you buy in Trader Joe’s and the wild type that you see to the freeway (and in the photos, left), is 4,000 years of cultivation. It’s not a recent Dry Garden

Plumb wrong

Thank you to Matt Heberger of for sharing this gem off a hydrozone graphic, which he spotted as he opened up his latest water bill from the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Go to his post “Earth to East Bay MUD: Are you stupid, clueless or what?” to see him explain climate zones to the hydrozone guys, then offer alternate (better) schematics. The coup de grass is when he refers to recent water ordinances that show the East Bay MUD schematic out of compliance.

While East Bay MUD is clearly (and very possibly passively) promoting wasteful landscaping, it could be that its hydrozone web page is merely mis-categorized under “conservation tips.” Nowhere in the text on the web version does it pretend to conservation value. Rather, it’s illustrating the concept of irrigation zones, mainly for turf.

And here’s the weird part: The irrigation zones in the

Read me

It is fitting that the new issue of Pacific Horticulture should land in mailboxes during the Theodore Payne Foundation tour. As Los Angeles wakes up to native gardening, the latest edition of the magazine is a gentle reminder that its San Francisco-based publisher has long given indigenous flora equal weight with exotics. This issue is no different with looks at a xeriscape garden at Pitzer College, how to foster native bees (learn to love deadwood), a matured version of a cult native garden in Altadena and green roofs. The green roofs piece asks questions that Joseph Beuys admirers everywhere must have wondered at one point or another:  What about weight? Drainage? What plants do best where? What happens when it gets dry? Do you have to water your roof?

This magazine is the thinking man’s Sunset. My only wish for it is an art director. The Western azalea blossom on

Corks pop in Santa Barbara

“After 18 years as head of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Edward Schneider is leaving for a job at the University of Minnesota, where he will become a fully tenured professor and take over as director of the arboretum,” reports the Santa Barbara Independent. Schneider leaves California’s most important native garden without half of its volunteers and all of its status. For background on his directorship, and that of his board led by former Arizona governor turned pastry chef Fife Symington III, click here and here.

A personal theory as to why Schneider and his board were so disastrous for the garden can be summed up in the difference between two terms: “arboretum” and “botanic garden.” Arboretums are collections, originally of trees, and often occupy the estates of some dead robber baron. They represent the plunder and show ethos of a bygone era in which exoticism was

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