Boston ferns and birds of paradise

As a somber Mayor of Los Angeles delivered his State of the City address this afternoon, the set dressing said as much as the speech. Los Angeles is a place flagging as much from failure of imagination as from a monetary crisis. Fluffing out the rim of the podium were a mix of Boston ferns and birds of paradise. Behind the Mayor were crumpled-looking American flags.

This is not the stage set worthy of our Mayor, our city or our region. There is no reason for gratuitous greenery when announcing painful budget cuts, or any other occasion. Better no plants than the wrong ones. Better no flags than rumpled ones.

But, if we must decorate, then let’s decorate with our best asset, our natural beauty. Let’s fly our city flag for State of the City addresses. When our Mayor speaks of stalwartness, let’s surround him with rugged agaves instead of

The fish did it

A vote by the board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California today all but assures that last year’s water delivery cuts of roughly 20% will continue through 2010. This was expected. One passable rain year does not a recovery make. The weird part of Met’s announcement is the belligerence, which puts responsibility for the “historic” prospect of continued rationing and price hikes on fish.

Roughly a third of Southern California’s water supply comes from the Northern California delta where the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers meet near San Francisco. The once fecund rivers have been losing their salmon, trout and smelt as the winter snowmelt that feed their waters is diverted south.

As Met’s general manager Jeffrey Kightlinger has it in today’s announcement, “The historic pumping restrictions in the Delta because of endangered fish species are compromising the statewide water system’s ability to capture adequate supplies.”

Disregarding

The Dry Garden: Eco-snooping, part two

It was a hybrid call of the wild that Gilda Garcia heard when she decided to do a native garden in the frontyard of her North Hollywood home in 2006. As she recalled it during a mid-March visit, “The challenge was how could you mix native plants, Mexican art and poodles?”

It would be a spoiler to use anything but a detail shot from what is a truly fabulous before-and-after photo spread put together by Garcia and Los Angeles Times photographer Anne Cusack for this week’s “The Dry Garden” column.

So, click here to see how Garcia transformed her garden from lawn and three hedges into “Poodleville” in the Los Angeles Times and to read the second installment of the three-part series previewing properties on the Theodore Payne Foundation Tour, April 10-11.

The Dry Garden: Eco-snooping

Yes, yes, yes. We all know that native gardens save water, curb greenhouse gas pollution, save homeowners thousands a year on mow and blow fees and entitle their owners to eco-sainthood. But what do they look like? Are they beautiful? If so, are they hard to plant and maintain? Where can you put down the baby? Will those who might want one still be allowed a patch of lawn?

To help Los Angeles homeowners see the almost endless possibilities open after they start incorporating local flora into their gardens, the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wildflowers and Native Plants calls upon its members every spring to open their homes to the public. The upshot is a tour in which the smartest, most experienced native gardeners in Southern California get down with whoever shows up asking for help.

Click here to keep reading the first of a three part series as the

Southwest Hydrology: the conservation issue

FITTINGLY, Thanksgiving brings a feast for those on a water diet. The new issue of Southwest Hydrology looks at all manner of conservation issues, including how to approach industrial and residential use, seemingly unstoppable population growth in a dry region, the ever-tricky business of standardization of measures, how to design savings programs and affordability. To download a free copy, click here. Via WaterWired.

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