The Dry Garden: Descanso in recovery

Schematic from the Long Range Conceptual Plan for Descanso Gardens developed with the Portico Group. Click on the drawing to be taken to the Seattle company's master plan for Descanso.

Nowhere in the West is sustainable gardening a harder sell than in Southern California. Public gardens preach conservation, but their grounds are surrounded by turf. The message to visitors: Eastern-style, highly irrigated gardening is not just OK here, it’s the way it’s done.

And so, it is beyond refreshing, more like happy dance exciting, that Descanso Gardens has begun what will be a long-range overhaul in which water conservation is the central theme. The messaging will start with the landscaping.

A 237-page review, grandly titled a “Long Range Conceptual Plan,” outlines what will one day be a sweeping overhaul with a paean to water. “The structure of the garden plants, native and introduced, is informed by water. The Gardens’ cultural