The Dry Garden: Especially everything

Last winter the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden asked what we the public wanted from it. The arboretum held workshops and even hired a professional to run up an online questionnaire. Last month, it published a summary of our responses.

This much can be said about us: We’re not picky. We want everything. According to the new strategic plan, we want a prettier entrance, better signs and more fabulous gift shop. We want to save water and to celebrate the existing water-glugging collection of plants, while perhaps “de-accessioning” a few old soldiers. We want to emphasize food plants for kids and to preserve a lovely collection of native oaks up the knoll. We want a first-class library with the right kind of onramp to the information superhighway. Did we mention we want invasive plants contained? We do. We also want spiffo management and a fine-tuning of

The Dry Garden: Being John Goodman

Left to their own devices, these newly planted New Zealand flaxes, called Phormium 'Sea Jade,' would each reach five feet in diameter -- fast. They've been put in a new public garden one-foot-on-center to create a quick sense of fill. Nurseries and landscape designers take the praise and money and then run. The facilities manager who inherits this garden, or the homeowner who innocently emulates it, will be left with an ensuing maintenance nightmare.

The single hardest thing to remember in fall planting season is restraint. After summer dormancy, everything looks so fresh. Salvias are pushing out their autumn blooms. We gardeners are full of pent-up expectation. Everything feels possible! Many things are. Keep that elation. Just resist the urge to crowd young plants during installation, a temptation so strong that almost everyone does it.

The problem may be that we treat young plants like babies, which in some ways

The Dry Garden: In search of a ‘water ethic’ for America

Most high-level arguments about how to conserve water in the garden take place without involving home gardeners. Rather, as water managers weigh what an imaginary average consumer would and would not do by way of conservation, we real-life consumers are alternately offered carrots in the form of ephemeral rebate programs and sticks in the form of emergency sprinkler ordinances. 

The new book, “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis,”  knocks this tired see-saw off its axis. Author Cynthia Barnett argues that no conservation program will truly succeed unless embraced by the public as part of a universally adopted “water ethic.” After research took her across the US, to the Netherlands, Singapore and Australia, Barnett concluded that the only way that a water ethic can be reintroduced to places that have lost it is if a primal sense of the importance and beauty of water is restored. 

It’s unorthodox to

The Dry Garden: Capturing rain

With the first rain of the season comes a question: How best to capture it for the garden? There is no single answer. Each property has dramatically different opportunities and challenges. Get it right and rainy season becomes a time of unrivaled beauty and pleasure. Get it wrong and you can ruin your house, or your neighbor’s.

This week “The Dry Garden” in the Los Angeles Times is soaked. Click here to keep reading about harvesting rain. 

The Dry Garden: Ask Persephone


Plant a pomegranate and the hole you dig drives straight through time — Persephone deep, founding fathers deep. Pomegranates are in Greek and Persian mythology, the Bible, the Koran, on the seal of the British Royal College of Physicians. Scholarly gardening articles cite pomegranates as having figured in gardens in the colonial Carolinas. Spanish settlers brought them to California. Search the botanical name Punica granatum in technical journals and you find the chemists at L’Oreal are onto them: Pomegranates are named in a new patent for shampoo. Health publications carry studies on the anti-oxidant properties. Martha Stewarts everywhere recommend dried pomegranates for Christmas wreaths.

But gardeners can turn up a lot of trivia without learning one key fact: how to tell when they are ripe. (Hint: the one above isn’t). Click here to keep reading about growing pomegranates to crimson readiness in this week’s Dry Garden column in the

« go backkeep looking »