The Dry Garden: On sage and size

Sonoma sage. Photo: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times

MANY gardens go without sage in California but at the cost of soul. Sage is to the West what lavender is to France.

Sage, or in botanical terms salvia, has it all: Its pungent aromas contain the signature scent of the Western chaparral. The silvers, grays and greens of its foliage anchor the local Craftsman color wheel, and the long-running show of flowers come in a spectrum of white to pink to mauve to scarlet to purple to indigo to sky blue.

Many sages have long had medicinal and culinary applications, but for modern Californians it’s a balm to the eyes. A felt-like quality to the foliage, combined with a loose-branching habit, allows sage to diffuse the harshest midday sunshine rather than reflect it. Sages do not need fertilizer, and in fact they shrivel at the suggestion. Few other plants

The Dry Garden: Harvesting rain

IT STANDS to reason that some of the most progressive environmentalists in Los Angeles work for the Department of Public Works’ Bureau of Sanitation. They are the front line between what we discard and the environment.

Last week we looked at their fight to triage our system for recycling food scraps. This week the subject is their battle to capture rainfall before it enters L.A.’s massive storm drain system.

The bureau, along with a leading Southland water agency, the state Legislature and environmental nonprofit groups such as TreePeople and the Green LA Coalition are all moving to make harvesting rainwater as routine as recycling. To keep reading The Dry Garden column in the Los Angeles Times, click here.

For the agenda of a November 13, 2009 public meeting on the draft Low Impact Development ordinance due to go before the City Council soon, click here.


The Dry Garden: How green is your green bin?

Jorge Santiesteban estimates that food scraps constitute roughly 15% to 25% of what goes into black garbage bins in Los Angeles. The city’s solid resources manager has been struck by the seasonal changes in how much food we throw away since 1997, when, in the week after Thanksgiving, he had a garbage truck empty its contents for him. Santiesteban picked through the trash, putting like objects with like until a clear picture emerged. This is what is known in recycling circles as “waste characterization.”

As bad as it must have been for Santiesteban during that November audit of rotting giblets and pie crusts, his San Francisco counterpart might have had it worse. Waste characterizations done there show that as much as 30% of San Francisco’s garbage has been composed of food scraps.

Now the race is on to see which of the two cities can divert more kitchen waste from

The Dry Garden: ‘American Meadow’

CALIFORNIA nurseryman John Greenlee has a new book, “The American Meadow Garden: Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn.”


It should be yay. In 1987, he created what is now the oldest specialty grass nursery on the West Coast. Greenlee Nursery, first in Pomona and now in Chino, is where artist Robert Irwin went when landscaping the grounds of the Getty Center. During the last 22 years, as a nurseryman, garden designer and writer, Greenlee has emerged as the single most recognizable voice of the Western anti-lawn movement.

Click here to keep reading this week’s Dry Garden column in the Los Angeles Times.

The Dry Garden: Irises happen

IN THE fleeting scheme of nature, irises happen. This story is about a concentration of them in Moorpark.

Part of a larger family of that includes lilies, crocuses and gladiolas, irises are native to many parts of the world. The fire-prone hills of southern Ventura County are not one of them, nurseryman Bob Sussman says. It’s too hot. He reckons that their native range in California ends roughly in Santa Barbara.

Yet irises started appearing in Moorpark in numbers when Sussman began breeding them here five years ago.

To keep reading this week’s Los Angeles Times column “The Dry Garden” click here

« go backkeep looking »
  • After the lawn

  • As you were saying: Comments

  • As I was saying: Recent posts

  • Garden blogs

  • Contact

    Emily Green by e-mail at [at]
  • Categories