Monday, April 20, 2015

Visions of Paradise ~ Southern California Garden Wars- A Call for a Truce

The first view of my garden for pedestrians is of abundance and diversity
"To Create a Garden is to search for a better world. In our effort to improve on nature, we are guided by a vision of paradise. Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or only a modest vegetable patch, it is based upon the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening. Anyone who toils away at the soil must think a few weeks ahead or envision next year's garden, for most gardeners are convinced that improvement is on the way. Thus gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes it is the triumph of hope over experience." 

~Marina Schinz 

High color achieved with low water
April 14th. It was scheduled to be a press conference on the drought at the Armstrong Garden Center  in Pasadena. It was more. It was an impossibly beautiful day in paradise. 

Wandering through tree lined streets, on what  was anticipated to be a "shortcut" around traffic, my attention was less on road signs than on the sky so blue, it looked photo-shopped.  Squirrels scampered and leaped about the branches of immense trees. The leafed-out urban forest canopy casting a cooling shadow. Where there were flowers: there were hummingbirds and butterflies.

Birdsong drifted along gentle waves of cooling breeze. My heart fully engaged~ my mood levitated. 

Pasadena anchors a region of gardeners. The diversity of individual visions of paradise reside side-by-side, in peace. Man has been seeking his way back into paradise since he was driven from the Garden of Eden. Living amongst all this beauty, it felt that some of us have been let back in. And I decided "The enemy of one garden is the enemy of all gardens." 

There is a slogan going 'round California "Brown is the New Green." Well, poppycock. Brown is the name of our grumpy Governor- whose major accomplishment on this issue is to sanction the guilting  and intimidation of  people who simply wish to love the gardens they dreamed into being. 

 Brown is a fine color for bark.  For dirt being tilled. For coffee grounds and tea leaves brewing. For chocolate and maple flooring. All of its associations aren't so nice: it is also the self-assigned color associated with the shirts of a certain movement in Munich, Germany back in 1921. A movement founded on arrogance and intolerance. 

A foraging goose 
A garden in fifty shades of brown is monotonous. It is not as inspiring as one growing in even just a dozen shades of green: the verdant color-range from which flowers and fruits and vegetables rise. It is the predominant hue of tree canopies and patches of lawn where birds land to snack on snails and worms. Green is the color of life. 

The "turf" on the left is artificial. While water-efficient- the scene is warm and inviting
This is not a denial of drought. Simply a statement that we are all in this battle together. Waterwise is not a style. It is a collection of strategies, with multiple options, whereby a series of individual actions are the pathway to group triumph. 

The Armstrong's event instilled new hope that the creative spirit lives on in the hearts of gardeners. 
The front of their Pasadena store is redesigned as an attractive demonstration garden to help the lovers of all gardens towards water efficiency.  

Just some of the strategies to rethink our gardens to success shared my host for the event, Darin Engh- 

If you prefer a  turf lawn or succulent ground-cover, consider soaker hoses installed a foot apart, approximately 2-3"  beneath the soil surface. If you are the patient sort, Buffalo grass slowly forms a lawn. It will look barren for a few seasons, but you will be rewarded with a lawn requiring only once a season- mowing.
Front yard seating as captured by photographer Gene  Sasse 
Artificial turf is much improved since first introduced. It is best used in small areas, such as focal points, or where tables and seating are a bother to move for maintenance purposes. The McCann Newport garden pictured above was featured in Pacific Horticulture.  

Amend. Amend. Amend. The better the soil, the better the plants can weather all diversity- including drought. 

Regularly walk through your garden with your hose equipped with a handheld nozzle. Spot watering is far more efficient than turning on your whole irrigation system for a couple dry spots. 

Check out water polymers to expand the water- retention of potting soil.

Credit: Anthony Tesselaar
Sweet Spot 'Calypso' Rose by Monrovia Growers  
Walking through the gardens, the range of plants which give more back than they take is breathtaking. The list includes roses, blueberries, iris and daylilies.  

Like all babies, new plants require more coddling than when they reach maturity. Sure Start is great for settling suckling plants into the garden setting.   As your plants mature, make your go-to fertilizers organic. This lessens the risk of plant burning. 

But perhaps greatest of all for those transitioning their yards into gardens~ low-water is to no-water what low- maintenance is to no- maintenance: a fallacy. Even cactus and succulents, particularly those high on a slope are susceptible to degrading into expensive compost if water is denied them during critical early years. 

The results of a small brush fire last weekend in Fullerton. 

Yes. California's drought is real. But before it came, and long after it is gone, fire danger is a reality to this region. In land use planning, green spaces: golf courses, sports fields and lawns have served as a transition to our flammability- inclined  native scrub.  Glance at the photo. See how the green of the sports complex field helped shield a neighborhood from fire.

Isn't it time to step-back and recognize that both lawn lovers and those who think a lawn is the horticultural equivalent to the Devil Incarnate to recognize that each side has a point? Isn't it time for a truce between gardeners and do what gardeners are experts at? Digging in.

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.



Anonymous said...

Lovely lovely, just lovely Lydia! What an enlightening blog. I especially love the first photo of your garden entrance. I know you put so much hard work into it and it shows!

Can't wait for your talk to our club in June!

Bravo on this one! I so agree about the brown shirts, etc. I have a good one but I will have to tell you privately! LOL

XO Trisha

Oregon Sue said...

Great advice L!! And yes, you do have a GRUMPY governor!!! xo

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Your Garden is exquisite, my dear Lydia.....This water problem here is quite scary....As you know, my whole Garden is Cactus and Succulents, and yes, they DO need water, but not as much as other types of gardens....And they are such Amazing plants! Not everyone's cup of tea, I know.....But I love them and find the flowers they produce so very special....! We certainly are in a dilemma here, aren't we?

Lydia said...

Hi, Trisha- Cheers to arranging the details to make the talk possible.

Sue- Thanks for the thumbs up.

Naomi- Your garden is also exquisite. It fits your architecture and topography. We should have lots of "cups of tea" in gardens to choose from. That's half the fun- and gardens should be enjoyable.

nikkipolani said...

Those first photos are just drenched in color. Beautiful.

Glad you got some closeups of the fire. I've seen lists of low water plants that include roses. Well, as I've heard from you about the Huntington, they seem to like the low water!

Lydia said...

Thank you Nikki. The goose shot was at the Huntington- it is wonderful living near so many inspirational public gardens. Back to work...