Aug 30, 2008

Water in the Landscape

California is officially in a drought (although personally I suspect this is our normal climate and those other years were just extra wet). Some water districts have implemented mandatory rationing, while others are still able to request voluntary cutbacks… for now. But it behooves all of us to be conscious of our water use, and water-wise landscaping is an easy first step.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District has created a very nice booklet on landscape planning, from layout to planting and of course irrigation practices. Their site also offers a list of water-wise plants, not exhaustive but certainly robust enough for most of us. And, if you needed any more incentive, the district is offering a landscaping rebate of up to $1,000 to replace your thirsty turf lawn with more efficient plantings, or an irrigation rebate of up to $1,000 to install drip systems, rain sensors and other "smart" irrigation products.

The Association of Professional Landscape Designers also has issued guidelines to keep its members cognizant of practices that not only reduce irrigation needs, but also respect natural cycles by encouraging stormwater detention and holistic ecological planning. The American Society of Landscape Architects has also issued some pointers on conserving water as well as greening your home overall. And the California Landscape Contractors Association offers not only tips on how to "reduce your use," but also resources for finding certified water managers to install or optimize your low-water landscape.

The threat of a serious and prolonged drought is an abrupt wake-up call for all of us, and the options for adapting to it can be overwhelming. Start by speaking with your landscape professional — designer, architect, or contractor — and you'll get both reassurance and real solutions to save water and save money.

Aug 15, 2008

The Rude Garden

In the grocery store today, I overheard a mother say sternly to her young, spirited child who was enjoying the store's music as only young, spirited children can: "Spencer, stop dancing. This isn't dance class. You don't see anyone else dancing, do you?"

How often do you hear that same voice in your own head? Does it keep you from having a garden that's truly yours? Does your front yard not sing or dance because none of your neighbors' does? Or maybe you had an idea for a feature you'd really enjoy in your back yard, but abandoned the thought because you've never seen it anywhere else before?

As a living system, the garden is one big experiment, and it will evolve regardless of how much or how little we're involved. Our landscape is "ours" for a relatively fleeting moment in time. So why not make the most of our short visit? Go ahead, wield your hand — try colors, combinations, specimens, and features that truly delight you. The worst that can happen, really, is that others might think your garden dramatic, eccentric, or even downright rude. Can you imagine? You could be "that garden" of whispers and legend. The "dangerous" one. The one that says to your neighborhood, "I live here."

If the very idea thrills you a little bit, you've got some work to do. I'm no therapist but there's no question that gardens, and gardening, can be therapeutic. Wouldn't it be great to dance again, like a young, spirited child?