During my recent short stay in Los Angeles, this Brentwood neighborhood was my haunt, the route of my morning walk. Not bad, huh? Especially in mid-February to this Easterner. Blooming were daffodils, azaleas, roses, daylilies, and all manner of tropical and desert plants I couldn’t identify. Do any of these bloom again, say at the time they’re supposed to bloom? (Pardon my ignorance.)
But what really surprised me was the preponderance of the faux-Eastern green look with its thirsty plants. The entire community is dotted with little irrigation nozzles; I mean they’re everywhere, including the right of way. GOTTA have bright green turf between the asphalt and the concrete, apparently. So despite the persistent drumbeat for xeriscaping we’re seeing in the media, it looks like the message hasn’t reached the homeowners. Desert-dwellers whose water has to be pumped from hundreds of miles away. What will it take to convert them?
And what’s being done about this? From the EPA: "The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has implemented a comprehensive water efficiency plan to address water use by individual households, businesses, and industries. To limit outdoor water use, L.A. offers a landscape water management program, a water conservation garden contest, an annual spring garden exposition, demonstration gardens, weather network stations, a residential irrigation pilot program, a large-turf water curtailment program, xeriscape requirements for new construction, and production and distribution
watering guides." With global warming increasing drought conditions in the area, maybe it’s time for a small-turf water curtailment program.
By contrast, in flipping through the December ’06 issue of Los Angeles Magazine I found a feature called "The Influentials," and who should be included but a garden designer! Yeah, amazing. Grouped with other "Aesthetics," (e.g., an architect, a preservationst) is Nancy Goslee Power, who designed the LA County Arboretum and Botanical Garden. She specializes in creating outdoor rooms (who doesn’t? But there’s more…) using "indigenous and drought-tolerant plants." And the magazine gave her "bonus points" for a "pro bono job transforming an elementary school’s asphalt lot into a teaching garden modeled after food guru Alice Water’s own garden. Very cool. (Here’s her site but don’t bother visiting; it’s the least functional site yet in my continuing survey of garden designer sites. Try navigating between pages – no can do.)
The very same Nancy Goslee Power was mentioned by an astute commenter to my recent post about Disney Hall, suggesting she should have been chosen as its landscape designer. Agreed! She might have selected from her native-and-drought-tolerant plant palette to create some Mediterranean-style drama around this amazing building, a far better choice than the forgettable plantings you see there today. And she might have taught Angelenos a thing or two about sustainable gardening.