Parade Magazine botches water-saving advice



Did y'all see the feature "5 Easy Tips to Save Money – and Energy" in yesterday's Parade? (It's America's largest circulation magazine, ya know, or I wouldn't be picking on them.)  The first tip is titled "Be Wise With Your Water" and begins:

"Reduce your lawn area by planting flowers and you'll lower your water bills," says Sid Davis, author of Your Eco-Friendly Home.  "Flowers need less hydration than grass.  Putting in gravel or pathways also will do the trick."

Uh, flowers?  Any old flowers?  Many nongardeners would, I suggest, grab a few flats of annuals and think they'll be saving on water, thanks to this misguided advice.  And lawn CAN be allowed to go brown in the summer – which would be much better advice.  Most people I know never water their lawn, period, so switching to "flowers" would cause them to use more water.

My first thought upon reading this was: "Who is this Sid Davis and what does he know about plants?", but when I read the contents page of his book I found LOTS on the subject, so now I'm suspecting the fault lies with another general-interest writer/editor not getting it.  Or did Sid really say "flowers"?  Sid, if you're out there, speak up!


  1. Yeah, he should have specified shrubs or other low-maintenance landscaping options.

    Where I come from (Olympia, WA), having a brown lawn in the summer is a GOOD thing, since people recognize the need for water conservation. The state government used to let the capitol grounds go brown during water shortages to set a good example – not sure if they still do, but hopefully so.

  2. Whereas by contrast GQ (of all things) had an excellent article this month on growing your own veg including debate as to the true meaning of “heirloom”.

  3. All the rantin’ & ravin’ about lawns being water hogs or fertilizer gluttons escapes me. Where I live now I have no lawn, but where I’ve lived before I had plenty. I, nor any of my neighbors ever did all the work required for perfection. I often feel that all the negative stats about turf are just looking at the extreme side of things – most people do very little with their yards except maybe to mow it. Someone somewhere has to be spending $$$ keeping the chemical companies in the green but it sure ain’t me or anyone I know.

  4. A brown lawn may not a be an option to people living with Neighborhood Associations. I have seen around my neighborhood, some very pretty rock and gravel jobs with tastily arranged shrubs and flowers here and there in lieu of a green lawn.

  5. Plastic flowers, maybe? Annuals planted in summer require lots of supplemental water in my area. While a brown, neatly trimmed lawn can look OK, a bed of dessicated petunias or whatnot . . . can’t and doesn’t.

  6. That’s an interesting point David. I know the bad rap on Neighborhood Associations — no purple shutters, no polka dot fences, etc — but do some associations have the power to make residents water their lawns? Scandalous, if true.

  7. One of my neighbors has a larger-than-life Blessed Virgin Mother statue with flowers around her instead of a lawn.
    Just another idea 🙂

  8. HOA’s do not allow brown grass. Reality is with proper plant choices, mainly plants for the proper zone, that can naturalize to the habitat. Xeriscaping.

    Part II of what they didn’t explain is that watering guidelines are given by growers for established plants. Established plants are ones which are 3 years old. Until then you have to wean the plants from grower conditions to naturalize. The smaller the plant the less time to adapt. So initially you won’t save money, over time you will.

    Most landscape writing is just a bunch of hooey from people who don’t know squat, or is ruined by editors whose knowledge of the plants is limited to herbal spa treatments.


  9. I prefer your advice… here in San Diego, we have green grass all winter and yellow / brown grass all summer. It’s the opposite of the Midwest where I grew up, but I don’t mind because I have always known half a year of brown and half a year of green. Year round green is still strange to me!

  10. The flowers tip isn’t the only bad one. The towel thing also make me laugh. No suggestion for air drying or clotheslines, the suggestion get waffle towels. People aren’t going to get waffle towels.

    My guess, Sid was poorly quoted. Afterall, every half decent gardener knows native perennials and bushes need less water than the water sucking annuals. If only they weren’t so colorful and beguiling.

Comments are closed.