April 7, 2015 by spielbee
I’ve had an incredible response to my post about those gravel fields passing for California-friendly gardens which are being installed everywhere. A lot of people started to question what they REALLY wanted their yards to look like…how they wanted them to function…and how those decisions would impact the natural world around them.
But I think there’s more to say on the subject. In fact, a lot to say and a lot for all of us to think about. This drought is our opportunity to make decisions about the future of Southern California landscaping. Like pioneers, we can create a vision for how our outdoor areas look and the way we commune with them. We can commit to stewarding our personal space and paying heed to the impact beyond the parkway.
I’m afraid that in our race to get rid of soul-sucking sod, we have begun to see our yards as a nuisance. As something to terminate. When rather, your yard is a part of your home. It’s a place to enjoy yourself and your friends and family. It is a reflection of you and it’s part of your investment.
Don’t resent your lawn. Embrace your property…even its challenges. It’s your piece of earth. Understand the implications of how you perceive it and what you pour on it. I’m afraid gravel is not an improvement over sod just because you don’t have to water it. There is another way.
Native and drought-tolerant plants surrounded in bark mulch or decomposed granite are beautiful and easy to maintain. There is an amazing diversity of plants, from agave to verbena, to delight every taste. And these plants don’t need chemicals to grow and they can restore a sense of balance and beauty to your environment.
The problem is we need to adjust our attitude about what we can expect from our landscaping. We can agree that liquid-lapping lawns are not the best in our increasingly arid environment, but we still want all the conveniences of that rectangular patch of mowable green weeds.
THIS is our biggest challenge in regards to the suburban response to the drought (we will go after big Ag and fracking next time). As homeowners, we have not yet adapted to the functional differences between our own personal golf course and a more adaptable native landscape.
Here are just a few of the things we expect from our landscaping:
Easy to walk on, ride bikes on, blow leaves off of and pick dog poop off of. No pests or bugs. Ok bees, but not near me. Plants that are always flowering, plants that don’t drop flowers, plants that don’t drop leaves.
Plants that are evergreen, perennial, have no maintenance and no problems.
Perfection in other words…if possible.
But it’s not possible.
It’s very hard to break an old mindset. Especially one that has been synonymous in our culture with prosperity and stability and wealth. We need a new set-point where our world is natural and spontaneous and unpredictable, where we aren’t expecting to see a vast green sterile carpet outside our windows.
That being said, with a native garden, you could see a lot. There can be paths to follow and new experiences to discover. Poppies from seed. Ladybugs. Praying Mantis. Butterflies. A yucca in bloom.
Native gardens connect you to the seasons. They inform. They communicate. They share. Our future isn’t just about compromise. Native landscapes are amazing and wonderful on their own merits.
Flowers and fragrance. Herbal and medicinal. Historical, native and non-invasive. They survive on little maintenance but thrive on love. This should be our future. Not a world that requires no effort whatsoever, but a world that we are happy to care for because the rewards are so great.
Today in Southern California, farmers cannot water their farms. We are losing the ability to grow food. These are reasons for real and urgent change. But what inspires me about this situation, the silver lining if you will, is that change is exactly what our outside world has been waiting for…for some time.
A return to something easier. More in line with what is easily sustained. This drought is just a symptom of the problem but luckily it has gotten the attention of our politicians and utiltities and they are on board with trying to work this out. We should embrace the opportunity to do something great and important.
It’s nothing personal with these ugly stone gardens. I just don’t think this is the great and important brass ring we were meant to grab. We can do better.
I don’t just have an aesthetic disagreement with these gravel lots. I object to them being subsidized by my tax dollars. This isn’t free landscaping. The company that installs the bulk of these gets the entire rebate from the DWP, circumventing the home owner but still payed for by the taxpayer dollar. And for what is honestly a very cheap and altogether California un-friendly landscape. Your tax money should be going to a positive, all-natural, earth-healthy and truly “California-friendly” landscape. Not to mention a beautiful, thoughtful one.
This is California’s birthright. Californians are known for embracing design, beauty, permaculture, harmony and innovation. This drought has been a slow train wreck. We knew it was coming. We smart Cali kids should be ON THIS. But the truth is there is still a lack of knowledge, innovation, products and services. This is a great opportunity for us to steer our state into some ground-breaking landscaping ideas. We can DIY our future and support our beautiful albeit thirsty natural universe. We can throwback to a more sustainable, instinctual view of that old carpet outside the window.
Let’s embrace the mess we are in. And let’s embrace mess. This is nature. It’s not always going to bend to our might. Let it be a bit wild. “Where man plans, nature will improvise” is the old saying and to accept that makes it a bit easier. Let some of your expectations go. See your yard with new eyes. The outside isn’t something static. This is LIFE. And life is messy.