Seeing is believing

What made you so intent on waterwise gardening? Asked that this week, I replied that our water district was first to ration in California and I feared our 55% mandatory cut would doom our huge new landscaping investment. And so this adventure began.

The next question was why, besides to preserve resources for the next generation, would a gardener choose to cut consumption? I answered that it seems counterintuitive but it makes gardens better. Proof positive is the photos below and on the right of plantings a few months to 3 years old with so little irrigation amid 4 years of drought. That’s waterwise gardening in practice.

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We purchased our 1.7-acre property in 2011. Sloping south on average 1′ down for every 4′ in distance, owners in the 1950s terraced it to create three horizontal planes, one for a house and two for lawn. An owner in the 1990s gardened, but since then landscaping became derelict in spite of exorbitant water bills.

In 2012 and 2013, guided by local experts, we redid all plantings with climate-appropriate selections and irrigation. We nurtured mature live oaks, maintained 10,000 square feet of pre-existing lawn, and kept ravines along property lines natural.

Then came 2014’s rationing and our sustainability metamorphosis. We re-engineered all irrigation and maintenance to manage every drop of water. Out went 9,100 square feet of lawn, replaced by unthirsty plants with flagstone and gravel hardscape. The last conversions in 2015 were the lower level’s knot garden and two small sections by the house. Tuning of all areas and practices continues in 2016.

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Even though I’ve long been an avid gardener, the challenge of learning how to best manage consumption is daunting. I found that doing it well encompasses design practices, plant choices, irrigation, maintenance, and more. And much like a garden, it is never done. To answer the interviewer’s last question, the reason for this blog is to share lessons learned and encourage others on this journey to sustainable landscaping.

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