A garden conversion project in Los Angeles

Sierra Club homeonwner - before

“Before” garden, courtesy of Sierra Club Angeles Chapter website

Some homeowners in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles decided to convert their lawn into a more water-wise garden recently. They then published the narrative of the project, along with photos and analysis at the Sierra Club’s online website. The project is a classic before and after and they discuss the sots of doing the job, the turf rebate incentive that drew them to making the commitment and finding a designer.

The before and after photos were, apparently, the ones they sent to DWP in order to complete the paperwork for receiving their rebate, so the “after” picture” isn’t a full-grown, lush garden yet. But they did get the job done!

What intrigued me most was their set of gardening points:

•    We are working with our gardener to transition to the care of native plants rather than a lawn. There are legions of gardeners throughout Southern California who make their living cutting grass. They need help to transition to this new form of yard care. This help could come from such agencies as immigrants’ rights groups, day labor site sponsors, and city governments.
•    The retail home improvement stores give very little space to California natives and do not label their plants as such. This makes it very difficult for the average homeowner to find native plants and to get the advice they need. This needs to change.
•    Those companies who are converting lawns to a drought tolerant landscape need incentives, education, and encouragement to plant natives only.
•    The water utilities should provide a list of contractors who are approved to apply for the rebates in the homeowner’s stead and who also are committed to planting California native plants. This is essential for the large group of homeowners, like us, who are not likely to do such a project on their own.
•    City government should make it a priority to partner with community based organizations and the private sector to establish retail native plant nurseries throughout Los Angeles. This could be done in conjunction with groups such as North East Trees, TreePeople, and the Conservation Corps. Many jobs could be provided and it would be easier for homeowners and contractors to purchase native plants if there were more such nurseries available.

Sierra Club owner AFTER

“After” garden, courtesy of Sierra Club Angeles Chapter website

Their gardening points sound familiar, don’t they? And this is what the CNPS Horticulture Program is working to change throughout the state and Baja. Please continue to support our efforts to spread the word about the efficacy of native plant gardening!

Three Dollars a Square Foot

West Basin

Another water agency has upped the ante on turf removal. The West Basin Municipal Water District Turf Removal Rebates are now raised to $3 Per Square Foot. West Basin provides drinking and recycled water in southwest Los Angeles County – Culver City, Inglewood, El Segundo, Rancho Palos Verdes, Palos Verdes Estates, Manhattan Beach.

This is thanks to a grant from the California Department of Water Resources and funding from the Metropolitan Water District. This limited time offer allows West Basin residents to replace their high water use lawns with efficient California Friendly plants and landscapes. This incentive will help in mitigating the impacts of this and future droughts.

To find out more on how to qualify visit: www.socalwatersmart.com or call 888.376.3314.

These programs require, generally, an inspection before you tear out the turf, and most do not allow you to replace turf with artificial fur of just gravel or hardscape like cement. They do not generally require that the plants be native, but we know natives rate the best solution for water savings, pollution reduction, habitat value and our sense of heritage.

If you live in this area and go for the rebate, please let us know how it goes and share “Before and After” photos with us.



See pix of Pete Veilleux gardens in Santa Cruz Sentinel article


Pete Veilleux has three garden photos accompanying this article about “losing the lawn” – every day we see more attention being paid to this – so if you spot an item in your local paper. please let us know so that we can share.

There are some nice tips for removing turf and a short list of easily available summer blooming natives. Good for those who are just getting started on the native gardening path.




Water/Energy Nexus


photo courtesy LA Times

As part of our daily life, water and energy are getting a lot of attention as we come to realize their intertwined relationships. The Los Angeles Times just printed an article, “Water conservation’s other benefit: its a power saver,” that highlights some of the issues. Native plant gardening will not reap all the benefits of lower water use. For example, some benefit will come from people taking fewer or shorter showers with cooler water. But it hits home in the use of water for landscaping. Moving water around the state is one of the primary electrical expenditures in California.

When we decrease the amount of water that we use on landscapes, it is like getting a free power plant. Direct, no cost! So, let’s continue to encourage all who we see that this is a great alternative in so many ways. And, some day soon, it will be rare to see a photo of grass being watered in this state.

“Behavioral Water Efficiency”


Los Angeles Times article photo credit.

Well, that’s the new term: “Behavioral water efficiency.” Water districts are experimenting with ways to allow consumers to compare their water use to their neighbors’ levels. This tends to create more efficient behavior. And, since about half our water goes into our gardens, this is of interest to CNPS in implementing our outreach programs – getting more people interested in natives for a variety of reasons. Conservation of our precious heritage is joined by the everyday economics of running a household.

Do you think these sorts of programs make long-term behavioral change? I’d love to know your views, and any examples from your own patterns of use – not just water, but how you have modified and adapted your actions and activities in other ways that can help us to see how to affect change.

Native plants and Rainwater harvesting make the news in Loomis

Screen Shot 2014-02-28 at 5.53.16 AM

Following up on our media coverage bubble, this news clip is about Janet Thew’s native plant garden in Loomis. She added a 1,000 gallon rainwater harvesting system.

You can barely see the plants in her garden, which is too bad, but the narrative starts off with the message that this is native, as opposed to their lumping it into the “drought-tolerant” category.