Posts tagged garden

I find the allure of the Luxembourg Gardens is its incredible beauty that the Parisian people share and use as a community. I love the Garden’s elegance revealed in the sum of its details: long rows of large, mature Horse Chestnut Trees with high, shady canopies overhead; large expanses of decomposed granite in a gold color or expanses of green turf (this is NOT Southern California of course) on the ground plane; and the multitude of iconic mobile chairs that are beautiful and comfortable. There are simple, yet stunning water fountains that are both sculptural and areas of play.

Boats at Luxembourg gardens

The Garden’s large expanses allow visitors to enjoy their park as they like, and this openness provides a framework for various activities. Young people dash around large tree trunks, while children sail toy sailboats in the large fountain during the summer. Groups and couples can gather chairs together to enjoy the park and socialize, while lone visitors are left to read a book or enjoy the sunshine in solitude. There are areas of deep shade, full sun, and every sun exposure in between to enjoy.

Details add to the beauty: the very low foot rest that encircles the lawn areas; the wood box containers for the trees; and the lovely edges of the water fountains as the water spills off into the basin below.

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We may not be able to build high maintenance, high water use public spaces such as those found within the Jardin du Luxembourg here in Southern California, but the beauty of its design can certainly inspire our work as designers, even on the smallest scale.

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“Even though there is a lot going on, there’s this incredible sense of calmness – the garden never excludes the landscape, it’s always welcoming.”

Filmmaker Howard Sooley has been visiting author Anna Pavord’s residence, Sunnyside Farm, in the Southwest English countryside for a decade, noting how the author’s garden gently transitions into the surrounding natural landscape to the effect of “a series of doors leading you from one room to the next with signs telling you to drink the potion.”

Pavord, the author of The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad, a horticultural love affair with the wild flower, created her garden dictated by the rhythms and forms of foliage, flowers, and ferns to shape what she believes is a person’s best defense against the worst of the outside world – the garden as an idealized landscape of the “world that we wished we lived in”. She invited Sooley to film her in this space for NOWNESS and their excellent Great Garden series.

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7 ways to skip a shower: The premise behind the “campaign” is a plea for pledgers to skip 26 showers for every 4-ounce hamburger consumed in order to offset the vast amounts of water used when turning cattle into food. And while the idea of skipping 26 showers per burger may seem unrealistic, the figures are real.

How Much Rain Would End the Drought?: What’s the best way to get people to stop watering their lawns? Why aren’t we investing in desalination? Will we ever get used to the idea of drinking our own (recycled) pee? And most importantly, when will this drought be over?

The New Creativity: Man and Machines Curated by Sylvia Lavin with the UCLA Curatorial Project
From the first house R.M. Schindler designed using a drafting machine to contemporary architects who design digital drawing devices instead of houses, The New Creativity: Man and Machines examines creative practices in relation to the social and technical complexes that support and constrain them.

Once illegal, watering the garden with drainage from the washer or shower is gaining favor: Costanzo is among millions of Californians who, amid the state’s fourth punishing year of drought, are increasingly turning to gray water – from the clothes washer, shower or bathroom sink — to keep trees and other plants hydrated.

California’s Drought Changes Habits in the Kitchen: Across California, home cooks and restaurant chefs are adjusting to a new reality in kitchens where water once flowed freely over sinks full of vegetables, and no one thought twice about firing up a big pot of water for pasta.

Aspirations and admiration of a garden as beautiful as this one from Lou Murray has motivated me to search for supplemental water sources for my garden.

Aspirations and admiration of a garden as beautiful as this one from Lou Murray has motivated me to search for supplemental water sources for my garden.


With California residents experiencing a record breaking dry season, many landscapes are feeling parched, while garden caretakers are feeling pressure to conserve water. When Los Angeles receives any rain, I feel a sense of relief for my small backyard garden (although this much needed rainfall seems to come and go all too quickly), but realize we can’t rely upon rain alone for our gardens. So I’ve been trying to find ways to efficiently save water during these drought years and take care of my garden, and my research has brought me to the conclusion rain barrels are an essential rainfall collection solution.

Gardening With Soul's DIY rain barrel project.

Gardening With Soul‘s DIY rain barrel project.

Collecting rain using catch barrels and utilizing the water for garden irrigation is a water wise strategy, and the practice is even supported by many city organizations. For instance, the City of Los Angeles offers great incentives for residents who choose to install rain barrels through their “Keep Los Angeles Beautiful” program, periodically offering rebates which bring down the cost of rain barrels to the subsidized price of “free”.

While readymade rain barrel catchment systems are occasionally available for free or for sale online, anyone can build their own rain barrel system quite easily following these steps using parts available at local hardware stores or big box home improvement retailers:

Step 1: Gather required parts and materials (all equipment is available at most home improvement stores)

  • Large catchment basin of your choice; a plastic garbage can or wooden barrel work equally well
  • Mesh fabric to keep debris out of basin
  • Plumber’s teflon tape
  • Washer and nut fitting for spigot
  • Drill
  • Cutting tool

Step 2: Determine the best placement for your rain barrel
Locate an area in which you a redirect the rainfall from your gutter into your container and safely situate a large container without the worry of it tipping over (remember, water is very heavy, so a stable base is mandatory). If the ground isn’t stable, you might need to lay a foundation or build a raised platform.

Step 3: Cutting the inlet and outlet for your rainfall
With the gutter source directed toward your container, cut an opening at top of the basin and secure a fabric mesh over it. This mesh will keep debris out of the basin. Afterward, drill and cut a hole on the bottom of the basin, matching the opening to the ring size of your spigot.

Step 4: Installing the spigot
Attach the spigot into the drilled and cut hole and secure it into place with a washer and nut.

Step 5: Start collecting
Now the hard work is done! Position the barrel directly under the gutter downspout. The next time it rains you’ll enjoy the rainfall even more knowing the water you’ve collected in helping conserve water and benefitting your garden!

Hyundai HeadquartersPeople often ask whether there is a grass that can replace their traditional water-loving lawns. The challenge is most residents want to continue to see the color green. However, one should keep in mind there isn’t a magic plant that will duplicate the rich green, all-American fescue lawn that many of us have grown accustomed to in front yards and reduce water use significantly. In order to get a low water grass we must begin to rethink the garden and imagine our home’s landscape with a more naturalistic meadow appearance. Here is a trio of California Native grass options that require less water:

The Buffalo Grass Blog documented 8 weeks of growing UC Verde Buffalo Grass in their yard.

The Buffalo Grass Blog documented 8 weeks of growing UC Verde Buffalo Grass in their yard.

UC Verde Buffalo Grass (Buffalo Grass)
I recently used this grass at the Hyundai Headquarters in Fountain Valley, California as a lawn substitute. I think it’s a great options for the front yard. This grass uses about 75% less water than the traditional grass and was developed by researchers at UC Davis and UC Riverside specifically for the California climate. Buffalo Grass is typically sold small plugs and not by seed. Plant the plugs at 8″ to 10″ on center and they will spread by stolons. You should have a full coverage within a 4-6 months if you plant the plugs in the spring.

Dog owners will be pleased to know this variety of grass not only holds up to foot traffic, but is also non-toxic for grass chewing hounds, while also being beneficial for improving allergies because this grass does not produce seeds. UC Verde Buffalo Grass is even available online for direct delivery to make establishing a new lawn easier.

Landscape designer Julie Orr used Agrostis Palens to  beautiful effect, noting Native Bentgrass does well in full sun and creates a more flowing, meadow-like lawn.

Landscape designer Julie Orr used Agrostis Palens to beautiful effect, noting Native Bentgrass does well in full sun and does a good job of looking like a traditional lawn.

Agrostis Palens (Native Bentgrass)
One of my favorite meadow grasses. Although this grass can be occasionally mowed, be aware this grass wants to be a meadow. If you want a more immediate cover use this species. It can be seeded any time (although prefers the fall season), germinating within a few weeks. It normally goes dormant during the summer, but can be kept somewhat green with occasional water during the hot months.

Carex Praegracilis (California Field Sedge)
This is a great option if you live near the coast. This grass uses about 25% less water, but once established it will appear similar to your old lawn. I’ve seen a few installations in the Santa Barbara area and California Field Sedge will tolerate some foot traffic as well as occasional mowing. Although it can be seeded, it is best to plant this grass with containers. This grass will spread by rhizomes.