Friday, January 29, 2010

Save the Rain!

With today's water shortages and the continuing development of Southern California everyone is looking for ways to save water whenever and wherever possible. Rain barrels and other water catchment systems are a wonderful way to save and re-use rainwater in the garden as well as reduce runoff pollution from your property!

Do an internet search on 'rain barrels' and you will likely come up with a vast array of recycled blue or grey plastic barrels. Great for saving water but not so visually appealing that you would want to incorporate them as part of your landscape...

The good news is that if you dig a little deeper and use your imagination there are countless options for rain barrels that are not only functional but artistic as well! For those who want to get even more creative you can make your own rain barrel out of ceramic pottery, an old wine barrel, or even an old oil barrel. All you need is a drill, a brass hose spigot and a few other materials and your container can be transformed into a unique and useful work of art.

Check out some of these great sites for ideas and practical info on buying or creating your own rain barrel or water catchment system: a design group specializing in Greywater and Environmental Design
This company in Oregon creates beautiful rain barrels from recycled whiskey and wine barrels
The Rainwater Harvesting Community

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lawns aren't good for the environment? Who knew?

Well, I didn't really intend to go on and on about my anti-lawn crusade but this is rather interesting:

(Thanks to Dave Varner of the CNPSSD for sharing)

Grass for city parks may add to greenhouse-gas emissions

Creating urban parks might seem like an effective way to sequester more carbon. But maintaining the turfgrass for these green spaces can actually release more greenhouse gases than the grass absorbs, researchers say.

Based on a study of four parks in Irvine, California, the team determined that athletic fields did not sequester organic carbon, probably because they underwent frequent tilling and sod replacement. Fertilization also caused emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas nitrous oxide, estimated at 0.1 to 0.3 grams of nitrogen per square meter annually.

The study, in press at Geophysical Research Letters, notes that the parks’ lawns did store organic carbon. But this benefit was outweighed by carbon dioxide emissions from irrigation, fertilizer production, and fuel for tasks such as mowing and leaf-blowing. In short, these green expanses seem to be contributing to global warming – not counteracting it. – Roberta Kwok

Source: Townsend-Small, A., & Czimczik, C. (2010). Carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions in urban turf Geophysical Research Letters DOI: 10.1029/2009GL041675

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Ending our Love Affair with Lawns

The lush green lawn has been a symbol of prosperityfor as long as any of us can remember. It harkens back to old wealthy estates of the East Coast and Europe with acres of rolling green turf, great for polo, croquet, and ladies laying around on blankets in sun dresses and wide brimmed hats while the men take the boat for a row in the lake.

All of this is lovely, or would be if we lived in Connecticut. The reality though is that our climate is slightly (hint of sarcasm there) less lawn friendly . Recently, though, the misconception that Southern California is some sort of semi-tropical paradise is finally meeting the reality of our water shortages and how shall we say this ... 'the honeymoon is over'?

All over the Southwest lawns are being pulled up in favor of more drought tolerant and less maintenance intensive landscapes and the results are impressive:
  • Habitat Gardens full of flowering shrubs are bringing birds, butterflies, and lizards back into our gardens.

  • Rain Gardens (so called because they are designed to either store all rainwater or allow it to permeate the soil) are preventing thousands of gallons of polluted runoff from entering our watersheds each year.

  • Native Gardens are restoring habitat destroyed by development.

All of these gardens not only use up to 70% less water than lawns but require almost no fertilizers and other chemicals and pesticides to thrive in our hot, dry climate and, to top it all off, any of these gardens can be designed in a multitude of garden styles from Modern to Asian, Desert to Mediterranean.

So, are you ready to end your love affair with your lawn?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Shopping for Garden Style with Ideabooks and Blogs

One of the first things I ask a client during a design consultation is if they have an idea of what garden style they would like for their new landscape. I will often encourage clients to save magazine clippings or other photos of gardens and plants that they like so that I can get a better idea of their tastes and so design a garden that reflects their personal style as much as the style of the home and surrounding environment.

Well, carrying around a multitude of books, magazine clippings, and portfolios can be burdensome and requires the client to make on the spot decisions with only a few resources. Now, with the wide array of design blogs and other sites on the internet, photosharing and ideabooks can make the design process that much easier.

One of my new favorite design sites (for interior as well as exterior design ideas) is Houzz , a fantastic design site where designers have uploaded thousands of photos of design ideas all organized into style and space.

But what makes Houzz rise even further above the typical design site is the ability to create your own ideabook, allowing anyone to save and share ideas that they like! A fantastic way for clients to shop for the garden themes, styles, and artistic elements that they love!

Check out my ideabook at
then create your own to save and share your ideas!