What’s been interesting to observe already with the Adopt-a-Mediterranean Plant Project is how the water needs of the grasses are really mirroring what we learned with the grasses in the first irrigation-free landscape we ever did. Namely, the grasses seem to always need two waterings spaced about a week apart, and then perhaps a third a couple weeks later, and then they reach a point where they can comfortably be on their own. As their adaptation to drought lies primarily in their roots, and thus these waterings are helping the plants send the roots deep into the soil, we shouldn’t be surprised, but, well, this work is always surprising, as you see first-hand just how little water so many of these plants actually need, even in drier mediterranean climates.
When we say we do irrigation-free landscapes, the response we so often get is that that is impossible. Well, however cliched and trite, the adage “seeing is believing” never fails to ring true. We know irrigation-free is possible because we have done it, and we also see plants growing irrigation-free all around us every day. So that you too can see this reality in action, we’ve launched a new citizen-science-based project in which we give you a plant from a mediterranean climate region of the world and then you monitor its water needs over the course of the year. At the end of the year, we will have a gathering to share what we have learned. Additionally, and more importantly, participants will ultimately become their own irrigation-free experts, and we will be able to create a set of meaningful data on the water needs of plants from summer-dry climates. These data can then be applied to the creation of new irrigation-free landscapes across California and the country at large. To learn more, click HERE.
We will be speaking on our work on irrigation-free landscapes at the annual PG&E Water Conservation Showcase in San Francisco on March 21. Specifically, we will be co-leading an interactive workshop on water conservation in residential landscape design with fellow landscape designer Kelly Marshall and Outreach Coordinator for the California Native Plant Society Kristen Wernick. All are welcome to attend. Sign up here.
A short clip from RHS Chatsworth 2017 featuring the Garden for a Changing Climate, designed by Andy Clayden and Dr. Ross Cameron. It’s no longer business as usual for the plants in our landscapes, but this need not be a reason to lament. In fact, with challenges and limitations placed on creative work, that work almost invariably gets better. Happy viewing.
Notice how the trees are planted in the 17th-century Patio de Los Naranjos in Cordoba, Spain – in basins and connected by way of channels. No overhead emitters; no automatic sprinkler system. Just plants planted slightly sunken so that water can percolate straight down to the roots of the trees, drawing the roots down with it.
Many a landscape professional has looked on in horror when we have proposed or used this technique in our landscapes; and yet, here it is, time-worn and tested, the trees clearly thriving and growing well.
We need to start rethinking our planting practices and the notion that a landscape must have an irrigation system of emitters and lines and tubing in order to survive. The Patio de los Naranjos is yet more evidence of why this just isn’t so.