CA Native Mow-Free sod lawn

May 3rd, 2010

Native CA sod, "Native Mow-Free"

What are new plants I’m excited about now?  Well, they may not be sexy. But there is a revolution brewing over the water we waste on our lawns.  So when I saw the some of the newest CA native grass sods, at the sod growing fields out in the delta, I wanted to share the news. Farmer, grower, owner Ed Zuckerman, along with the great knowledgeable staff at Delta Bluegrass, hosted a tour recently to a group of designers, architects to view these innovative sods.  Born out of years of research and trials, and prompted by John Anderson of Hedgerow Farms and David Gilpin of Pacific Coast Seed, they’ve developed three main blends for urban landscapes.  I have to say, I was impressed! Lush green lawns that need only 50- 30% of the water required for traditional lawn– yes 30%!   In fact the test fields demonstrated they tend to do better with less water.  The Native Mow Free is a favorite, as an all-around good choice to replace traditional sod.  A blend of three fescues (rubra, idahoensis, and occidentalis) it grows to about 12-16″ high unmowed for a natural meadow look, or can be mowed every two weeks for a traditional lawn.   And it has good shade tolerance.  Another good thing about these native sods (besides using less water, fertilizer, maintenance pollution, and costs!) is their versatility.  You can let them grow longer, and add flowering daylilies or bulbs for a meadow look or cut them to 3″ for a manicured carpet.  They will stay green as long as irrigated, but if water mandates are cramping your style, you can even stop watering them in the summer– they will go dormant yellow, yes, but will green up again when watered.
CA native sods– a great guilt-free solution for our addiction to lawn.

How native plants can set you free

May 3rd, 2010

I have to admit to a bit of trepidation when a client says “I’d like to include natives in the garden”. Don’t get me wrong, I love native plants (I love all plants, truthfully).  But I worry, will they be happy in a tended garden?  These days of economic environmental, and world stability challenges give me enough consternation, so I don’t like to worry about my plant’s survival. As you may know, many CA natives, well-adapted to our dry summer Mediterranean climate, really don’t do well with summer watering or rich amended soils.  They become vulnerable to fungi and bacteria and die off when fussed over with well-intentions.
After a couple years, I revisited some plantings on an open hillside property.  As expected,  those that got too much irrigation, yellowed and died off, while a Fremontodendron californica ‘San Gabriel’ and Ceanothus ‘Kurt Zadnick’, out of range of the spray rotors and on on a slope with good drainage, burst forth with wonderful vitality and vibrant spring blossoms and foliage. Truly a beautiful sight to see!  And it dawned on me, these plants filled my spirit with the strength of their independence beyond human tending.  I had crossed a threshold as a designer, and contributed to a larger environment- vs. the artificial one of constant human hovering. Just give them what they like and leave them alone. They adapted wholly to the natural fluctuations of the environment and thrived. Now I like to plant natives, as I feel, maybe I too, could be set free.