The stars of this show aren’t quite household names yet. But, if you go on the Theodore Payne Garden Tour this weekend, you just might come home lauding the Pacific Coast Iris, the California Poppy, the many varieties of Ceonathus, and the Bush Anemone. http://www.theodorepayne.org/Tour/
The tour showcases fifty regional gardens featuring native plants and water conservation. Two of the fifty gardens on the tour, the Williams and the Zinner gardens, are in Santa Monica. The plants are showing off for spring and docents are there to answer all your questions.
The Williams, who are retired scientists, are passionate about their grandchildren, travelling and gardening. They bought a house on 23rd Street with a front lawn and an overgrown back garden. Gone along with the maintenance and the water bills, are the lawn and thirsty plants. The natives that have taken their place are hardier and easier to care for.
Filling the front yard is a scent created by the mingling of flowers. Two rock doves sit like old friends on the garden bench and greet me. The front entry is green, welcoming and water conserving. The back is exuberant with ceonathus, irises, and poppies, all in bloom. Rocks and a re-circulating water pond bring a fresh coolness to the garden. It’s easy to imagine the games their grandchildren could play in such a yard.
The Zinners moved to their house on 21st Place with the intent to make their garden an environmental showcase and they succeed. The Yankee Point Ceonathus, at this time of year in full bloom and making people, birds and bees happy, sets the tone for a garden with gracious outdoor eating and seating areas, and play areas for their son.
Next to the Ceonathus is a rocky dry creek bed, designed to collect and filter roof and garden storm water. As storm water run off is now the main polluter of the Santa Monica Bay, allowing the storm water to infiltrate on site is the number one way to protect the Bay.
Lisa Novick, Theodore Payne Staff Member, teaches, a Native plants save water and save insects and animals. Only 10 percent of all insect species can eat non-native vegetation and insects are an essential part of the food chain. Many land animals are dependent on the work of the insects. All plants may be green, but they are not all equal. Any drought tolerant plant is beneficial in Southern California, but native plants conserve water and provide habitat that non-native plants can’t.”
Garden/garden, 1718 Pearl Street, is a demonstration project sponsored by the City of Santa Monica and the DWP. There you can see two, side-by-side, gardens comparing the use of native and non-native plants, designed to show the water conservation, low maintenance, and habitat benefits of the native garden. Their web site has good information on sustainable plants. www.smgov.net/Departments/OSE/Categories/Landscape/Demonstration_Gardens.aspx.
More information is available through the City Office of Sustainability. There is even a registry in the City that matches people who want to garden with people who need help in their gardens! Go to ‘garden sharing’. www.communitygardens.smgov.net.
I wish you the joys of the spring garden, the virtues of providing habitat, the benefits of conserving water. To that list I’d like to add one more thought. Southern California is often seen as an impermanent stage set. Visit one of the well-designed native gardens and I think you will find there a sense of permanence. What Say You?
Mirror Contributing Writeropinion@smmirror.com