We Attend The UCCE & IRWD Demonstration Landscape Open House
We attended the University of California Cooperative Extension and Irvine Ranch Water District's Demonstration Landscape Open House And Vendor Faire on Saturday. Quite a mouthful of a name, but it was a good event.
There were vendors, a plant sale, samples of fruit grown by the test station, seminars, and lots of people on hand to explain and engage the public on water saving and run off prevention. Visitors received leaflets and pamphlets, free seed packets, free water-saving sprinkler heads, and a bottle of drinking water, much needed as it became increasingly hot.
Drought tolerant meets white picket:
The UC facility has various test plantings of Avocados, citrus, strawberries and other plants:
However, the focus of Saturday's event were the three test gardens of identical size, built so as to simulate suburban conditions--three small house-like structures next to each other, surrounded by sidewalks, fences, and the like. Each lot had extensive monitoring devices to determine water use and water run off. The structures had barrels attached to downspouts to collect rain water, catch basins and other devices to collect run off and prevent it from flowing to the ocean and a variety of irrigation methods.
Test lot "A" was a conventional planting scheme consisting of common and popular plants that included fescue turf grass, River Birch trees, 'Little Gem' Magnolias, roses ('Iceberg', of course!), Star Jasmine (Tracheospermum jasmanoides) as ground cover, boxwood, an Escallonia hedge, and tropical Hibiscus--all very commonly seen in this area.
"A"'s luxurious fescue, all the way to the concrete:
The grassy hellstrip with a 'Little Gem' Magnolia:
And side-yard plantings. They had had to put up fencing to keep the rabbits away from some of the water-fat plants:
Test lot "B" was an irrigation-reduced plan with some kind of hybrid possibly bermuda(?) grass called 'Seascape' in the front yard, and a UC Verde buffalo grass lawn in the back yard. Plants included more water thrifty selections than "A". There was Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass), Chamelaucium (Geraldon Wax Flower), Lavenders, and Salvias.
"B" has a 'Seascape' lawn with plantings that included lavenders and Echeverias:
"B"s lawn size was reduced by framing it with a border of yellow Lantana. Foundation planting of Chamelaucium and rain barrel against the "house". Smaller groundcover Bougainvillea along the path opposite the Chamelaucium. Trees include Arbutus 'Marina' and a Jacaranda in the back yard:
A beautiful young 'Marina' Arbutus. This tree can easily get 50 feet (15 M)
tall, so place it with mature size in mind and plan carefully.
The beautiful bark of beautiful 'Marina' Arbutus. It gets even better with age. This tree also produces clusters of bell-shaped white flowers very attractive to bees and hummingbirds. But it gets 50 feet tall and wide, so don't plant it 3 feet (1 M) from the foundation of your house, okay?
Test lot "C" was an ultra water-thrifty scheme comprised of many California native plants (Manzanita, Oak, Ceonothus, Saliva clevelandii, and the like). The "lawn" was replaced by a partial meadow of Carex divulsa (aka C. tumulicola) surrounding a small seating area under a native Sycamore.
Lot "C" with its Carex meadowette and sitting-area Sycamore. Toyon on the left:
Have you noticed most no-lawn front yard solutions seem to always include a seating area? A seating area uses up space without costing a lot: pavers, a little DG, and the homeowner's spare garden furniture--so, why does there never seem to be a seating area to admire a lawn? The lawn of lot "A" was so worth gawking at.
After admiring the considerable beauty of "B" and "C", the lavish, oxalis-free, dog-pee-burn-free, water-fat Fescue lawn of "A" was a luxurious shock--I wanted to roll around on that fat, rich, luxurious deep green carpet, to invite cool moisture to soak into my skin and into my soul on that hot dry California day. How precious a thing lawn seems when you don't see it all the time!
"B"s Buffalo grass lawn also beckoned, a thick fuzzy rug for toes to explore. It lacked that deep gleaming green so unnatural to Southern California (except in Ceonothus foliage), but it was dense and inviting.
Toe-inviting UC Verde Buffalo:
The Carex of "C" had to make do with looking beautiful but un-walkable.
California Fuchsia and Saliva beyond the Carex:
The hellstrip of "C" much different than grassy "A":
A beautiful Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica aka Frangula californica) shrub in the back yard of "C". The plants were without exception meticulously tended. Though water requirements were vastly different, maintenance was uniform perfection--surely real "test" gardens would look more lived-in and neglected and cat-explored and dog-beat-up and kid trampled?
The Toyon screen between "B" and "C". "C"'s Chilean Mesquite just visible, with "B"'s bougainvillea groundcover nearer:
Manzanita groundcover at "C", performing the same job thirstier Star Jasmine does at "A"
"C"'s back yard had two young Quercus agrifolia and the Chilean mesquite. Eventually this would be a very shady back yard, which the Carex meadow could handle.
Beloved was very taken with the Chilean mesquite (Prosopis chilensis). It had a beautiful bold structure graced with delicate foliage. One of the pleasures of the visit was seeing well-grown and perfectly maintained examples of native and drought-tolerant plants in a garden setting, not mature, but far more developed than in a 5 gallon nursery can.
"B"'s radiant Deer grass and Texas Ranger (Leucophyllum) as viewed from "A"'s grass, star jasmine, and boxwood:
In the meantime, the sun was getting higher and hotter:
One simple and interesting idea for channeling rain runoff into planting beds rather than into the gutter was displayed here. Simple, clever, effective:
There was more to see, but I was already getting hot and tired, and sought shade.
It quickly got too hot, and so we bailed. "Turn left by the dead Avocado to exit", advised one of the many friendly, helpful people managing human and vehicle traffic flow.
Beloved fondly remarked on this sign: "I remember these signs all over the place, everywhere!" A small remaining piece of Orange County's agricultural past still stuck to a chain-link fence.
We had a great time. They even gave us a super cool dohickey for adjusting sprinklers.
No, I didn't get any plants, because already I had all of the ones they had for sale (blush), except the 'Marina' Arbutus. I was slightly tempted, but I've now officially gardened long enough to know better than to buy a[n eventual] 50' tree without a place for it. The sprinkler adjusting dohickey was more than enough, and I have a place for that, on my key ring.