Plan a drought-friendly garden at the low-water landscape expo


by Richard Haskell, Sustainable Claremont DRIP


Contemplating your monthly water bill? Is it bigger than your former bill? Want to eliminate your lawn, but by all means keep your trees? Or do you simply want to do the right thing in the 21st century in southern California and install a beautiful sustainable garden? If you answered yes to these questions, Sustainable Claremont DRIP (Drought Resistant Irrigation Program) would like to help.

DRIP will host a “Low-Water Landscape Expo” on Sunday, June 14 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sustainability Resource Center at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Just check in at the kiosk (admission is free) and ask for directions.

A large array of landscape service providers will be on-hand to consult with interested residents: sustainable landscape architects, designers, contractors, irrigation experts and maintenance specialists. There will also be short 10-minute presentations by local experts on a wide variety of topics including site evaluation with an eye to rain catchment, garden design, plant selection and grouping, turf removal and the associated rebate, soil building and grading, planting and the installation of efficient irrigation systems and controllers. Speakers will remain after their talks for at least 20 minutes to answer questions from residents. It’s a family-friendly party with a food truck, live music and kids’ activities.

How much water can you expect to save as you transition to a sustainable landscape? Great question, and some famous experiments have been performed to answer it. My favorite is the side-by-side comparison of two homes on the Santa Monica College campus. One home was re-landscaped sustainably with native plants and shrubs and drip irrigation, while the other was re-landscaped with a traditional lawn and east coast plants and shrubs and spray irrigation. Complete records were kept for several years of water use, maintenance hours required and green waste generated while keeping both homes looking good.

The results of the experiment? The sustainable landscape used less than one-fifth of the water required for the traditional landscape. Moreover, the sustainable landscape required less than one-third the number of hours of maintenance and generated less than half of the yard waste associated with the traditional landscape. Let’s think for a moment about what it means to save four-fifths of the water used for irrigating a traditional landscape. Roughly two-thirds of the water used in a typical Claremont home goes to landscape irrigation. That means that a sustainable landscape will save four-fifths of two-thirds of the water used in a typical home. This equates to a reduction in total water use of more than 50 percent. Wow, maybe our mandated goal of a 32 percent reduction in city water use is achievable after all!

How do you get started? As you consult with professional service providers, it will help to have a sense of the basic steps involved in re-landscaping:

Site evaluation:?measure roughly the area you would like to re-landscape. Note the sun and shade, as well as rainspouts and contours of the land that will determine the flow of rainwater that you would like to capture.

Create a watershed-friendly design for your new landscape: Architects, designers and contractors can help you guide rainwater to bioswales to prevent runoff.

Garden design, plant selection and placement: architects and designers can help you with groupings of plants, taking into account their water needs and relative size. This is the fun part where you begin to envision a beautiful garden.

Turf-removal (if necessary), soil-building and grading:?Contractors can be extremely helpful with these labor-intensive tasks.

Planting and installation of an irrigation system and controller: Here’s where irrigation experts can help establish and maintain your new garden. And they can ensure that your trees receive appropriate irrigation in the new landscape.

Maintenance of the new garden:?Maintenance specialists can help you nurture your new native plants through the first couple of years, after which they will need very little water.

Happy landscaping, and see you at the expo!!


Demystifying Sustainability is a project of Sustainable Claremont ( Follow them on Facebook at and on Twitter #GreenClaremont. Consider becoming a member.


Demystifying sustainability


Submit a Comment

Share This