Hot New Gardening Primer on How to Replace Your Lawn

Photo by John Evarts

A new gardening book is about to hit bookstores that can help you meet your courageous and laudable goal of replacing that water-guzzling lawn–taking you step by step to help you find a design plan, pick the best native plants and redefine curb appeal envy in your neighborhood.

“Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-Conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs”  was written by three of our state’s closest thing to celebrity gardeners, all of whom have been at the forefront of helping Californians kick their insatiable thirst for water.

Photo by Cachuma Press

Here’s an example of how you can replace a lawn with interesting paths, native flowers and ground coverings, and rocks to create a mini habitat that will support the local birds and bees we love so much. The  book includes models for creating succulent gardens, colorful ground covers they dub “tapestry gardens,” kitchen gardens, and meadows. 
 Photo by Saxon Holt

Here’s another example of how you can replace your water-hogging turf with native grasses (that’s a recycled conveyor belt used for the path).  The authors also help you find and identify the best plants from our indigenous flora, as well as countries with similar Mediterranean climates.
The three authors–Carol Bornstein, David Foss and Bart O’Brien–also wrote “California Native Plants for the Garden” way back in the mid-2000s–the current bible for anyone trying to stick to plants that belong here from way back when. Anyone can do it!  I replaced my small front lawn about two years ago, and I’m no great gardener. I wish I had had this book, though! Click to read post on how I killed my lawn.

Photo by Cachuma Press

Reimagining the California Lawn even helps you figure out what to do with trouble spots, such as those beds between the road and the sidewalk.
Here’s a quick peek at the three horticulturist authors:

Photo from The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden Web site

1. Carol Bornstein is the former director of horticulture of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, which emphasizes native plants, and she also designed the lovely meadow there.

Photo from the Santa Barbara  Botanic Garden

According to the garden’s Web site, “The Santa Barbara Botanic Garden is one of the premier native plant gardens in the country, showcasing over 1,000 different taxa of plants that grow naturally in California and the California Floristic Province. The Garden’s 78 acres encompass a variety of living displays as well as stands of natural coast live oak and riparian woodlands.”

Photo from the Native Sons Web site

2. David Foss is the guru of “dry gardening” in our state and helped found Native Sons Nursery in Arroyo Grande, a city on the central coast of California. 

According to their Web site: “Native Sons is a wholesale nursery firmly rooted in the heart of California’s mediterranean climatic core. We work to provide perennials, grasses and shrubs that flourish in a climate defined by moderate winter rainfall and warm dry summers. The cyclical shortage of water here asks its gardeners to plant with a sense of responsibility, an open mind, and an air of adventure. The plants we grow are selected in an effort to reinforce this philosophy.”

Photo from the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

3. The third author is Bart O’Brien, special projects director of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont in Southern California, a fifth-generation Californian who was named one of the 100 most influential people in the state by the L.A. Times in 2006.

Photo from the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Check out the review of this new book by L.A. Times gardening writer Emily Green on the paper’s Home and Garden blog, where I gathered most of the information about the book for this post. Green emphasizes that this book is “for Californians by Californians,” because it’s advice is so specific and locally focused. But for locals who are ready to rip out that water-wasting, fertilizer-sucking, time-consuming lawn, she says, “Within weeks of buying this book, a motivated beginner could have a plan, a plant list and a set of affordable, achievable goals.” Sounds like a worthwhile investment–on many levels–to me!  And I bet non-Californians could get some great ideas from this book as well!

The three authors will be lecturing throughout California in upcoming weeks, including a stop  on May 14 at our favorite native plant nursery, Tree of Life in San Juan Capistrano. (Click this to take a tour of this wonderful nursery in Orange County from a previous Laguna Dirt post.)

6 thoughts on “Hot New Gardening Primer on How to Replace Your Lawn

  1. This will be an interesting reference book (and post)Janine. In reality a traditional lawn is actually high maintenance, and there are so many options out there that are just as good, and with less maintenance needed.

  2. I am SO glad I found your blog. Laguna is my favorite place EVER, and just looking through your photos makes me SO homesick for it. You do not see lawns in the midwest like those crazy lush floral jungles in Laguna. Sigh.


  3. I like your blog!
    I have never been a fan of the suburban lawn and have been doing my best to get rid of my own. These books sound great. I hope that they will be influential in getting people to think of alternatives to boring green grass.
    P.S. I love the owls and colorful ribbons in your previous post.

  4. If the Palmetto grasses can cope up with the stress, it will be healthy and dense and will be able to resist disease. Sometime the disease may spread and it becomes out of any control. However, the disease resistant cultivars can be implemented to avoid future problems.

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