The Beauty of Water Wisdom

It’s nearing the end of February and we’re still waiting for winter. Day after day (since before Christmas) we’ve had warm, sunny days–and very little rain. No one is talking drought yet, but you can’t help but wonder if we will have to pay for this perfect weather.
Maybe the skies will open up in the next month or so, but if not, there are ways to prepare ourselves. A great source of inspiration is our city’s “Water Wise Garden,” located directly in front of the Laguna Beach Water District in the heart of our downtown.
It’s located at the busy corner of Forest Avenue and Third Street. I hate to admit that after driving past this garden for the last 8 years since it was established, I have never wandered it’s charming paths, made of terracotta tiles and decomposed granite.
What better day than today? The long, narrow garden is packed with everything from wild roses, lavenders and sages to pomegranate, palm, strawberry and guava trees. I’m proud of our little city for sponsoring this garden, which includes small plaques describing the various shrubs, trees and water-wise flowers–such as these Kangaroo Paws.


Many are California natives, but there also is a mix of low-water plants from Mexico, Australia and New Zealand, perennials, succulents, exotics and other plants that are “sustainable” in our Mediterranean-like climate. The aloes were going off.
See the ladybug?
A relatively large stand of the succulent “fire sticks.”
The garden is watered by a “smart timer,” so it uses as little as possible to keep the plants thriving. And the hanging succulents are carefully hand-watered.
They have several types of camellias, which are like flower candy to me.
I can’t imagine they don’t enjoy a lot of water,
 but they must have other sustainable qualities I don’t know about. Maybe they just get away with it because of their good looks.

One thing that makes this garden so lovely is the backdrop of the Mediterranean Revival architectural style of the water district offices, built in 1927. (That’s ancient history for us here in Southern California.)

These tropical Bird of Paradise plants are so common that I almost take their striking beauty for granted.
The garden features several fountains, benches and a koi pond. It even has a small patch of artificial lawn.  (These guys are serious about water conservation!)
Beside featuring planting that are sustainable, the city also wanted to showcase a garden that is “fire safe.” We are pretty sensitive here to anything easily ignitable, since a massive firestorm destroyed 366 homes on Oct. 27, 1993. I suspect giant sycamores, like the one that towers above this garden, still make our local fire fighters shudder.
It has both plants that thrive in the shade, as well as in full sun, such as this Blue Hibiscus.
The garden is a lovely refuge, with several benches and the sound of running water. You can secretly watch all the tourists, too.
These succulents reminded me of a mini-prehistoric forest.
What I realized at this garden was that conserving water does not need to mean limitation.
In fact, it seems to be quite liberating here.
Next time you are in Laguna Beach, take a few minutes to enjoy this sweet oasis in the middle of the downtown bustle.
Here are some helpful books on how to get water wise
(Click on link or image to buy)

Waterwise Plants for Sustainable Gardens: 200 Drought-Tolerant Choices for all Climates

Tomorrow’s Garden: Design and Inspiration for a New Age of Sustainable Gardening

Beautiful No-Mow Yards: 50 Amazing Lawn Alternatives

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