Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin” has new layers of meaning these days. Southern California is in the 4th year of a drought and this seriously influences how I, as a landscape designer, help my clients to reach their vision with responsible design options.The days of sprawling lawns and thirsty plants are over, at least for now, in Southern California and other parts of the country. There are substitutes to organic lawns. Many people have responded to the idea of artificial lawns with an immediate “no” as they thought of the early artificial turf that was introduced in the 1960’s. Over the years artificial turf has evolved and there are high-end brands that look very real. I have clients who welcomed using artificial turf for a variety of reasons. Here are a few:

  1. The obvious – no irrigation needed
  2. Good for high traffic use for kids and pets
  3. Garden furniture can sit right on the turf
  4. No sun required
  5. Rebates are available for removing lawns

This article is in no way pushing artificial turf – it is a suggestion if you desire what I call an ‘East Coast’ look. There is a drought tolerant lawn called Native Bentgrass. I recently used it and it is quite beautiful. It is more of a meadow look and can take light foot traffic. There are other plants that can be used for a lawn alternative. Although they look quite nice, some irrigation is required and they are not suitable for foot traffic. In the shrub borders, plants with low water needs can be arranged to achieve a particular garden style, even an ‘English Garden’ look. There are low water plants that are structured and referred to as “Architectural” that look great in the contemporary minimalist landscape. Using drought tolerant plants with efficient drip irrigation and adding mulch results in water conservation. This is what is meant by Xeriscaping and sustainable landscaping. By eliminating lawn and lawn substitutes you can reduce water usage and replace with functional entertaining spaces in the landscape – patios using stone or pavers set in sand, gravel, decomposed granite, pebbles and perhaps adding vegetable gardens with a dedicated drip irrigation line. Responsible aesthetic choices in design can be made by reinventing your environment.

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