An April 1 executive from Governor Brown order mandates a 25% cutback in water used for gardens, and according to my Facebook friend Teresa Doss: “In the 24 hours since this announcement, I’ve noticed that all the FB comments complaining that 25% isn’t enough, are coming from people who don’t live in California.”
I am on record as officially opposing water waste. I am on the Lawn Reform Coalition; own and operate summer-dry.com, a web photo resource to illustrate appropriate garden plantings; co-authored The American Meadow Garden; participate on the Advisory Committee of the Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Garden Coalition; and actively write and speak on the use of California native plants to beautify gardens.
I have spent the better part of my career trying to change the aesthetic of what we expect to see in a garden photograph and think I am qualified to speak for sustainable, climate appropriate gardening.
Gardens are essential, period. No garden is sustainable without water – but no culture is sustainable without gardens. When a conversation turns to sustainability we must factor in the water that must be stored for societies to survive. It is a given that we sustain ourselves with delivered water.
Gardens are oases of breathing earth that make living in the urban jungle possible. They need water. Sure, there are succulent gardens and native plants that can survive without any supplemental water, but these are usually not inviting enclaves of garden making artistry. We, as a culture, need gardens to sooth the soul, to provide urban habitat for birds and bees, for the microbes that keep the earth alive. We need to allow for garden water.
I won’t go into the advisability of millions of people choosing to live in deserts. It’s a fact. I won’t rant about agriculture using 80% of our water – or farmers who are not mandated to cut back or to plant crops that might benefit Californians. I have farm clients.
What I DO want to argue for, is water for gardens. The new rules do not require us to rip out every plant. I hope well meaning homeowners will not be duped into lawn replacement schemes that instill insipid landscaping with plastic mulch and mounds of colored rock. I hope there is some sanity in applying the new rules. Do gardeners in Eureka, where reservoirs are full, have to cut back as much as the Orange County country clubs ?
Water IS scarce and everybody DOES need to conserve, but when we argue about who gets the limited water we do have, I want to be an advocate for gardeners. Others will advocate for farmers or the fish, for groundwater conservation or for dam building. Someone needs to speak up for gardeners.