The Getty Center in Los Angeles has drained all its pools and the grass in front of the State Capitol building is Sacramento is turning brown.
As 33 percent of the state suffers “extreme drought conditions,” everyone in California is being asked to conserve water. To date, cooperation has been modest, but “if the dry weather persists, a front yard without green grass may become like a Prius in the driveway — a symbol of environmental consciousness,” writes Kurtis Alexander in the June 17 issue of San Francisco Gate.
Green grass is almost as American as apple pie, and we weren’t ready to give up the look of a perfectly manicured lawn when we remodeled our house in the San Francisco Bay area a couple of years ago. But we took a dramatic step that eased our conscience — and water bills: we installed fake grass.
Our backyard used to be a large, circular driveway that led to the garage and the decrepit “chauffeur’s” quarters. So we really didn’t have a functional backyard until we ripped out the driveway and put that space to use as a grass and pool area. Until the cement was pulled out, we didn’t realize how much space was there. We needed a lot of grass to fill the area. We used artificial turf, which is always perfectly manicured and lovely.
In the front yard, to make up for the fake turf, we put in a native California bent blade fescue. Fescue is a natural grass but is drought resistant. It doesn’t need to be mowed and, once established, needs much less water than traditional grass.
Our landscape designer was not happy about our decision. He said he prefers the look of fake grass. (Basically, he likes unsustainable landscaping, but that’s another story.) I won’t name the landscape designer here because he says he’s embarrassed by the fescue.
We also put in as many native plants and trees as possible. The exceptions were the magnolia trees we had to put up to appease our neighbors, and the Grecian laurels. Natives aren’t available in large containers — they do better planted from small containers — so it’s nearly impossible to find any large native trees. We’ve got the green without the guilt — and with drastically reduced maintenance expense. Still, I hope the drought ends soon. It’s always scary opening those water bills!
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