(This article also appears on the front page of the April 8, 2015 issue of the Davis Enterprise.)
UC Davis plant sales offer opportunity to plan for lawn-free, low-water future
If you didn’t feel the threat of this record-breaking drought affecting your life, that all changed on Wednesday with Governor Brown’s first ever issuance of a state of emergency drought declaration mandating statewide water reductions and calling for the replacement of 50 million square feet of lawns throughout California with drought-tolerant landscaping.
The message was no surprise to the staff, students, and volunteers who have been working to prepare the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery for its public plant sales throughout spring beginning Saturday, April 11 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. (Other sale dates include Saturday, April 25 and May 16.)
“Homeowners want to make the right choices, but what is available at many large-scale plant retailers doesn’t always fit this bill,” states Taylor Lewis, UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden nursery manager. “That’s why they come here. We’ve got the over 350 different varieties of attractive, water-wise choices and an inventory of over 10,000 plants. We know the plants respond well here because we grow most of them at our nursery or we’ve had a good experience growing them elsewhere on campus.
In light of the governor’s mandate, experts with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden hope to educate our region with options for what to do now and what to avoid.
“I hope that our community doesn’t just turn off their irrigation, stop watering their trees, or replace their landscapes with rocks—that would be a huge mistake,” asserts Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture for the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden. “I want people to plan, prioritize and re-plant with selections that make sense for where we live. Lawns are a relic of our country’s European history that has stuck, I think, because it’s easy, neat, and doesn’t require much thought—fertilize, water, mow, and repeat. I get it, but we need to start a new aesthetic, one that fits the region in which we live. We can do it and the sooner the better.”
Attendees to the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden plant sale can discuss alternate landscape options with a multitude of knowledgeable experts, master gardeners and gardening enthusiasts, take home educational information, and of course, lots of low-water plants.
“The thing that is difficult about selling plants in this drought is that even though we offer a huge selection of low-water plants, they still need to be watered, especially when they are young and getting established,” confesses Lewis. “But, when you plant something we’ve selected, your water use will go down as compared to lawns, then continue to go down significantly over time. People can plan for a low-water future with better plant choices now. “
“This is California, we set precedents, we change aesthetics, we can get through this drought and come out better for it when it’s over,” assures Zagory. “The potential for an explosion of diversity of flora and fauna in our urban and suburban settings where lawns are replaced with plants appropriate for our region is so fun to think about! We’ll not only be saving water, we’ll be providing beneficial wildlife with a refuge and food source. Birds, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds—they need help through this drought too.”
Need inspiration? Check out some of the demonstration gardens in the UC Davis Arboretum near the nursery before the sale. Stroll through the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden, the Arboretum All-Star demonstration planting beds near the teaching nursery, and Nature’s Gallery Court. Many of the plants are labeled and will be available at the sale.