Even though the state is in the grip of a drought, you might not know it by visiting some of Los Angeles County’s largest public and private gardens. Magnificent landscaping is still the norm at institutions ranging from the Huntington Library to the Getty Center to Descanso Gardens. Thanks to water-wise gardening and water-conservation efforts, these venues continue to attract visitors, as well as educate with tips and techniques for home gardeners. Many have opened low-water-use demonstration gardens.
Here is a list of some of the spigot-savvy gardens in the area:
- Huntington Library and Gardens: With 12 gardens as home to 15,000 plant varieties spread over 120 acres in San Marino, the former estate of railroad tycoon Henry Huntington got its start in 1906. It has been dazzling art, history, and plant lovers since he made it a nonprofit educational trust in 1919. Many gardens have been redesigned with low-flow sprinkler heads and nozzles, and watering times are now based on factors such as plant and soil type, exposure to sunlight, slope, and moisture loss. All lawns are watered overnight to reduce evaporation. Many drought-tolerant plants have been introduced as well.
- The Getty Center: The Los Angeles art and cultural center in the Santa Monica Mountains is revered for its lush landscaping. More than 500 varieties of plant material are used in the of the 134,000-square-foot Central Garden, in a natural ravine with a tree-lined walkway and surrounded by lawns. To conserve resources during the drought, the center has shut off all water features such as fountains, and initiated water-wise practices in the Central Garden as well as other landscaped areas.
- The Getty Villa: The educational center and museum in Pacific Palisades, dedicated to the study of the arts and cultures of ancient Greece, Roma, and Etruria, also is home to four Roman-style gardens. They are filled with about 300 varieties of plant material, including trees, herbs, and flowers. The coastal climate helps moderate water use year round, but as at The Getty Center, water features have been turned off during the drought.
- Descanso Gardens: The new low-water Center Circle Garden at the 160-acre venue in La Canada-Flintridge offers a new look for landscaping that thrives in dry and rainy climates. Drought-tolerant varieties of grapevines, roses, sage, and grass help conserve water, garden officials said. All of the plants and all the techniques in the Center Circle Garden are designed to reduce outdoor water use in a domestic setting by 50 percent.
- Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden: Set on 127 acres in Arcadia, the site features 10 gardens, including the Water Conservation Garden, which showcases plants from Mediterranean climates around the world. The garden demonstrates that careful planting design can achieve high standards of landscape beauty and water conservation. Arboretum botanists also offer water-wise tips and non-thirsty plant advice on the site’s blog.
The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California provides a list of water-wise gardens within its jurisdiction at www.bewaterwise.com.
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