Friday, September 5, 2014


I am a gardener. People who garden work against nature. We plant plants that need water, we put plants where they don't belong. Even a succulent garden needs water once a week. If I didn't garden, our home would be surrounded by the golden grasses, oak trees and mesquite that are native to our area. (Not a bad idea, really) We have a beautiful garden. Even with the shade the trees provide, this drought year, our garden is suffering in a severe drought.

A leaky faucet set us down a muddy path. Around us dirt flew, stethoscopes probed. We were looking for a leak that was spewing out gallons a day. In water-starved California, we cringed as we realized our efforts at saving water by taking Navy showers, turning down sprinkler settings or not planting water-thirsty annuals, were minuscule efforts compared to the water lost in our garden.We discovered  the culprit and we capped off a forgotten faucet at the top of our hill. Our trees  nearby had broken the pipes leading to the faucet.  (We found the leak by subscribing to EDMUD's WaterSmart, which graphs residential water usage.  

We, like so many Californians, have been seduced by the thoughts of cool English gardens -- green places sheltered from the sun. In our garden that we planted long ago, we grow flowers that bloom every season, fruit trees that depend on water to bear fruit, coastal redwoods, and the green grass that every home in our town seems to require. I watch my garden with a sad heart as the leaves crinkle up from the heat and the grasses grown brown. This year we need to make hard choices.

A visit to Ruth Bancroft's garden in Walnut Creek reminded me of the true landscape of this part of California: dry and parched in the summer with plants sustaining themselves with winter rain.  Ruth Bancroft, who celebrated her 106 birthday this past week, planted a garden of succulents and cacti that can survive with a weekly watering.  (Check out the garden at

What I liked best about her garden were the trees that she planted.  Underneath the trees, there was no grass, but there were picnic tables spread with cheery tablecloths. Though the temperature was hot, the shade of the trees made a comfortable place for a picnic. The need for green grass and flowering plants seemed less important when friends could gather around a table for a good meal under the shade of a native California tree.


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