drought resistant gardening

Planning a drought tolerant sidewalk

 I am planning a small drought tolerant garden for the area in front of my sidewalk and will be documenting my progress here.

The area is 3’ wide by 50’ long and has scattering of grass that is minimally watered by sprinklers.


I plan to replace the grass with 2 borders of drought tolerant society garlic and a center section of dramatic agave plants.

There is a plethora of information and imagery on line devoted to the subject of drought resistant plants so choosing the color and species was not daunting. Once my choices had been narrowed down I turned to a local grower, Shelly Jennings of Worldwide Exotic Plants to find suitable sized plants. My goal was to find a medium sized agave that would serve as a focal point without becoming too unruly. Shelly’s nursery is large both in size and in the amazing variety of agave, aloe, grasses and shrubs making it a great one stop shop for my project.


I chose a total of 12 Agave Univatata Aurea for the central section and will be adding 50 white and blue flowering garlic later for the borders. The agave will be space about 4’ apart and the garlic will be spaced at similar intervals but off center to the agave. The agave will produce smaller “baby” plants some of which I will keep for future use and the garlic will create bulb offspring which I will leave to  fill out the border.

Ground preparation:

Since I do not want to use any chemicals to kill the existing grass we will dig down to a 6” depth and remove both the soil and fine grass roots. Agaves need soil that drains well so the replacement soil will be a combination of sand mixed with potting mix.

Once the top soil is in place I will then have to decide whether to lay a series of drip lines or to water by hand. The existing water pipe is old and ugly but running a new line will be costly and logistically challenging as it would need to run under the sidewalk.

Once established both the agave and garlic plants will not require much water but when first planted the garlic will need to be watered 3 to 4 times a week. For this reason, I am planning on adding the garlic in the fall when hopefully we have less brutal heat.

To help retain moisture and to curtail weeds the top soil will be held in place by gravel. I have chosen Golden Coast gravel as the golden red tones will provide a nice contrast to the green, blue, purple and white plant colors. The gravel is not difficult to find and as I have a truck I was able to pick this up at a reasonable price from Prime Building Materials located in Sylmar.






Five elements of a drought resistant garden

We recently shared with you the beginnings of a new landscape project in our garden--in other words turning our backyard into a drought resistant oasis.  While we will share some of the more exciting details of installing a drip system at a later date, we thought it might prove helpful to list a few elements necessary for a drought resistant garden that will work in both residential and commercial applications.

  1. Hardy plants.  While succulents may be the first type of plant that comes to mind, there are many plant varieties that are able to survive, and even thrive, in a drought.  To name a few- recognizable plants like the Bird of Paradise, day lilies, California poppy, and even the beautiful and flowering hibiscus will add color and variety to a garden. Selecting plants that are native to your area or from a similar climate is a good place to start but check with your local nursery experts to find just the right plant species for your location.
  2. Irrigation.  An efficient irrigation system is key to maintaining a beautiful garden at any time but especially during a drought or in a water challenged environment.  The experts will be able to help you determine the right type of watering system for your area.
  3. Hardscape.  Hardscaping is defined as "the placement of nonplant elements such as fences, walkways, paving, and lighting in a planned outdoor area."  Gravel pathways, for example, can replace large expanses of water hungry sod and small patios or seating areas will create little backyard "getaways" where you can enjoy a quiet drink, read a book or sneak in an afternoon nap.
  4. Shade.  Shade is one of nature's natural air conditioners.  Even palm trees will provide a bit of shade during the day and that will keep any plants, and you, cooler.
  5. Personality.  Drought resistant or not, every garden needs a bit of personality.  A beautiful fountain will provide the soothing sounds of water while a unique sculpture, hand-thrown pots or custom lighting will add ambience to even the smallest of gardens.

To view our entire collection of architectural hardware and lighting, please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

Designers can visit the showroom located at:

5433 W. Washington Blvd.

Los Angeles, Ca  90016

323 939 5929

Drought gardening update

Our dream of a lush green lawn and garden like the verdant gardens at the Simpson House Inn seen here: martin pierce serene gardens at the simpson house innhave been dashed by the severe drought that California has been suffering for several years now.  Instead, we recently shared with you the process of turning our once green backyard into a drought tolerant "oasis" by allowing the grass to slowly turn a lovely shade of brown

Martin Pierce hardware Los Angeles CA  90016

and we are now the proud owner of a well-groomed patch of dirt

Martin Pierce hardware Los Angeles CA  90016

This brings us to the planning stage of the new drought tolerant garden.  To begin, we are mapping out the area to decide which areas will be pathways and which areas will be plant areas.  We find the most difficult part of this task is deciding on the "look" we want for each area.  What colors do we want to use, how tall should the plants be and which plants we want in the foreground and which ones do we want to place in the background are all topics earnestly debated.  We seem to be going in circles so it is back to the drawing board as we carefully re-draw our map and compare it to the dirt patch that is our current reality. We must then establish the location of the plants and lay down the drip lines of the drip system that we will be using to deliver water. Once the lines are installed it will be necessary to stabilize the dirt with a layer of decomposed granite.  The pathways will be created with pavers and somewhat compacted sand and the planting areas will receive a top layer of pea gravel.  We are searching for a pea gravel that doesn’t look as if it just arrived from a building site.   As you can see in the photo, we have made good progress on the grading of the back garden and Martin has dug down and removed a section of soil so that we have a seating area that looks into the garden.  We both agree that we would like to replace our archaic ceramic bird bath with a modest water fountain but since we want the water to be running and recycled we now have to think about getting power to that area of the yard.  The planning continues.......

To view the entire collection of architctural hardware at Martin Pierce, please visit our site at www.martinpierce.com.

Designers can visit the showroom located at:

5433 W. Washington Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA  90016

323 939 5929