Redefining the American Landscape Dream

As Americans, we’ve historically had a love affair with our lawns. Visions of pastoral bliss are conjured up with fantasies of the open plains, the Wild West, and the grand estates of English and French country sides.

During the first half of the 20th Century, we were building homes with a majority of the outdoor landscape devoted to lawns. Plus we devoted a lot of time and energy to pampering, manicuring and protecting our patches of green.

The epitome of home ownership enshrined the vision of seeing our dads on a Saturday morning mowing the lawn, trimming the edges, and collecting the clippings.  We would water our lawns fervently; fertilize them and stage territorial battles with dogs, rodents and weeds alike, posting signs, setting traps and spreading pesticide-laden chemicals onto our patches of green to keep them looking pristine and prideful.

This was all fine and dandy before we started to realize that everything we do, including our gardens, impacts our environment.   Our global population has grown significantly, and is projected to increase by 2.5 billion people by 2050.  That will be a lot more people in just 40 more years.   It’s time to re-think our perceptions of the responsible way to landscape our yards and create the new American dream.

Did you know we are in our tenth year of drought according to State agencies?

Yet we consume more water every year per capita than 90% of the world’s population.  Yikes!

With an average annual rainfall of 17″ per year, California’s climate is categorized as semi-arid.

How do we use water?

Well, we treat water as an unlimited resource, literally throwing it down the drain as we use potable water for everything from toilets to washing down our driveways and washing our cars.

How can we improve how we use water?

Incorporate low water use plant materials that conserve water to help preserve this precious natural resource and limit the size of green space devoted to thirsty lawns.

To promote water conservation, reduce pesticide use and green waste, many California Cities now have design guidelines that restrict the size of lawn you can have.  Typically, this is 25% of the total landscape area.  The rest of the landscape can be planted with a palette of medium-to low water use trees, shrubs and groundcovers to reduce overall water use.

By implementing low water use, naturalized landscapes, high efficiency irrigation systems, bioswales and rain-gardens, we can create landscapes that are attractive, functional, cost-effective  and sustainable while preserving precious water, promoting bio-diversity and limiting unnecessary waste  which  reduces our  carbon   footprint .

How can we be more responsible?

Utilize BUILD IT GREEN landscape guidelines such as using 75% drought-tolerant species, grouping plant species by needs, planting shade trees, incorporating 2″ mulch in all planting beds, omitting invasive species, and minimizing turf areas, to name a few.

By re-defining our dreams from expensive, energy and resource depleting landscapes to colorful, naturalized,  cost-effective and  eco-friendly gardens we will be saving money, respecting our environment, acting responsibly, and providing a better, cleaner, greener future world for generations to come.

At Van Dorn Abed Lanscape Architects, we’ve helped SummerHill design landscapes that are eco-friendly at communities like Satake Estates.