A Smausian Water Garden

Looking into the future of newspapers, there’s nothing but thick fog concealing possible total shipwreck. Looking to the past can seem like a golden age, especially for garden writers. In Los Angeles, we’re lucky to have the amazing Emily Green as the Los Angeles Times garden editor, but at many newspapers that chair is empty. (Let’s face it, the chair has been entirely removed, along with the desk and the slim column of numbers in the newspaper’s annual budget for garden reporting.) In the ’90s, the LAT garden editor was the inimitable Robert Smaus, a man seemingly born curious about everything horticultural, whether ornamental or edible, and possessing the rare gift for communicating what he discovered. These photos are taken from his website, but I had the good fortune of seeing his garden in person when he taught horticulture classes through a local university extension program. I’ve got water gardens on the brain lately and have been thinking about modeling one on Smaus’ simple water tank made of cinderblocks then smoothly plastered.


I get a cheerful reminder of Smaus’ old garden now whenever I visit Jenny’s garden through her blog at Rockrose, on my blogroll, where she similarly deploys sheets of flowers among pavers in her garden.


Robert Smaus writes about leaving his garden here.
The Smausian style of garden writing: “There’s a new coreopsis named ‘Limerock Ruby’ that I planted as a little slip early last spring, and it grew and grew like credit card debt until it burst into mind-numbing bloom.” Bob’s book, “52 Weeks in the California Garden,” is still in print.

(Edited to add: I wrote in haste and incorrectly gave Emily Green the title of garden editor for the LA Times, when her own site, Chance of Rain, lists her as a garden columnist.)

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7 Responses to A Smausian Water Garden

  1. Grace says:

    “Like credit card debt,” love it. Beats the ubiquitous and cliche “wildfire” for sure. Beautiful colors in his garden and I love the water feature. As a gardener with two ponds in my backyard [albeit tiny things] a water feature is not all that difficult and the rewards are immense. I’ve got frog eggs in mine already this year again. How cool is that? Go for it girl!

  2. Denise says:

    Grace, I’ve got to search your blog for your water garden adventures. I have lots of questions!

  3. I love that rectangular water garden….gorgeous! (Grace, frog eggs!? I’m doing something wrong!)

  4. Kathy says:

    I’ve looked at this photo multiple times, not for the water feature (very cool) but for that moundy-tapestry effect that I am so drawn to. Really nice.

  5. Pam/Digging says:

    Denise, your posts are always a delight to read and to look at. I loved the link to the story about leaving the garden behind (as I did that myself not long ago), and I shared it on Twitter and Facebook. Hope you get some extra traffic from it!

  6. Denise says:

    Kathy, I love that “dayglo” chapparal effect he achieved too. I remember first seeing cotula in Bob’s garden.
    Pam, you’re too kind! I’m so glad you enjoyed his garden’s history, and I’m sure Bob would appreciate being tweeted!

  7. Denise says:

    Loree, I like the shape and think it’s a great size too.

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