A River Runs Through It; A New Landscape Paradigm April 7/8

Day 1, Speaker Forum: Saturday, April 7th, 9:30 am-4:30 pm, Descanso Gardens.

Day 2, the 3rd Annual Garden Tour: Sunday, April 8th, 9:30 am-4:30 pm.

There could not be a more well-timed moment for the Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ upcoming conference and garden tour this weekend, April 7 and 8, “A River Runs Through It; A New Landscape Paradigm.” It’s all painfully fresh in our minds — drought, wildfires, heavy rain, mudslides, more drought. We know a garden can no longer be just another pretty face, but must be smart and resilient too, capable of rolling with extended drought or brief-but-fierce downpours. But how? This is your rare opportunity for the answers, with personal access to designers and authors at the forefront of the watershed approach to landscape design.

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Instead of the restorative ease and pleasure we expect from gardens, we’ve all just witnessed what can go horribly wrong; and every garden, no matter how small, can help makes things right. The watershed approach to garden design incorporates techniques that make the best use of water, whether it comes in the form of rain or the thrifty use of strategic supplemental irrigation, and by contouring the land with dry creeks, swales and berms to catch and direct water flow. (It’s terrifying to contemplate, but water does indeed run out, as Cape Town, South Africa, is unfortunately discovering — read about Day Zero here.)

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Last weekend I previewed the gardens on the tour, and they run the gamut from mature and in full-on spring bloom to fairly recently installed, where the principles and practices guiding the watershed approach are still clearly discernible and therefore very easy to understand. No matter what the climate throws at us, gardens will always be our refuge and home to countless other species, and hopefully not sources of anxiety and frustration — or, in the worst possible case, actual sources of harm. Whether your garden’s topography is utterly flat or scarily steep hillside, filled with trees or bare dirt, there’s a way forward that this conference wants to share. It’s a holistic, all-inclusive integration of design and ecology that can transform a mild-mannered garden into a local hero.

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I promise you’ll learn tons, both from the incredible panel of speakers on Saturday and the garden tour on Sunday. (My favorite new word is “hugelkultur,” composting whole trees, in this case seventeen palm trees to be exact, an ingenious solution when faced with a removal bill of 30k…oh, the stories you’ll hear!)

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” — Norman Maclean

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5 Responses to A River Runs Through It; A New Landscape Paradigm April 7/8

  1. Johanba says:

    Brilliant as always Denise !

  2. Peter says:

    Sounds like a great weekend filled with important information.

  3. Kris P says:

    Very timely, especially if you’ve read some of the recent articles predicting that, in addition to periods of serious drought, California can expect more atmospheric rivers, leading to a significantly increased risk of massive floods. If you haven’t read it already, you might want to look for “The Flood That could Change Everything” by Eric Zerkel, posted on Weather Channel’s site. Warning: it’s not cheery.

    P.S. I got my Euphorbia ‘Dean’s Hybrid’ at Armstrong. They had plants grown by both Monterey Bay and San Marcos Growers.

  4. Denise says:

    @thanks, Johanna!
    @Peter, this weekend has so many things going on. I’m volunteering as docent for this tour on Sunday but had already committed Saturday to San Diego. Busy spring!
    @Kris, thanks for the tip on sourcing Dean’s Hyb.. Saw some beautiful examples on the APLD preview — dense and cushiony. I’ll check out that read too, thanks.

  5. Thanks so much, Denise, for the wonderful write up. One of my very seasoned designer friends heard Thomas Rainer speak last year in the bay area and described him as “electrifying”…so jazzed for this weekend!!

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