Pamela Berstler of Green Gardens Group is setting out to change the idea of what a beautiful garden is. She spoke Saturday at the in San Juan Capistrano, telling locals to get rid of their lawns.
She spoke in partnership with Surfrider Foundation's Ocean Friendly Garden program, which educates gardeners on ways to maximize their use of the natural rainfall that collects on their property and encourages them to plant native species in their front yards.
"We want to give [homeowners] some ideas on how they can make a difference starting in their own gardens," said Berstler.
Getting rid of a lawn , so Tree of Life owner Mike Evans said the need is not universal. "If you need a lawn for your dogs or your kids or to play baseball on, then have a lawn. But not many people need front lawns."
Berstler and Evans recommend replacing front lawns with landscapes that feature native plants, and adding other water-saving features such as rain chains—instead of rain gutters—and dry streams that can collect rainwater for use at later dates.
Additionally, Evans recommended that homeowners look into replacing backyard lawns made up of grasses that require a lot of water to stay green with a less-intensive grass, such as blue grama.
Berstler suggested that those who want to take their conservation even further cut strips in their driveway, replacing the non-porous concrete with gravel or grasses that will reduce water loss and will help property retain more water from rains.
Evans had been looking forward to hosting the event at his nursery, which is the largest retailer of native species in California. In addition to the retail shop and wholesale operation run on the property, the nursery is also involved in growing and propagating various species on site.
Paul Herzog, the Ocean Friendly Gardens chair for the Surfrider Foundation, said most homeowners are unknowingly polluting the ocean because of their landscapes. Making a few simple changes, however, can reduce or eliminate the threat.
"Right now, we have a very efficient way of taking pollution from our yard and taking it right to the ocean. It comes off our roofs, through the downspouts, the driveway, out to the streets and right to the ocean," he said.
He suggests breaking that cycle by keeping water on-site. Planting native plants, using a rain chain instead of a rain gutter and saving water in a rain barrel are among the practices that will promote conservation, permeability and retention, Herzog said.
Evans said he enjoys exposing new groups of people to the benefits of planting native species in their gardens, as he did Saturday.
"The benefits of natural landscapes outside your door are mainly just quality of life," he said. "By planting native plants outside your door, right in your own garden, you really increase your quality of life, because you have this representation of the natural outdoors in this small space where you see it and interact with it every day."