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Civic officials’ motto should be ‘Our Landscapes, Our Future’

Civic officials’ motto should be ‘Our Landscapes, Our Future’
A reader writes to urge La Cañada school and city officials to commit to using native plants in their landscaping projects in public spaces. Above, the building soon to house City Hall. The site was formerly the corporate office for Sport Chalet. (Sara Cardine /La Cañada Valley Sun)

Given our community’s economic means and education level, new landscaping in La Cañada should model best practices: support for the nature of where we live through a predominantly native plant palette, drought-tolerance, water catchment, and design that results in decreased maintenance/use of fossil fuels and green waste. As described in a July 19 Outlook article, the proposed new landscaping for the La Cañada Unified School District headquarters accomplishes none of these objectives. The article cited the landscape’s “low-water, low-maintenance approach.” This is absurd, as the new landscape will contain lawn.

Most worrying is what this landscape might portend for the new La Cañada Flintridge City Hall. Will the 19th-century ornamental landscape model be continued, ignoring our 21st-century extinction and near-perpetual water crises? I encourage the City Council and school board to visit Sierra Madre City Hall and see its elegant, evergreen, tasteful, flowering native landscape. For nearly every ornamental nonnative plant, there’s a native that will perform the same design function while supporting co-evolutionary, specialized relationships with native insects and animals (birds and butterflies, among others) that make the nature of where we live. Native hollyleaf cherry substitutes for Podocarpus ‘icee blue’; penstemon for fortnight lily, no-mow bunch grass for conventional lawn.

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A nonprofit, La Cañada Valley Beautiful could partner with the Theodore Payne Foundation for native plant landscape design assistance through the Foundation’s Landscaping for Resilience program. The program has assisted many other cities, among them Simi Valley, whose new library landscape will be native and was selected as the U.S. Green Building Council-L.A.’s 2018 Legacy Project.

For all the water and energy we spend on our landscapes, they should be more than virtually sterile green spaces. “Our Landscapes, Our Future” is no less true than “Our Schools, Our Future.” Connect the dots, La Cañada!

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Lisa Novick

La Cañada

The writer is director of outreach, Theodore Payne Foundation.

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