Breaking Ground : Permeable Paving Provides Greenery in Unexpected Places

Robert Smaus is an associate editor of Los Angeles Times Magazine.

PERMEABLE PAVING is an idea whose time has come. Every precious drop of water that falls from the sky should somehow find its way not into a storm drain but into the soil, so that it can nourish far-reaching tree and shrub roots. Pictured above is the simplest form of permeable paving--broken chunks of concrete taken from a previous driveway and laid on a solid base of compacted sand. Precast concrete blocks with holes and cutouts also work well: Plants or grass can grow in the spaces. One type of block is made so that when it is installed and planted, the area looks like a lawn and can be driven on.

Soft, spreading, drought-resistant ground covers are planted in the chinks of the parking area shown here. Chamomile ( Anthemis nobilis ) fills the foreground, and in the distance are several thymes, including Thymus lanuginosus and T. serphyllum . Parking on these herbs is a fragrant experience. Erodium chamaedryoides grows in the crevices elsewhere.

In this day of diminishing garden space, planted paving permits greenery in an area that would otherwise be barren. This particular example is one of several water-saving landscape ideas displayed in the newly created city garden at La Casita del Arroyo, on Arroyo Boulevard in Pasadena. The planting was designed by Isabelle C. Greene & Associates of Santa Barbara in collaboration with Befu, Donan Associates for the Pasadena Garden Club.

1939 Oldsmobile courtesy of Carolyn Hester.

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