In Southern California, 70 percent of the typical home’s water consumption is used watering landscape plants, mostly grass. “Water-wise” plants have larger root systems or other features (such as smaller leaves, light-colored foliage, or fragrant oils) that help draw water from deep in the soil or prevent evaporation of water from plant tissues.
The plants selected by architect Eric Barnett for this project meet the location’s historic and environmental requirements, yet also provide a variety of foliage textures and seasonally-changing floral color. These plants include:
- Shrubs (such as Artemisia and Lavandula), grasses (such as Pennisetum) and perennials (such as Amaryllis) from Mediterranean-type environments
- Cultivated varieties of North American native plants (like Gaura and Calylophus) • Cultivated varieties of California native species (like Penstemon and Arctostaphylos)
- Trees that compliment the Renaissance Revival-style outline of the building (the palm Chamaerops humilis and the South African cape chestnut Calodendrum capense).
Raised planters (in areas once covered by turf grass) make each grouping of plants easier to see. The project’s irrigation system has a digital controller, including soil moisture and precipitation sensors, which prevent the system from running during wet seasons. Heavy mulching with bark slows loss of soil moisture between waterings.