Lessons from the University of California Plant Trials

by Jodie Cook, ASLA, SITES AP

University of California Climate-Ready Field Trial growing grounds / image: Karrie Reid – used with permission

As a horticulturally obsessed landscape designer for most of my adult life, I’ve observed how our landscape irrigation practices, tools, and technologies have evolved over time. In the last few decades, we have radically changed our plant irrigation practices in public and private designed spaces, particularly in the West. While using a plant palette of so called ‘drought tolerant’ species, many large commercial landscapes, and managed communities such as mine, irrigate four times per week or more in a climate that has never experienced rain with such frequency. How many regions do experience this frequency of natural rainfall? I have often wondered, why do we irrigate non-lawn areas so much?

So, I was thrilled to be a participant in the Climate-Ready Landscape Plants trial evaluations at the University of California South Coast Research Center fields in Irvine, California. I was there, clipboard in hand, as a plant performance evaluator and was not involved in the research in any other way. I did, however, discuss the research at length with those who devised the trial. It was fascinating and eye-opening.

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