Los Angeles Times - - SATURDAY - By Lisa Boone lisa.boone@la­times.com

Des­canso Gar­dens’ new Cen­ter Cir­cle Gar­den, which opened Fri­day in La Cañada Flin­tridge, proves that water­wise gar­dens can be high on beauty while low on wa­ter and main­te­nance.

“We wanted to ed­u­cate home­own­ers and make changes our­selves,” said Rachel Young, direc­tor of hor­ti­cul­ture and gar­den op­er­a­tions at Des­canso. “This is not just about what’s go­ing on this year. We’re try­ing to en­cour­age a life­long way of gar­den­ing.”

Des­canso started wa­ter-re­duc­tion mea­sures sev­eral years ago by re­mov­ing some lawn ar­eas, and Young said Des­canso hopes to meet Gov. Jerry Brown’s ex­ec­u­tive or­der to cut ur­ban wa­ter use by 25%. (La Cañada Flin­tridge is among sev­eral cities in Los An­ge­les County that could face a 35% cut in wa­ter use from 2013 lev­els.)

Af­ter the Cal­i­for­nia drought wors­ened, Des­canso hired land­scape designer Cassy Aoy­agi of Form LA to de­sign a drought-tol­er­ant demon­stra­tion gar­den that would in­spire home­own­ers to re­think their re­la­tion­ship to wa­ter and thirsty plants.

“The most im­por­tant part of the gar­den is that it cre­ates an aes­thetic that is ap­pro­pri­ate for Los An­ge­les,” said Aoy­agi. “It’s about an aes­thetic that re­ally hasn’t been es­tab­lished.”

Aoy­agi’s strik­ing vi­sion for Los An­ge­les in­cludes rock roses and echev­e­ria, Cal­i­for­nia lilac and Cleve­land sage, leu­ca­den­dron and ger­man­der. Side-by-side yar­row and Bent­grass ground cov­ers of­fer ideas for lawn al­ter­na­tives, while yar­row, salvia and Hum­ming­bird sage are planted to at­tract ben­e­fi­cial in­sects. Cal­i­for­nia wild grapevines will even­tu­ally grow along the re­bar awning, and col­or­ful dwarf bot­tle­brush will fill in to cre­ate a more for­mal low hedge.

“Peo­ple don’t know what a low-wa­ter gar­den can look like,” added Young. “This de­fines what a beau­ti­ful gar­den can be with­out wa­ter.”

Fur­ther wa­ter-sav­ing ideas im­ple­mented in the gar­den in­clude a bioswale, a per­me­able walk­way com­posed of sev­eral shades of de­com­posed gran­ite and gabion re­tain­ing walls (rock-filled cages) that keep wa­ter on site.

The gar­den is wa­tered with a drip sys­tem, and it re­quires half the wa­ter of a sim­i­lar-sized plot of grass.

As a com­ple­ment to the gar­den, Des­canso plans to pro­vide ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als for vis­i­tors in­ter­ested in cre­at­ing a sim­i­lar gar­den at home.

In ad­di­tion, 15 of the Cen­ter Cir­cle Gar­den plants will be avail­able at the Des­canso Plant Pa­tio. Vis­i­tors can meet Aoy­agi on June 20 and Sept. 19, when she lead a “walk and talk” through the gar­den.

Des­canso Gar­dens, 1418 Des­canso Drive, La Cañada Flin­tridge. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. $4 to $9. (818) 949-4200; www.des­can­sog­a­r­dens.org

Martha Bene­dict

THE DES­CANSO gar­den is de­signed to in­spire home­own­ers to re­think their use of wa­ter-thirsty plants.

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