The ben­e­fits of go­ing ‘ Out­back’

Los Angeles Times - - HOME & DESIGN - By Lisa Boone lisa. boone@ latimes. com Twit­ter: lis­a­boone19

Armed with a ma­chete, pop­u­lar Aus­tralian land­scape de­signer Jamie Durie tack­les al­li­ga­tors and snakes along with over­grown f lora in the backyard makeover se­ries “Out­back Na­tion” on the FYI Tele­vi­sion Net­work. In an­tic­i­pa­tion of sum­mer, we asked Durie — who moved from Aus­tralia to Los An­ge­les in 2009, snap­ping up a 1956 house in Lau­rel Canyon — for ad­vice on lur­ing fam­i­lies away from tech­nol­ogy and re­con­nect­ing to the out­doors and to one another. You have a rep­u­ta­tion for cre­at­ing cap­ti­vat­ing out­door rooms. Why is it so im­por­tant to you to get peo­ple out­side?

Most fam­i­lies, and par­tic­u­larly kids, are glued to their elec­tronic de­vices. It is tak­ing them away from where we all grew up: in the backyard where we spent time catch­ing but­ter­flies, play­ing and grow­ing veg­eta­bles. Out­door liv­ing is not just about fine en­ter­tain­ing. It’s about cre­at­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the gar­den where peo­ple can com­bat what I call na­ture deficit dis­or­der. I cre­ated a f ly­ing fortress for a boy and a gazebo for a 16- yearold so she can hang out in her backyard. The show is geared to­ward any­one who wants to spend time out­doors. You split your time be­tween Los An­ge­les and Syd­ney — two cities with drought con­cerns. Any tips on wa­ter- wise gar­den­ing?

It’s my phi­los­o­phy that ev­ery home in the United States should have a rain­wa­ter tank. And we should urge our lo­cal cities to make gray wa­ter sys­tems more avail­able. We should also be re­cy­cling all of our wa­ter. Our tap, bath and laun­dry wa­ter should be used in the gar­den. What I find shock­ing both here and in Aus­tralia is that we are still us­ing drink­ing wa­ter to wa­ter our gar­dens. And in Cal­i­for­nia, many of the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tems are wa­ter­ing more than is nec­es­sary and a lot of it is run­ning off into the street. But the greater is­sue is in­tel­li­gent plant se­lec­tion. A lot of us are try­ing to grow an English gar­den with roses. We want the beauty we find in other parts of the world. Los An­ge­les is built on a desert. We have to learn to em­brace drought- tol­er­ant plants. Care to share any drought- tol­er­ant plant sug­ges­tions?

Work­ing with na­ture is re­ally the key mes­sage. You’ve got to make sure that you are en­cour­ag­ing the right kinds of plants. Be in­tel­li­gent about plant se­lec­tion. Look at what grows in your area. Get a list of na­tive plants and grow those in your own backyard. Se­dums, san­se­vieria, Mother in Law’s Tongue, agave, Aus­tralian gre­vil­lea “Poorinda Royal Man­tle” all work well in drought­tol­er­ant con­di­tions. Cal­lis­te­mon va­ri­eties are beau­ti­ful wa­ter- wise choices — Lit­tle John is a great hedge. Strangely enough, gera­ni­ums can be drought- re­sis­tant. There is even a va­ri­ety of petu­nias — Su­per­tu­nia pe­tu­nia that are fab­u­lous wa­ter- wise plants with 6- foot- long trail­ing f low­ers. What about grass al­ter­na­tives?

There are many, many dif­fer­ent turf al­ter­na­tives. Dy­mon­dia mar­gare­tae is drought- tol­er­ant and you don’t have to mow it. Pink f low­er­ing apte­nia cordi­fo­lia is a fan­tas­tic ground cover. Aussie ram­bler “Pig Face” is another great one that scram­bles across the ground and keeps the soil in good con­di­tion. You say fam­i­lies can be­come pris­on­ers in their ne­glected back­yards. Any ad­vice for home­own­ers too over­whelmed with work and fam­ily to rally the strength to over­haul their backyard?

It’s about an­a­lyz­ing all of the func­tions that you truly en­joy and cus­tomiz­ing those func­tions that are im­por­tant to your fam­ily. You have to look at all of the things you like to do. Maybe your child loves to read. Or your 4- year- old des­per­ately wants to grow car­rots. Per­haps your spouse loves to en­ter­tain. I want to cre­ate the most com­fort­able out­door spa­ces that I pos­si­bly can. I cre­ate won­der­ful out­door rooms so peo­ple can re­con­nect with na­ture.

Scott Gries

JAMIE DURIE has land­scap­ing and plant­ing ideas to counter the drought.

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