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Triangles and Tuxes
updated: Feb 27, 2009, 12:00 AM

Thoughts From the Garden of Ed

Triangles and Tuxes
by Billy Goodnick

I completely understand why the subject of sustainable landscaping isn't splashed over the media. Unlike Miley Cyrus's choice of dresses at the Oscars or rumors of David Beckham leaving the LA soccer scene, it's not something the general populous craves. No one is braving water cannons to protest people who wash down driveways. And who's losing sleep over the out-of-control non-native fountain grass that's gradually displacing native vegetation in our foothills?

Well, if there's one person who ignites people's passions about sustainable landscaping, it's Owen Dell. [Required Disclosure - Owen and I are buddies and co-hosts of a regional sustainable landscaping TV show. We've also spent countless Wednesday nights in our "Billy and Owen Take Over The World" sessions, plotting how to proselytize the masses and convince them to come into the light of sustainable landscaping. So, I might be a bit prejudiced in this article. But he really does deserve the mounds of praise I'm about to bury him in.]

Owen just had a very important book published. It needs to be read, embraced and acted upon by many, many people. Is there any better way to reach the knowledge-hungry masses than with one of those books with the black and yellow cover, and the iconic image of a strange guy with a buzz cut and triangular head? I'm talking about "Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies."

What I've always liked about Dummies books is that they're written by and for really smart people (or those who are about to be much smarter for having read the book). Their authors anticipate what a reader needs to know and gives it to them in a delightful package with all the fat trimmed off. That's just what Owen did in this book.

The blurb at the publisher's website (Wiley Publishing, Inc) briefly describes the content as a "hands-on, how-to instruction for realizing the benefits of a sustainable landscape, from selecting sustainable hardscape materials to installing a rain-water catchment system to choosing native plants." I'm not sure this description alone will get people on the feet and into the street, so let me expand just a tad.

The book starts by making sure we know how the word "sustainable" fits with landscaping. It's patently simple?strive for a garden that acts as a natural system and needs little help from you once it's up and running. By the time you're done with this section of the book you'll smack your forehead and mutter "of course" because he makes it seem so obvious.

Onward the author forges, discussing the virtues of good design, working safely, and tricks the pros use. There's a strong emphasis on managing water, the most precious resource for us in southern California. Owen also tackles the complex subject of hardscape (all the stuff in a landscape that isn't plants), showing how elegant spaces can be created with earth-friendly materials and old stuff we can put back to use.

Of course there's lots of information about plants, starting with the idea that plants aren't just for decoration?they can DO something, like provide habitat for birds, reduce energy consumption and feed you and your family. The greenery section even zooms in on ways to make container gardening more sustainable.

I could go on, but I'm running out of space?just get the book. And as long as I'm on the subject of Owen Dell, I have a couple of other tidbits to pass along. The latest episode of our Garden Wise Guys TV show, aptly named "The Big Picture", will premiere on channel 18 this Sunday night (March 1) at 9 PM. We've stretched the show to an hour, donned tuxedos and snuck into the beautifully restored Granada Theater, where we review clips from past show and present a grand view of sustainable landscaping. We have guest appearances, an interpretive dance performed by yours truly, and get into a little trouble along the way. If you miss the premiere, the show is on ad nauseum throughout the week. For the full schedule go to www.sbwater.org. Hope you can tune in.

One more bit before I send this off to Ed. Owen and I have been invited by Janet Wolf, second district supervisor, to talk about our favorite plants at a ?Green Gardening Day' event she's hosting. We'll be at La Sumida Nursery on Patterson, Saturday, March 7. The shindig runs from 11:30 to about 2 with Owen and I scheduled for noon. Like our show, it'll be very informative, if a bit silly.

Okay, one MORE thing - I'll be teaching a full-day planting design class at the SB Botanic Garden on April 4. More info at www.sbbg.org.

NOW I'm done. Talk to you in two weeks.

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Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.


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