Natives in the Non-Residential Landscape Part II

In early April this year, I presented a post on natives used in the non-residential landscape. Companies and government agencies are moving from large lawns to landscapes with trees, grasses, and even perennials.

I started the last post with a huge expanse of lawn in front of the VA hospital in Palo Alto. When I returned in August, I was surprised to find that large machinery was in the process of taking out all the lawn, and the area was fenced. What would they put there? Maybe a vegetable garden (why else the fence?).

Well, dear reader, while I'm happy to report that the lawn is indeed gone, the solution was not quite to my liking. The VA decided to put parking lots where the lawn was (the fence is now gone). The parking lot were probably needed because a new facility is being built on the grounds. But I'm not thrilled. Couldn't they at least have put roofs with solar panels on those parking lots, to shade the cars and generate electricity? Much as I'm happy to see the lawn gone, asphalt does not seem like an improvement.

Going on toward VMware, though, where I made the photos in the earlier post, things looked cheerier. The carpenteria in the first photo of this post had finished blooming but was still attractive.

The redwood tree, surrounded by native grasses on the left had grown. While redwoods are not strictly locally native, they do well with some supplemental water and are great wildlife trees.

The best thing about the landscaping are probably the grasses. They are planted in rows to achieve an architectural look and are beautiful all year. These are not native grasses, but I'm just happy not to see a lawn.

Country Mouse actually remarked in an earlier post that she's not so fond of these unnaturally symmetric displays, and I agree there's a cookie-cutter symmetry and the look seems to be the new favorite in the non-native landscape. But I actually find the result very pleasing, a good compromise between wildlands and garden. Birds and other critters seem to enjoy it, and it the symmetry is soothing to people as well.

Also soothing is the fragrance of the lavender. Still in bloom in this picture from late July, it has since dried and was finally pruned just last week. But the bees really enjoyed the lavenders, and it was pleasant to walk past and catch a breath of calm.

Returning to native we have some Heuchera with an Arctostaphylos in the background (and in the far background the lavender.

On the shadier side, the lavender contrasts nicely with native Juncus patens and a native salvia in the background. On the right is a Lavatera, not sure whether it's a native but it's delighted with flowers all summer.

And here's a light pink Heuchera, possibly 'Limelight' with a grass meadow in the background. I'm not sure what the meadow grasses are, but they seem to work well fairly close to the redwoods and the green is soothing and fresh.

Finally, some very pretty Echinacea. While not California Natives, these American natives get by with very little water and bloom in late summer, when many CA Natives take a rest before putting on second show, not quite as spectacular, in the fall.

So, while this post should probably be called "natives and non-natives in the non-residential landscape", it's actually a good example of how to vary plantings so pollinators and humans always have something to enjoy. Maybe I'll do a third post in late fall so we can have a look at the gardens in the rainy season.


Christine said…
so much nicer than lawn! I agree about the solar panels- it seems hard for large entities to realize the cost savings of upfront expenditures on efficiency.
My dear TM,
thanks for referring me back to your wonderful MeMe and info on the ginger that performs so well for YOU!
I did read that great post, although one month ago seems like foreeeeeevvvvvvveeeer in the blogosphere. (So many blogs, so little time).
So, why, my friend, does your ginger put on such a show?
I grow Alpinia zerumbet 'variegata' and it does not like the cold nights as the weather changes. Needless to say, no blooms this year ....whaaaaaa ;-(
Nell Jean said…
I wondered where this post was going when the parking lot showed up. They did redeem themselves somewhat, no?

I have to backtrack to see what about the Alpina mentioned in the previous comment. It dies to the ground here, so no blooms ever, but it does return to look pretty in summer.
My campus has put solar panels on a couple of the roofs of their parking garages--a good use of wasted air space.

The grasses that you show, even if not native, probably take less water than lawn. It goes without saying they look much more interesting. I can see the points about too much symmetry and human-imposed order in a landscape, but in the end it's a garden, not nature. Why not acknowledge that with a little clear human presence?
Town Mouse said…
Ah, maybe I wasn't quite clear: The VA put up parking lots, they have not redeemed themselves (except they're building a much needed facility).

The other pictures are mostly from the campus of a company I consult with. They built the campus with a green theme, and it shows. In the spring post, the natives they were using were especially beautiful. In the fall, not quite so much, but as James says, much less water than lawn, better wildlife value, still looks polished.