By Anne Schellman
Marq and Rachel Truscott wanted to replace their Davis lawn and water-thirsty plants with a new, low-maintenance landscape that saved water. Marq is on the Advisory Committee of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis and he wanted to support one of the center’s missions: to help Californians develop more water-conserving, pest-resistant and disease-resistant home gardens.
In 2013, the Truscotts offered to use their front yard on B Street in downtown Davis as a demonstration landscape with the goal of showing that water-conserving plants can be attractive providing seasonal color and interest throughout the year.
The first step the couple took was to decide what kind of irrigation system to use. Both are landscape professionals, so they knew that in order to create a low-water landscape they needed irrigation technology designed to be as water-efficient as possible.
“Many people are unsure of how to program a traditional irrigation controller,” Marq said. “I think ‘smart’ irrigation controllers are the best choice because they do the work for you. I really believe they are the future of landscape irrigation.”
Those interested in purchasing a “smart” controller should consult an irrigation professional on the appropriate controller for their landscape and for proper installation and setup.
Marq and Rachel chose an irrigation system created by Hunter called the “Eco-Mat,” which is a drip system with tubing inside a mat that evenly disperses water. The mat is installed about 6 to 8 inches below the surface of the soil, so initial plantings needed overhead water until they were established.
Currently, the California Center for Urban Horticulture is working alongside researchers at UC Davis to find plants tolerant of reduced irrigation. Plants are observed over a two-year period and assessed for their ability to thrive under heat and drought conditions.
The Truscott landscape utilizes some of the plants from these research trials, including Tutti Fruitti butterfly bush (Buddleja Tutti Fruitti), peaches and cream honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum peaches and cream) and dwarf mat rush (Lomandra longifolia).
One of the plants used in the Truscott landscape that is currently being tested is Kurapia (Lippa nodiflora Campagna Verde), a ground cover developed in Japan for use in drought conditions. Research done at UC Riverside found Kurapia to be one of three top-performing ground covers out of 19 chosen for a study on water efficiency. Additional Kurapia information can be found at www.kurapia.com.
Aside from working with researchers in collaboration on plant trials, the California Center for Urban Horticulture is also a partner with the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars program. The All-Stars are a group of 100 plants evaluated by horticulturalists for their ability to thrive in California’s Mediterranean climate.
Some of the All-Stars in the Truscott landscape are Concha ceanothus (Ceanothus Concha), California fuchsia (Epilobium canum Sierra salmon) and Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus).
The Truscott landscape is at 233 B St. in downtown Davis and can be seen during daylight hours. Labels identify the plants and QR codes allow smartphone users to look up more about them online. Stop by and observe the plants to see if any would work well in your landscape.
The Arboretum All-Stars are also available at the Friends of the Arboretum plant sales in spring and fall. Learn more at http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu.