April 22, 2010
The Aquarium of the Pacific has opened its new 4,700 square-foot Earth-Friendly Garden on its front lawn. Illustrating part of the solution to Southern California’s ongoing water shortage, the garden features California native and drought-resistant plants, as well as a water efficient irrigation system. This garden is made possible by grant funding from the United States Bureau of Reclamation and a partnership with the Long Beach Water Department.
If you have recently been hiking Southern California trails or strolling through some neighborhoods, you will recognize local favorites among the thirty-three species that comprise the garden. Varieties of succulents, agave, sages, and aloe are some of the more common plants. “The goal of the project is to show that creating a drought-tolerant garden is easy, beautiful, and functional. We wanted to inspire people, and we made sure that all the plants are easy to grow and easy to find at local retailers with garden centers and nurseries,” said Barbara Long, VP of government relations and special projects.
Plant groupings are arranged in informal swathes, complimenting the Aquarium’s existing architecture and providing visual interest from all sides of the garden. Additionally, plants have been selected to provide interesting contrast in foliage on an annual basis. Some flowering varieties such as lantana and Dusty Miller will provide year-round blooms. Other varieties with seasonal bloom times such as Sunset Ceanothus (spring to early summer) or Autumn Joy Stonecrop (late summer to winter) are intermingled. This guarantees the garden will always be in bloom and be in a unique state of transition any time of the year.
In order to further minimize the garden’s water consumption, a drip irrigation system connected to a weather-based irrigation controller has been installed. Drip irrigation is comprised of tubes releasing water at a slow constant drip at set intervals. This watering technique is proven to reduce water usage by at least 50% when compared to traditional sprinkler systems. Drip irrigation has benefits for the plants as well, including minimizing soil erosion, minimizing soil nutrient loss, minimizing weeds, and reduced leaching. Plants are also less susceptible to disease if their leaves are not exposed to constant wet and dry times, which is unavoidable with the conventional sprinkler method. The weather-based irrigation controller customizes the watering schedule automatically based on the local weather conditions allowing you to save even more water. Drip irrigation systems and weather-based irrigation controllers are available for home landscapes as well. For those interested in the most affordable and easiest alternative, many home-improvement and garden centers now carry the controller and drip hoses that attach to the average garden hose tap. Rebates often are available—just check your local water department’s website.
Overall, the Earth-Friendly Garden has incorporated everything from ground covers and flowering plants that attract butterflies to herbs and tall-grasses. Going drought-resistant does not have to mean a front yard full of sand and cacti, but is rather creating a mini eco-system of low-maintenance plants that thrive in your climate naturally. Conserving valuable drinking water is something we can all contribute toward by making informed landscaping choices and implementing water saving techniques. For more information, visit our online watershed exhibit.