Xeriscaping goes Mainstream

xeriscaping (Photo credit: tylernol)

“Lisa Gimmy’s Designs for Livable California Gardens”
Photo Essay
Lindsey Taylor
Peter Bohler (photos)

The New York Times continues its coverage of California’s growing movement away from English-style gardens and toward xeriscaping, the trend in landscape design toward the use of indigenous flora and ground cover, with a photo essay of the work being done by landscape designer Lisa Gimmy.

What is interesting about Gimmy’s approach is that just as she seeks to integrate the garden with its surroundings, she also takes cues from the architecture and interior design of the home. In short, she seeks to create a continuum between natural surroundings, garden, and living space.

The approach is thus an outright rejection of the traditional approach to gardens, which is to bend nature to our hand and to draw a clear distinction between the “wild” and the “civilized.” I see in xeriscaping, and in particular in Ginny’s thinking, an embodiment of a more genuinely Californian (or far-Western) ideal. We need not alter the landscape to live in it – indeed, we are discovering that the less we alter the ecology around us, the more livable we are making it.

Looking at Gimmy’s designs, both in the essay and on her website, there is an interesting dynamic at work. Rather than force her clients to give up sod and hedge completely, she seems to be leading them – and, by extension, us – through a transition process by integrating traditional gardens and xeriscapes. Purism would be easier, but Gimmy is not trying to hit us over the head with a new orthodoxy. Instead, she is going the more difficult route, designing gardens that wean us away from our customary ordered Englishness into something more natural and Californian.

That is art indeed.

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