Pasadena Learning Gardens

Resourcing communities to create a healthier more sustainable future


Seen in nature, we cannot but marvel at the way plant and organism communities get along.  No extra water or soil amendments, few diseases or pests, it’s pretty humbling…

Once humans stick their hands, and their big machines into it things come quickly out of synch.  Thus, our workshops are always on “more” sustainable landscaping.  We like Santa Barbara’s Owen E. Dell’s book Sustainable Landscaping for Dummies as a guide.   Key elements include:

Site Analysis – Sun, shade, rainfall, slope, long term elements (structures and trees), rainfall and temperature ranges all need to be factored in.

Needs– play space, entertaining, cooking, quiet space, etc.

Design – Identifying zones that hopefully correlate to your current irrigation system based on sun, soil and water needs.

Soil – compaction, physical composition, pH, etc.

Water – irrigation, rainwater harvesting, grey water

Habitat – multi tiered plantings, native plants

Plant Pallet

The toughest part in putting together a sustainable landscape is selecting and grouping the plants. Plants need to be arranged based on soil, sun, and water requirements with an eye to their mature size. Fortunately there are some great resources available. FYI Pasadena / Altadena are in Sunset zone 20 and USDA zone 10

The primary reference is Bob Perry’s new book – you can download the first three sections that are lists of plants organized by multiple criteria (e.g. Mediterranean, drought tolerant, ground cover, Sunset zone, etc.). The book is in the Reference section of the Pasadena Library.

Local Native Plant expert Orchid Black created *the* list for us Pasadena vicinity gardeners who want some of the “easiest” native plants to grow in our area.  The quotes are because they ain’t zucchini…  Orchid is a key part of our local chapter of the California Native Plant Society.  They have programs, meetings and an excellent native plant garden at the Eton Canyon Nature Center – including regular walks in the native garden.

Other great resources include:

– a web site published by the Southern California Water District includes several valuable sections on gardens, water saving, rebates, and native plants.

The Theodore Payne Foundation promotes the understanding and preservation of California native flora. They offer a great plant wiki and are local

El Nativo – mostly wholesale nursery, covers Mediterranean climate plants beyond CA natives. Has some valuable resources – link to documents detail usage of drought tolerant plants.

Las Pilitas – great native plant nursery in San Diego county.

Monrovia Nursery – has a nice how-to section – link to plants selected for low water needs that grow in Pasadena area – USDA zone 10

And for those that made it this far, our More Sustainable Landscaping Powerpoint presentation

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