Monrovia Plant Savvy
design, inspiration and practical ideas from the plant experts. April 2012
does your lawn have a drinking problem?

Dear Savvy Gardener,


According to the EPA, the typical suburban lawn consumes 10,000 gallons of water above and beyond rainwater each year. Yikes – what’s that costing you? Not to mention the cost of a yard service to mow it, and expensive products to keep it looking verdant. In honor of Earth Month it may be time to rethink that water guzzling monster out the back door. And it’s not just the cost of watering or the eco-impact of herbicides, a lawn doesn’t provide much protection for critters. The more plants and shrubs in your garden, the more food and shelter are available to birds and butterflies. Perhaps this is the year you finally take the plunge to reduce the size of your lawn…or even eliminate it entirely. Ask yourself a few questions…like how much do you really use your lawn? Could the lawn be smaller and still meet your needs? What are the parts of the lawn that you don’t use, or that are difficult to mow that could be replaced?

  Eco garden
Reducing the size of a thirsty lawn can be a very beautiful eco-solution. Here, the lawn is mostly gone, in favor of pretty flag stones edged in green, plus plenty of lush shrubs and groundcovers. It's a unique space than needs little attention.*
Are you water-wise?
  Flower Carpet® Amber Rose leafgif   cutting corners

As a first step, try removing the edges and corners of the lawn and planting water-wise shrubs and groundcovers. Eartheasy has some great tips on how to get started. Plant choice is an essential component of the water-wise garden. Search our plant catalog for the varieties that don't need much water once they're established. Check out newer varieties, many of which have been bred to be more drought tolerant, like Flower Carpet Roses are beautiful and, once established, require much less water than other roses.

  John Creech Stonecrop
Fire Spinner ™ Ice Plant
leafgif   eco color

Stonecrop is an amazingly versatile groundcover that will crowd out weeds and provide a nice lush carpet of color. It’s cold hardy, heat tolerant and available in a range of hues. Try Variegated Orange, with its dainty variegated foliage and pretty orange flowers; or John Creech with scalloped leaves and small pink flowers. Another workhorse of the water-wise garden is Ice Plant. They tolerate poor soil, heat, cold – they are good for firescaping, and the best news is they have vibrant, long-lasting flowers for a pop of color. Fire Spinner, a 2012 Plant Select Winner, has tri-colored blooms of orange, pink and yellow. Sutherland Hardy has two-inch vibrant pink-purple flowers that are the largest of all Ice Plants.

  Lil Miss Sunshine ™ Bluebeard leafgif   mo’ color, not mow green

Bluebeard is a hardy flowering shrub that makes a nice foundation planting and attracts butterflies.  Our new Lil Miss Sunshine has shiny yellow foliage and a profusion of deep blue flowers in the late summer and fall. Also new and fabulous, Blue Balloon® has a balloon-shaped habit and an extra long blooming season.  Yarrow, also a favorite of butterflies, is a water-wise way to add vivid color to the garden.  Deep yellow  Coronation Gold and spicy red Paprika are great choices.  In warmer climates, Lilac Hibiscus bloom almost all year long.  Leon’s Purple Delight has deep purple blooms.

  Emerald Wave ® Sweet Bay


plant for your palate

The notion of Farmer Chic was no passing fad.  Gardeners have found many edibles as eye-catching as pure ornamentals...and are rewarded with tasty fruits.  So perhaps part of your former lawn could include water-wise edibles, such as Fig and Olive trees, Pineapple Guava and Grapes.  Grape vines will quickly cover a patio or walkway overhang, providing welcomed shade from the summer heat as well as plump juicy fruit for nibbling or amateur winemaking. Herbs like Rosemary and Sweet Bay are attractive, easy to grow and handy for cooking.

  Desert Museum Palo Verde
Centennial Spirit Crape Myrtle



Smaller trees in your new eco-friendly landscape will provide some shade and flowering beauty.  Many Crape Myrtles are very drought tolerant and will light up your yard with flowers all summer.  The true red Arapaho is disease resistant;  White Chocolate has pure white flowers against bronzy cocoa-colored foliage; and Centennial Spirit has very long-lasting rosy-red flowers.  As its name implies, Desert Museum Palo Verde provides a dazzling display of bright yellow flowers in the spring, even in desert like watering conditions.  From our Dan Hinkley Collection is Ovens Wattle, a fast-growing evergreen from Australia that is covered with honey-scented soft yellow flowers in late winter.  Conifers are good choices in colder climates, like Singleleaf Pinyon.

*Photo: Steven Gunther for Sunset