Use your imagination

An author sees growth in the trend of replacing lawns.

September 22, 2011
San Francisco Chronicle

David Fross is seeing the anti-lawn movement gaining ground. Fross, who runs Native Sons Nursery in Arroyo Grande (San Luis Obispo County), recently co-authored "Reimagining the California Lawn," with Bart O'Brien of the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden and Carol Bornstein, formerly of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. The three previously collaborated on the authoritative "California Native Plants for the Garden."

The new book, a typically handsome Cachuma Press product, combines inspiration with practical advice to replace thirsty lawns with something more sustainable and interesting. "The lawn is a terribly unimaginative use of space," Fross told us. "The 'mow-fertilize- repeat' paradigm doesn't make sense."

He added: "My sense from the book tour is that there is a lot more dissatisfaction with lawns than I was aware of. The primary reason people haven't converted their lawns is they didn't know which way to go or how to do it."

Fross' quarrel with lawns started with thoughts about water use, influenced by an encounter with the late UC Berkeley hydrologist Luna Leopold on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. "Leopold taught me a lot about rivers," Fross recalled; that has shaped his approach to landscape design and plant material. "Lawns in California consume the annual volume of the Kern and Owens Rivers," he pointed out.


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