Please Don’t Plant That There! 8 Epic Mistakes People Make With Trees and Shrubs

Have a home with a yard? Then you might be pining to plant something to make it lush. Only problem is, many homeowners are at sea in big-box garden centers, selecting species that just won’t thrive—or even survive—in their yards.


To the rescue, we’ve asked some green thumb experts for the biggest mistakes people make planting (and caring for) trees and shrubs. Read up on these bloopers to avoid before you dig in!  Read More


5 Year Anniversary Message

Wow, hard to believe it’s been 5 years since we renovated the landscape at the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden. Time flies! Enjoy the memories, it’s been quite a project!

This garden got its start as an off-handed comment in an email thread between community members, grew to collecting seeds and cuttings from our local trails and a propagation effort that necessitated a whole new approach to potting containers, and resulted in a few dozen community members taking part in a wholescale renovation of the community entrance garden.

It’s been five years since about 50 people got together to rip out the invasive exotic Fountain Grass that the City had planted a decade before, and install the local native plants that now support the local bees, birds, lizards, and hummingbirds, grace the site with authentic beauty, and do so with minimal supplemental irrigation.


In February of 2013, after a several-month-long process, we adopted this property from the City. In March of that year we replaced the plants in the majority of the garden. It was hard work removing the hundreds of mature Fountain Grass plants, some of them growing inbetween rocks that were cemented in place. The replacement plants were tiny, and almost invisible among the mulch, but they grew well, and within a few months some were already blooming. In the fall we planted the rest of the garden, and the flowers haven’t stopped – pretty much every day of the year, something is blooming!

In 2014 we adopted and planted the parcel across the street, having been inspired by the Wildflowering LA art project. This Wildflowering Annex, as we call it, has its own challenges, with a surplus of weeds and no irrigation. We solarized the slopes in the summer of 2014, planted the top bench in December, and the Buckwheats and Sages have performed admirably on rainfall alone. When we get some real rain in the winter, the wildflowers are pretty in the spring.

In 2015 we ran a crowdfunding campaign, which combined with a grant from the Metropolitan Water District, enabled us to install interpretive signage to explain the motivation behind the garden and inspire people to take the message home to their own gardens.


See current garden gallery

In 2017 we trimmed the trees and bigger shrubs to open up sight lines and make the garden less attractive to the local transients. After some struggles with one particularly belligerent person, the City’s homeless task force prevailed and things have been mostly quiet. A couple weeks ago we planted 75 little plants, filling in holes from plants that either hadn’t survived, or that we haven’t been able to propagate. While we were planting, the hummingbirds were serenading us. Ahh, music to our ears!


Why Not Fountain Grass?

California Native Plant Society, September 2012. By Roger Klemm: Fountain Grass (Pennisetum setaceum) is a bunchgrass from Africa that is widely planted as an ornamental plant in portions of the United States with warm winters. It is a tough, vigorous plant that will tolerate adverse conditions of heat and drought. It does not appear to suffer from any pests or diseases, and many people appreciate its graceful seed heads produced in profusion over the spring and summer months.

The downside is that in California, Fountain Grass has no natural enemies and readily out-competes other plants. It is invasive, and if you plant it in your yard, you will soon have seedlings of Fountain Grass popping up wherever there is bare soil. It will even grow vigorously in the gaps between sections of concrete and bedrock of natural slopes. Its seeds are carried long distances in the wind, so if your neighbor has it in their yard, it will eventually end up in yours, and the nearby natural areas. If you are in a fire hazard area, it is especially dangerous, as it dries out early in the summer and becomes extremely flammable. Read More

Fountain vs. Deer Grass

Two beautiful, shapely blondes, but only one is a true friend to LA

September 30, 2017. By Cassy Aoyagi:  Her beautiful, sparkling gold feathers flow like cornsilk in the wind. The movements of her curvy shape can mesmerize. The power of Fountain Grass is obvious.  No doubt, she’s one of the more popular grasses in LA. We aren’t fans.

Pretty can get you pretty far, and she is that. Her advocates make Fountain Grass sound friendly too. They’ll go so far as to call her drought tolerant! Well, that’s technically true. (But it’s the Regina George kind of tolerant.) If we take the time to look beyond her surface beauty, Fountain Grass is nothing but the ultimate mean girl. Lest you think I’m just jealous of her looks, check out what Roger Klemm has to say about her.

I’d like to nominate another homecoming queen, the equally pretty and far more generous Deer grass.

Fountain, like her look-alike friends Pampas and Mexican feather grass, spreads seeds of trouble near and far.  In contrast, Deer grass has some truly endearing qualities. She:

  • Waves delightful gold wands that sparkle in the sunlight
  • Rocks a curvy base of deep, true green
  • Holds her own while respecting others space
  • Plays well with others, even letting friends take center stage
  • Keeps her seeds to herself

We know, Fountain Grass is pretty and popular. But at some point, don’t we all have to ask ourselves what kind of friends we want to invite to our homes?