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?


Community Story

The garden is located at the 210 freeway and Sunland Boulevard in Sunland, California, 91040, in the east San Fernando Valley.

For more information, including full plans for the garden, a plant list, and an essay on the motivation for the garden, Look in our Facebook photo album “Garden Plans“.

The garden started as an off-hand comment between two native plant nuts about the Fountain Grass, and wouldn’t it be nice to replace it with local native plants. With great help from a number of people, we’ve now adopted the property from the City, and have planted over 50 species of plants from locally sourced seeds and cuttings representing the very best of the 300+ species of plants documented growing in the local hills since the year 2000. The garden will evolve over the next few years, as plants grow up and we’re able to grow some that are being challenging.

In 2013 we started gardening on the plot across the street as part of the Wildflowering LA art project. Unfortunately the wildflowers themselves were mostly a bust. In 2014 we solarized part of the soil, then planted the Wildflowering Annex with a simpler palette of local native plants that have grown without any supplemental irrigation, as there is no infrastructure on the site.

More Information


Blooms Between Fires

Taken between the devastating 2017 La Tuna Canyon and Creek Fires, these photos showcase the beauty of this irrigation-free garden after a hot, dry summer.



Photos by Lesly Hall Photography for FormLA Landscaping


There are a few predictable impacts of creating a garden authentic to the San Fernando Valley. Here is where the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden makes an impact for our community and in your life.

Save Water 

Saving water was one goal behind eliminating the expanses Fountain Grass that once filled the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden.  The vibrant, blooming Wildflower Annex now thrives with no supplemental water, while the lush, authentic garden receives very little supplemental water.

Reduce Operational Costs

We expect to save operational costs, including:

  1. 100 percent of the annual flower budget
  2. 100 percent of the toxic chemical fertilizer budget
  3. 100 percent of the toxic chemical pesticide budget
  4. 100 percent of soil amendment budget
  5. 81 percent of the time spent on maintenance
  6. 75 percent of the funds used for mower petrol
  7. 60-90 percent of the water previously needed
  8. 63 percent of fees associated with garden waste
  9. 15-50 percent of the energy dedicated to climate control

Protect Our Cool… and More

Choosing authentic foliage, particularly the Bush Mallow, Lemonade Berry, Toyon and Oak Trees cool the air.  This not only makes for a more enjoyable outdoor space, it can actually help keep Sunland-Tujunga cool as a community too.

The removal of invasive and flammable Fountain Grass is expected to improve the resilience of our adjacent wildspaces, particularly post-fire, while the dry river allows water to percolate and escape without destabilizing the slope.

Support You

Public spaces impact home values and business sales. Here’s why:

  • Beautiful park space increases nearby home values
  • Tree canopies reduce neighborhood heat, attract consumers to business areas, and improve the value of nearby homes
  • Young foliage appreciates in value as it grows

Support Wildlife and Biodiversity

Many native birds, bees, butterflies, and fauna will eat and live only on native foliage. The Sunland Welcome Nature Garden offers habitat, a good meal, and joy to our wild friends. The biodiversity of both flora and fauna further support LA’s overall resilience.

Provide an Example

While the drought increased California’s focus on saving water, we have needs and goals beyond simple water savings.  We want to protect our area from fires and slides, cool the air naturally where possible, and continually beautify our community.  We intend these gardens to serve as a model for reaching all of those goals with our garden choices.