Gardens of the World

5 Gardens Demonstrate Plant Palettes that Thrive in LA

The La Cañada Public Library’s drought tolerant Gardens of the World illustrate plant palettes from the five regions of the world with a climate similar to that found in Los Angeles.  They feature plants native to Australia, California, Chile, the Mediterranean basin, and South Africa.

One of the first public gardens to illustrate climate compatible landscapes in Los Angeles, the gardens were well-established prior to the start of the drought and continue to thrive despite low water.  Recognized for their beauty, water savings, and community influence, the gardens will be featured on an International Greenbuild Conference tour in 2016.

(Drought Tolerant) Gardens of the World

Designed and installed by FormLA Landscaping, the gardens were maintained in partnership with the community and La Cañada community from 2008-2016.  They are now maintained by La Cañada Valley Beautiful.

The Vision: Take La Cañada Around the World

La Cañada Valley Beautiful, a non-profit citizen organization dedicated to landscape beautification and conservation in La Cañada-Flintridge, wanted to improve the main garden of the La Cañada Public Library. Despite years of passionate volunteer efforts and plant donations, the garden did not meet their vision.

President Linda Fults invited her landscape designer, Cassy Aoyagi of FormLA Landscaping, to provide ideas for the garden. After looking at the 5 distinct planting areas at the Library, Cassy suggested creating a demonstration garden to illustrate the five California-compatible climate regions of the world and developed hearty and non-invasive palettes for the gardens.

California Native Welcome

Cassy knew these water wise choices would not only stay lush and leafy year round, they would save the community water, time, and money.  They would also reduce the gardens’ need for pesticides and fertilizers, making them cleaner, healthier, safer places.

With the vision of providing an educational, water-saving resource for the community, La Cañada Valley beautiful secured grants from both the City of La Cañada and the Municipal Water District.  Community donations further supported the effort.

Before and After: Demonstrating Drought Tolerant Diversity

The first garden installed features hearty California natives. Only slightly removed from high-traffic shopping centers, this eye-catching garden draws visitors to the library.  It attracted immediate attention, with extraordinary focal points positioned to inspire people to get a closer look.


Once the front, California-native garden was complete, La Cañada Valley Beautiful and FormLA Landscaping turned their attention to beautification of the long, lean side of the Library with foliage native to the Mediterranean Basin. Positioned between parking and the Library entrances, great consideration was given to the encouragement of appropriate traffic flow through the space. Because visitors approach the garden from many vantage points, focal points needed to evoke delight from every angle.


In subsequent years, the four islands spaces behind the library came to illustrate Australian, Chilean, and South African plant palettes.  Area residents used to seeing this foliage as cut flowers at farmer’s markets were wowed by the otherworldly beauty of their full and vibrant foliage.


The Result: Year-Round Beauty, Water Savings, Change

La Cañada Public Library now has a noteworthy and distinct set of demonstration gardens that take residents and visitors around the world.  The drought tolerant Gardens of the World wrap the library in year-round greenery while saving water, time, and money.  The lushness and radiance of the main garden brings on-lookers and evoke appreciative calls to both the library and La Cañada Valley Beautiful.

The California garden, installed in 2008, and the Mediterranean Basin garden, installed the following year, quickly created a taste for an authentic LA aesthetic in the community.  The look of La Cañada’s neighborhoods continues to change as homeowners see the increased curb appeal that comes with using climate-compatible palettes.  In fact, leading homeowners earned commendations from the state assembly for doing their part – beautifully – during the drought!


Los Angeles residents from the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valley all the way to Seal Beach have attended garden maintenance events to learn about climate compatible palettes and landscaping techniques.

Kirk Aoyagi at La Canada Public Library

The impact of the gardens extends beyond the library grounds and even La Cañada.  The gardens and supporting materials allowed the library to serve as a compelling resource for those seeking information about climate compatible landscaping.

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