Go with the Flow H2O


Ditch rigid walks, drives and patios for spaces that flow with H2o

By Cassy Aoyagi: It’s important to know how to go with the flow in LA. Rigid walks and drives may still fly in other areas of the country. Not here. We need to be ready to absorb what we can, direct what we can’t, and have the wisdom to accept the difference.


When LA chooses to compliment us with rain, the best response we can have is to thank her and absorb it with grace. LA loves it when we:

  • Drink deeply. Only planted spaces can truly absorb LA’s full complement of water. The long roots of native plants are adept at digging deep to find water when it is scarce. Natives that have grown up having to fight for every drop also have a tremendous capacity to save for a rain-free day.
  • Avoid the cold shoulder. It’s tough. When we haven’t gotten what we need for so long, it’s easy to pave up, buy a wardrobe of synthetic fiber and just walk away.  When that happens, all LA’s unrequited affection turns to raging rivers and sliding hillsides. It is critical we leave cracks in our armor, so we can welcome the water back when it flows.

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Now I need to be frank here. There will be times when LA’s water is just too much for us to absorb. It happens. Many gardens will take one look at what LA is sending us and throw it in the gutter, never to be seen again. That’s just rude.

We can do better. Our grandparents might advise “waste not, want not.” Rainbarrels, cisterns, and ponds can certainly help us save. In today’s day, however, it is also useful to know how to turn down water’s advances with respect and kindness.  The thing is, if water is coming to us, we have a chance to influence it. We provide productive direction when we:

  • Set clear, sensible boundaries. Many water issues can be avoided by creating the right structure. Water needs to know it cannot come into our homes or destabilize our property. Landsculpting with berms and other elevation-building features keep water from disrupting our flow.
  • Give it space to move. Water will find a way – its one of its more marketable skills. So why not make it easy, productive, and, ideally, beautiful? Creating low-elevation points like bioswales and dry rivers will leave water thinking it was her idea to take the recommended path!

The IdealMow lawn alternative covered mounds of the outdoor amphitheater serve as picnic space, theater seating, all while directing rainwater to the bioswale.


At the end of the day, how much rain LA gives us and where it falls is outside of our control. The best we can do is to make hay when the water is falling, prepare for drought, and be grateful for whatever LA provides in the moment. Isn’t that the least we could do for our little miss sunshine?

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