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  • rick9162

Succulents and Sagebrush, The Future of Sonoma County landscapes?

Updated: Jun 3, 2023

At last fall's ASLA Conference in San Francisco, I was lucky enough to share a table with a grad student committed to carbon solutions in the landscape.

She explained a study she is conducting regarding the replacement tree species we should be looking towards as climate change alters our plant zones. This dovetailed into Sustainability thought work currently underway here at Elder Creek.

Concerns over our true impact on the local water supply were driving our related conversations. We know about water scarcity. This is nothing new for us. We study it, talk about it, and many of us actually work to manage our impact on the local water supply. Most are focused on water use reduction.

Are we really seeing what is coming at us accurately? Are we really taking the necessary steps to head this off before we have thousands of acres of landscape that will not have the necessary water to support it?

Landscape and Ag toss around "drought tolerant", " low water use" and "xeriscape, quite loosely. Those of us on the ground know clearly that we are not ahead of this curve. While we don't know exactly what to expect, we can see enough to know that we need to make more deliberate and powerful shifts in plant design and water use strategies.

We have enough information to be operationally accurate, meaning we know enough to start making changes now. Waiting for more "solid" science is no longer a professionally responsible decision.

Those of us developing rural estates have seen our wells get deeper and deeper to find water and the quality of that water becoming more and more questionable. Lower flows, sediment, and high mineral contents such as boron are not uncommon.


So what does it look like if we commit to getting ahead of this curve? How can we continue to create magnificent landscapes with less water?

Now is a good time to point out that drought winters often mean colder temperatures for us here is Northern California. Even at lower altitudes. This pushes many of our plant choices off the table as many lower water-use plants don't like the cold temperatures.

We are looking to the high desert for inspiration and merging those palettes with some of our current favorites. For each landscape we design, we take a few more risks to push the edge of design.

Adapting to climate change and local conditions means trying new things, it means change. That is directly in our professional wheelhouse.

We live for change and new ideas.



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