Book Notes: Reimagining the California Lawn


A recent visit to a local gardening club allowed me to meet someone from the local chapter of a group dedicated to encouraging the planting of native plants. Among their materials was a book I was drawn to immediately, Reimagining the California Lawn: Water Conserving Plants, Practices and Designs (Cachuma Press) authored by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien. As I’m sure you know, Californians statewide are grappling with reduced water resources and alternatives are being sought out by landscapers and home gardeners alike.
Now entering our fifth year of reduced rain and snowfall, pouring water out onto our long held practice of lush green lawns is no longer feasible, or even acceptable. Gardeners everywhere are turning to practical alternatives, and the results are often a delight. And Reimagining the California Lawn is helping to light the way! The book is graced with the exquisite photos of well known and highly regarded gardening photographer Saxon Holt, as well as editor/photographer John Evarts. I found all the photos invaluable, as they truly do highlight the many possibilities of a lawn reimagined. This shift in rethinking how we plan and use our gardens is nothing short of a sea change, and I think we all need all the help we can get, don’t you?


Reimagining the California Lawn is structured around three primary chapters: Garden Designs for Lawn Replacement; How to Manage, Reduce, or Remove Your Lawn; and a very extensive and helpful third chapter, called Plant Profiles, which readers will very much appreciate. These three sections are followed by a Recommended Plant Selections, listing choices for these considerations: Aggressive, Aromatic Foliage, Attractive to Bees, Bulletproof, Deer Resistant, Dried Arrangements, Dry Shade, Dry Wind, Fast Growing, Frost Tender, Hummingbirds, Poisonous/Allergenic, Poor Drainage, Seashore Conditions, Silver,Gray, White or Blue Foliage, Slow Growing, Spiny or Prickly. Isn’t that a resource-rich list? It makes me want to look plants up right away!

Here are some more visual suggestions taken from Reimagining the California Lawn:

Barrel cactus

Carex praegracillis-Lawn substitute Carex praegracillis

Artichoke agave with blue fescue

Canyon Prince wild rye and autumn moor grass

While Californians and other westerly states might best benefit from this book, I believe there is a bit of something for everyone. And the photos alone are worth the price of the book. It’s that beautiful and inspiring. I’m very happy to have it in my library. Highly recommended!

Love and garden blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Book News: Pleased to announce an excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden will be included in the winter issue of GreenPrints magazine! Also, this blog, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy was recently named Gardening Blog of the Week by Nature Hills Nursery, America’s Largest Online Plant Nursery! We are honored!

16 Responses to “Book Notes: Reimagining the California Lawn”

  1. Kathryn: Great review of an indispensable and inspiring reference book. Even if you never look up a plant, the design philosophy is worth the read.

  2. Billy, thank you so much and welcome! Great to have your input, given you are such a great landscaper! Kathryn xoxo

  3. Fabulous!! I love the photos and the book looks wonderful. I have long been very interested in having my yard look like the type of scene these native plants show off!

  4. What a wonderful resource! It’s so timely. Poor California needs sustainable solutions to assist with the drastic changes that have been happening there. What beautiful options, too!

  5. Hi, Brenda, I highly recommend your getting this book! You could totally do this at your home, and it would be beautiful! And this book would be a great guide! Very inspiring. And, btw, one of the photographers lives in your town! Kathryn xoxo

  6. Hi, Antonia! This truly is the best book I’ve come across to help guide the way–aesthetically and pragmatically–to a beautiful alternative to The Lawn. Really inspiring! Love, Mom xoxo

  7. These are Wonderful photos, much needed rethinking of suburban lawns which should trigger a dialogue over the whole nation. Even here is the east where we have enough water, should we really be using our resources to care for the green lawn monoculture? Additionally, we use so many toxic materials to maintain the carpet green look. Is it worth adding more toxics to the environment? Over fertilization is triggering the algae growth in all our inland lakes and the Gulf of Mexico. Does my right to a green monoculture lawn trump your right to safe drinking water or the ability to enjoy water sports at the lake? These are the trade offs we are making whether we realize we are doing so or not. Stable native landscaping ties up more CO2, carbon sequestration, than shallow rooted bluegrass. Native grasses can have roots that go as much as 15 feet deep, Commonly more than a meter deep. Bluegrass has roots about six inches deep. Landscaping companies can make money installing sustainable landscapes just like they can monoculture bluegrass (which is not a native and actually considered an invasive here in central Ohio). Thanks so much for posting and starting this dialogue.

  8. Hi, Julie, and thank YOU! This is invaluable input and it’s not common knowledge. But slowly we are learning and shifting. Our drought, of course, is forcing us to rethink lawns. And this book truly is a great source of knowledge. The authors have excellent backgrounds for writing this book. Kathryn xoxo

  9. Thank you Kathryn for your review. That’s make me think a lot about the way we are doing gardens.
    The photos are stunning. I am very impressed with Artichoke agave.

  10. Hi, Shari Jennings, and welcome. The photos in this book are extraordinary. If you are a visual person you will find the photos very inspiring. Kathryn xxo

  11. A great resource! The photos looks stunning. I’m sure the book is very inspiring. I’ll definitely grab one. Thanks for sharing Kathryn!

  12. Hi, Paul and welcome! I’m sure you will enjoy. And yes, the photos are extraordinary! Kathryn xoxo

  13. Excellent review of a wonderful reference book. This book worth reading because of its great guide.BTW, I love the photos too.

  14. Hi, Matthew, Glad you know about this book! Kathryn

  15. […] Favorite Post: Book Notes: Reimagining the California Lawn […]

  16. Thanks, Kevin, for sharing this post! It’s a good book! Kathryn xoxo

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