The grass is greener on the other side?

An article in the LA Times talks about turf scientists' quest for non-thirsty green lawns.

In a parched experimental plot at the edge of UC Riverside, several dozen mounds of grass poke out of the powdery soil.

These plants have the soft, narrow leaf blades and dark-green hue that would make them a welcome addition to any American lawn. Most important, they lack the feature that threatens to doom today's turf -- an unsustainable thirst for water.

With mandatory watering restrictions turning grass brown from California to Florida to Massachusetts, a small but dedicated cadre of turf scientists is on a mission to engineer a drought-proof superlawn.

They are acutely aware of the technical challenges. Millions of years of evolution have failed to devise a turf that thrives in dry, hot summers and cool, damp winters, and trying to one-up Mother Nature certainly is an exercise in horticultural hubris.

read more at the LA Times.

Of course University of California already has a low water turf grass named UC Verde. When I last looked at it, it seemed more targeted at the Southwest, than Coastal California, but a Google search last night showed that there are many more prominent providers of it now than 1+ years ago. It is a variety of Buffalo Grass, native to North America, but not to California. Shirley Bovshow, S. California "garden personality" has a test plot of UC Verde and several blog posts about it:

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 1

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 2

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 3

UC Verde Lawn Test in Los Angeles: Part 4

More from the LA Times article:
Most Californians plant tall fescue varieties, such as Marathon, in their yards. They are the most water-efficient of the cool-season grasses, but that still leaves plenty of room for improvement.

Simply switching to warm-season varieties would reduce water needs by 20%, Baird said. However, these species go dormant in the winter, and even during their active months they never reach the deep green hues of their cool-season cousins.

"We could go a long ways in terms of our drought if more people used those grasses," he said. "But the color issue is the major limiting factor."

I suppose they could always plant it on the other side of the street.


  1. Hi - I just saw your link come in to my blog regarding the UC Verde lawn test- thanks.

    There are many more articles and resources for climate-specific lawns and organic lawn care over at:


    I am one of the founding contributers. Perhaps you would be interested in checking it out.

    By the way, thanks for reference to my "personality," quite true as I am well-known on garden television, but I am most proud to be a "real world" landscape designer, plantsperson and gardening coach!

    Shirley Bovshow

  2. Thanks for chiming in, Shirley. I've recently been working in sort of a blog vacuum with respect to lawn issues, it would appear.

    Many of my favorite blogs have linked to / blogged about LawnReform.org and related lawn issues, but I missed it all until just recently.

  3. I couldn't help thinking, reading this, what lengths people will go to to make a bad idea work...not that lawns are always a bad idea, just that the intense amount of energy, money, chemicals, and water we pour into making wherever we live look like the lusher parts of England strikes me as perverse.