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Poor lonely Agave, with barely any plants for company, languidly waits for El Niño to come and wash away the bare soil surrounding its forlorned leaves.

The agave is weeping because not only are we in a multi-year drought in California, now we are headed for a catastrophe of biblical proportions.

EL NIÑO!!!!! (shrieks are heard in the distance)

The warm waters in the Pacific will herald in unprecedented winter storms, and all sorts of hell will break loose.

Why? Because there has been so little rain, the soil has forgotten how to soak up water. People have let their plants wither and die, so there is very little ground cover on residential properties. There will be mudslides everywhere!

I know I sound like a doomsayer, and I’ll take that. I don’t WANT to be the one who sees tragedy coming, but I can’t help it! Everything Los Angelenos have been told about how to deal with the drought has been completely wrong, in my opinion. Instead of allowing people to let lawns go fallow, there should have been mandated re-plantings, not just rebates for eventual replanting. A healthy garden planted with a variety of trees, shrubs, perennials, succulents,and grasses is a superior water holding device than any rain barrel (which they are giving rebates for btw). The underground network of roots, penetrating to varying depths, would have stabilized soil and held hillsides in place. The gardens would have added to this large city’s greenspace and helped to offset the heat island effect – but Los Angeles has less planted space than it had before, when it should have more.

To gardeners like we Ranters, what I propose makes sense – but it is completely counterintuitive to the norms, who think plants use water, we are low on water, so we must get rid of plants, right? THAT is basically what has happened in this city. It seems that nobody in charge of planning how to respond to a drought spoke to any horticulturalist about the matter.

So here we wait for yet another Apocalypse. Living in Los Angeles is like being in the 90’s tv series “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” – there is always an apocalypse around the corner. This one is THE DELUGE. We are being told to fix our roofs and clean our gutters and sandbag our hillsides. But no matter what we do, we have the feeling it is not enough, because the forecasters are telling us HOW BAD THE RAINS WILL BE. We will all die, of course. Die ironically watery deaths, after years of dry dry dry.

Sigh. I’m weeping along with this depressed agave. Think about me as the Deluge approaches, and pray your Sad Little Ranter doesn’t get swept away in a slide of mud from the unplanted hillside above her house! I TOLD THEM!!!

(sounds of me and my agave friend, sobbing gently…)


Posted by

Ivette Soler
on October 28, 2015 at 3:31 am, in the category Real Gardens.


  1. Great point about attacking (mostly symbolics) lawns without recommending, requiring, or incentivizing a renovation of the pre-existing landscape (rather than merely its destruction). We need to start subsidizing the planting of climate-appropriate shade trees, the kind that will reduce hydrophobic soils, provide comfort to people and shelter for animals, reduce heating / cooling costs (as much of an environmental problem as lush, residential lawns), and counteract erosion. This is not an impossible task, provided local and state governments aren’t controlled by self-styled anti-government “outsiders” who think slashing public works budgets is a responsible, rather than self-defeating and nihilistic, act.

  2. The bulk of populated southern California (coast to western San Berdoo and Riverside counties) was never a desert, though. Chaparral shrublands and mediterranean biomes are distinct from deserts.

  3. The real problem is, no matter whether you call it chaparral or desert or whatever — it’s still a place that was never intended to house millions of people. Yes, some things would help, but they’re never going to be enough.

  4. What do you mean there is no water? You’re sitting next to the single largest body of water on the planet, the Pacific Ocean. Salt water can be desalinated and used for drinking water. Sure, there is the sticker price to be considered, it is substantial, it would cost tens of billions to build and operate. Dubai does it, and they almost rely on it 100% because their climate is far more severe than California’s SW sector. It’s time for Cali to join the big leagues an pony up for decades of squandering several states water. The cost it would have been to build that kind of facility, is much cheaper than the damage Cali has cost the whole region. Dubai had visionaries for their water, they’ve already socked away enough reserve water to last past 2020, what has Cali done lately? Squandered everyone’s water and your money, all for nothing.

  5. I don’t think letting lawns go brown is the huge problem you’re making it out to be Ivette, as mostly the organic thatch and roots are still there, and nature and weeds have an amazing ability to green up apparently bare earth, even without rain, given a chance to do so, even in southern California. Playing devil’s advocate here, the majority of LA’s tree canopy is poorly matched to existing climate and rainfall, and the worst water guzzlers may just have to be replaced with more appropriate plantings in the future, think of this as an opportunity, not a disaster.

  6. More so my point about impractical tree selections, is that if they can’t be babied through an extended drought lasting into more future years, they should be replaced with trees that can take the conditions going forward. There’s no shortage of tree selections that can adapt to southern California if one looks at other similar or drier climates around the world, and just maybe using more adapted California native species that grow in the LA Basin makes sense too.

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