Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Inventive Drought Tolerant Parkways

Inventive parkway that is  more drought tolerant than grass
Inventive parkway that is more drought tolerant than grass

Deep into a drought and faced with tough water restriction rules, more and more green lawns are turning brown or into something all together different as homeowners struggle with how to conserve water.  The private lawn has always been the purview of the homeowner but the parkway is different.  This small sliver of space between the street and the sidewalk, that legally belongs to the city but with shared maintenance with the homeowner, is the connective tissue that runs through all our neighborhoods.

All the neighborhoods in the Larchmont Village area — Hancock Park, Windsor Square, Larchmont Village, Fremont Place, Brookside, La Brea Hancock, Windsor Village, Wilshire Park, etc. share a similar parentage. All were developed in the early 1910s-1920s with an idealized image of the good life of single family homeownership. Developers and builders at the time sought to create neighborhoods with sidewalks in a park-like setting that would look enough like the their east inspirations to lure new buyers but offer all the benefit of the mild southern California climate. Trees and grass were planted to connect the yards knitting neighbors together and provide a calm, lush setting for walking dogs, riding bikes and otherwise enjoying life. The plan worked beautifully, neighborhoods sprung up all around the Larchmont area and the city’s population soared to over 1.3 million people, a ten-fold increase from 1900.

As homeowners rip out the grass and replace it with all manner of plants, the result is an interruption in that continuos ribbon. Where there was once uniformity, there is now an eclectic melange of solutions to landscaping for curb appeal while adapting to drier conditions and strict water conservation rules.

How do we preserve our park-like heritage with thoughtful, sustainable landscaping that looks great and makes sense in the context of historic homes? The Buzz is very interested in how homeowners and garden designers are responding.

Below are solutions we’ve seen in the neighborhood.  What do you think? We’d like to hear from you, what are you doing in your parkway?

Pavers with blue fescue, dymondia, flax and white lantana fill this parkway.
Ornamental grasses fill this parkway
The parkway at the Mayor's residence
The parkway at the Mayor’s residence is planted yarrow and dymondia
Artificial turf has replaced live grass
Artificial turf has replaced live grass in this parkway, though most horticulturalist have serious concerns about the heat generated by turf that can kill tree roots and the lack of permeability generating more run off.  Some newer and more expensive synthetic grasses have addressed those issues. Be sure to research this carefully if you are looking for a truly earth- friendly solution.
In some situations, turf provides a great solution where live grass would not survive such as between concrete pavers. Here the use of turf between pavers creates a neat border for a front garden and extends the width of the driveway between neighbors
The turf border also adds a bit extra width to the sidewalk. It does collect leaves and dirt that need to be swept away, hopefully not hosed down with water!



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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. Thanks for posting drought-tolerant ideas for the parkway. Perhaps a part-two story could be about parkways with large mature trees that shed lots of leaves? My challenge includes needing to rake under the tree, plants that can handle some shade, and making sure the tree gets enough water (which might be watered by my neighbors’ lawns since the root structure is huge.) Others probably have the same concerns.

    Thank you!

  2. The first photo, with pavers and some landscape is beautiful. Have just moved into the area and would love to have more information about the process or making this kind of conversion, and suppliers than can help accomplish this in an affordable manner. If homeowners had a better idea of the process, the cost, and if there are any subsidies available perhaps the knowledge would encourage then to move forward.

    • The cost really depends on what you are planning. We are hoping that our coverage of parkways can inspire people with some of the designs we are seeing popping up around the neighborhood. As for subsidies, the DWP has relaunched the residential lawn replacement program and is accepting applications on a first come, first serve basis. You can learn more about it on their website at

  3. If the decision is made to keep grass in the parkway (at least temporarily), it is recommended to let the grass grow longer so the blades protect the roots from the heat so a lot less water is required to keep the grass green. I am doing this and find that it works! So, don’t let your gardener cut the grass every week. Every two-three weeks is good. Also, St. Augustine grass is drought tolerant and even goes dormant in the winter, so requires very little watering. It does prefer dappled shade.

    • Excellent point. Cutting the lawn less often also slows down the rate of growth and watering less frequently but for a bit longer will encourage the roots to dig deeper into the soil; both will make your lawn more drought tolerant and less maintenance.


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