SmartScapes: A New Sustainable Landscape Project

By Steven Jay Porus

Diminishing resources and client demands have made Sustainable Landscapes extremely important. Water-wise (or Xeriscape) native plant material, BMPs or best management practices and water-efficient irrigation systems are crucial components of sustainability.

The Los Angeles area will soon be facing a severe drought. As a result, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently asked residents and businesses to voluntarily cut their water use by 10 percent. The SmartScapes project responded to the mayor’s initiative by creating a residential sustainable landscape in Van Nuys, Calif. This project assessed the landscape, designed a sustainable landscape, performed site preparation, and planted a new sustainable landscape with the goal of saving more than 25 percent of the landscape’s water usage.

The old landscape

When reviewing the original landscape and location for the SmartScapes project, our advisors found much of the plant material — including berry-producing shrubs, Hibicus and a great number of annuals — to be unhealthy, prone to disease, or in need of tremendous amounts of water and maintenance for survival. Many of the selected shrubs and trees had been pot-bound too long when planted and/or were improperly planted. Seventy-five percent of the landscape was turf. In addition, the existing irrigation system was not water efficient, was not functioning properly, and was counter-productive for a sustainable landscape. The only specimen of the original landscape that was kept for the new sustainable landscape was a 50-foot Magnolia Grandflora.

Site preparation

Once the home renovation was complete, all of the existing plant material was removed (with the exception of the Magnolia Grandflora). The Magnolia Grandflora displayed signs of shock, but our advisors felt it could be saved and integrated in the landscape. Proper pruning (less than 25 percent) along with a healthy dose of SuperThrive reversed most of the symptoms, and we have noticed a remarkable improvement in a very short two months [Note: we will be repeating the SuperTrive in the autumn]. Organic soil amendments, sponsored by Tri-C Organics, were tilled into the soil. The irrigation system includes an ET controller, sponsored by Toro and Little Valve/Little Tuffy. Once the irrigation system was installed, the soil was leveled and additional organic soil amendments were added.

Design and plant selection

Selections of turf and plant material were made for their low maintenance and water-efficient properties. Dwarf tall fescue, sponsored by Stover Seed Company, was selected for the lawn. Less than 25 percent of the new landscape is turf. When kept at a two inches high, this turf requires less water, yet its lush green color and texture both complement and contrast the other components in the new sustainable landscape.

Plant material, including various lilies, ornamental grasses, perennials and ground covers — sponsored by Monrovia Growers — were selected for the various micro-climates of the landscape, creating color interest most of the year. These beds utilized a weed barrier covered with recycled rubber mulch, sponsored by Rubberific.


After a two-month establishment period, this new sustainable landscape requires nearly half of the maintenance and water usage from the original landscape. An online session documenting the design, preparation, selection, and installation of this SmartScape will soon be available at

Steven Jay Porus is the president of Unlimited Access (UA), A Management Corporation. He has has nearly 30 years of event management and marketing experience. Settling in the Green Industry in 1997, Porus has managed events for the Southern California Turfgrass Council, University of California Cooperative Extension, and University of California Riverside. Porus received his bachelor or arts from Roosevelt University in 1975. In 2004, UA created Green Industry Education.

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