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Garden of the future

Posted: June 1, 2012 7:50 p.m.
Updated: June 1, 2012 7:50 p.m.

The Castaic Lake Water Agency Conservatory Garden demonstrates how homeowners can have a water-wise garden.

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Did you know that more than 70 percent of your home's water use is in the yard and garden? Yup, that's a fact, according the folks at the Castaic Lake Water Agency.

Stephanie Anagnoson, CLWA Water Conservation Program coordinator, couldn't emphasize it enough when we met at the agency's beautiful Water Conservatory Garden and Learning Center on the hill above Central Park.

Anagnoson said that reducing this yard and garden water usage is one important goal of the Water Conservation Program and it is the purpose of the Conservatory Garden.

"Because water use for landscaping is 70 percent of overall consumption," Anagnoson said. "The Conservatory Garden is part of our strategy to reach a 20 percent reduction in water usage by 2020," (which is in line with requirements set by SBX 7-7, the Water Conservation Act of 2009).


Conservatory Garden

The Conservatory Garden and Learning Center is a community project put on by the CLWA in an effort to increase water awareness in the Santa Clarita Valley.

There, through instructional signage, garden displays and other educational programs, you'll learn everything you need to know about water-wise gardening in this area of climate extremes and difficult soil. You will learn about:

- Soil preparation

- Microclimates

- Irrigation systems

- Hardscapes

- Plant zoning

- Paving options

- Mulches

- Slope stabilization

- Drought-tolerant plants

Located on a large plateau, and offering an excellent view in several directions (and often a nice breeze), the Conservatory Garden is home to more than 350 varieties of drought-tolerant plants.

You can observe firsthand how these plants look and how they handle the local climate and soil - and thereby decide which types you might want to plant in your own yard.

"The garden is designed to test plants to see what does well in the SCV climate and clay-heavy soil," Anagnoson said. If a plant doesn't do well, we take it out, she added.

Beyond the educational benefits, the garden is an attractive and peaceful place to stroll or relax. Though it is anything but "secret," you will probably find few other guests when you visit, and Anagnoson thinks the guard gate might be part of the reason.

"Don't be intimidated by the guard gate," she said. The check-in process is easy. "The garden is safe and there is a beautiful view. It's great for families," she added. (But no animals are allowed.)


Get your booklet

In addition to observing the garden's plants firsthand, there is also a free booklet available with photos and descriptions of many of these plants.

The book is divided into sections with titles of Tips, Hydrozones, Minimal Water, Low Water, Moderate Water and Turf Grass. You can pick one of these booklets up at the CLWA reception desk on weekdays, and they are also available at the Santa Clarita City Hall kiosk.


Check it out

As she led our Signal team around the Conservatory Garden, Anagnoson pointed out a few of the highlights. The garden is divided into several sections, relating to the educational purpose emphasized in each, and you won't need a docent.

"The garden is intended to be self-guiding," Anagnoson said.

We began our tour in what might be described as the "Japanese garden" section because of its inviting layout. "This area is good for demonstrating things you might use in a water saving backyard," she said.

Salvia (sage) was one prominent plant, growing robustly and displaying its beautiful lavender flowers.

"It does well here, is low maintenance and does not need a lot of water," Anagnoson said. "It's very pretty and it attracts bees."

Society garlic was another hardy plant in this section that doesn't need a lot of water. Anagnoson pointed out that it is "aromatic" in a way some people don't enjoy.

Next, we passed by chrysanthemums and white knight Shasta daisies, and then an eastern redbud tree. "It likes our clay soil and tolerates our hot summers," Anagnoson said.

After that we visited the tree section, at the edge of the plateau where the view is awesome. And Anagnoson pointed out trees such as the purple leafed plum, peppermint willow and prim rose tree.

After that we moved through the ground cover section, where you can find low-growing, water saving plants to take the place of lawn.

And one section illustrated how you might "stack" your vegetation. Rock rose grew low to the ground here, a Mexican blue palm stood above that and a large palo verde tree, bursting with beautiful yellow flowers, stood over that.


Soil education

In the "north quadrant" a soil "experiment" was in progress.

Three sections of this area were separated, one with sandy soil, one with loamy soil and one with clay soil. Various plants were growing in each section, which allowed you to see which soils they favored.

"Rosemary and oregano seem to do well in all the soils," Anagnoson said.

What was happening in this section was fully diagramed and illustrated, providing a truly educational display for all visitors.


Gardening classes

Anagnoson noted that free gardening classes are held at the Castaic Lake Water Agency from 9 a.m. to noon on various Saturdays throughout the year.

You can get a schedule of these at the CLWA reception and you can also find the schedule online at (under the "conservation" tab).

Three upcoming classes are: Shrubs and Natives for the SCV Landscape, on June 9; a brand new class, The Less-Grass Landscape - Less Can Be More, on Aug. 11; and A Shady Deal - Trees for the SCV Landscape, on Oct. 13. You should call to register for all classes at 661-513-1230.


Get to the garden

The Conservatory Garden and Learning Center will assist you in becoming a responsible water user. By making water-wise changes, you'll enjoy a beautiful landscape, spend less time on lawn maintenance and save money.

The Conservatory Garden and Learning Center is located at 27234 Bouquet Canyon Road, Saugus. Turn in at the main entrance to Central Park and make an immediate left to the guard gate. Check in and receive a pass for your vehicle from the guard, then just drive up the hill to the parking lot and garden - and enjoy. The garden is currently open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends.





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