Jennifer Dibs grew up in Ohio, where lush, rolling turf lawns were the norm. No one worried about rain, because it always came. Lawn irrigation systems were unnecessary.

But after a quarter-century as a Californian and years of drought, Jennifer decided to replace her lawn with native drought-tolerant plants. She couldn’t be happier with the results.

“I may have inspired some of my neighbors to make the switch,” she said. “People may feel helpless about climate change, but there are things everyone can do. I have no special training in this area, but I have always loved to garden.”

“When I first came to California, I was surprised that everything was so green,” said the resident of the Foothills neighborhood. “How could this be? We live in a desert. But I realized that when people moved to a new area, they carried with them their mental maps of what a yard should look like.”

Why did Jennifer decide to replace her turf grass? It wasn’t the drive to lower her water bill or to stop mowing her lawn. Rather, it was an effort made to live in greater harmony with nature.

“I was using water I didn’t need to use to sustain a lawn that was out of sync with life in an arid region,” she said. “All this grass, and all the water needed to sustain it, doesn’t make sense to me. Turf grass isn’t native to Southern California. Your lawn is not happy when it is 100°.”

“I’m really excited by the change,” she continued. “I love to see bees, birds, and hummingbirds in my yard. There are twin girls from down the street who come over to watch the wildlife and play with my dog. It’s been a great way to build connections with the neighbors."

Jennifer said replacing her turf lawn was worth it. “It feels really good as an individual to make a decision that supports the environment.”

She replaced about 1,400 square feet of turf herself after visiting several local botanical gardens and noting which flowers caught her fancy. “That’s a great way to see how big the plants get and what they look like at different times of year. Botanical gardens also label their plants which makes it easy to learn their names.”


huntington.org | descansogardens.org arlingtongardenpasadena.org

Jennifer also recommended visiting the Theodore Payne Foundation at theodorepayne.org.

And she found a nursery in Pasadena that was staffed by “really nice, helpful people.” That nursery carries plants and also does landscape design and installation. Visit thestandarddesigngroup.com.

Jennifer added there were many YouTube channels devoted to drought-tolerant gardening, and some even explain in detail how to plant and care for specific plants.

Finally, she offered this tip: “Fall is the best time of year to plant drought-tolerant plants. They don’t look their best at that time of year, but fall and winter is when native plants do their best growing — expanding their roots — deep underground, which is what allows them to tolerate droughts. Spring and summer are when they do their best growing above ground.”

Jennifer purchased a variety of seed packets and seedlings, which she cultivated before planting in her front yard. As she worked in her yard, she said many neighbors stopped by to ask what she was doing.

To anyone interested in beginning their own water conservation journey, Jennifer recommends checking out the social media hashtag #lifenotlawn or visiting the website pacifichorticulture.org/articles/life-not-lawn-campaign.

“Less water, less maintenance, more beauty, and more impact,” Jennifer said. “What more could you want?” Jennifer Dibs


Last summer, we removed about 1,000 square feet of turf lawn at our Valley Pumping Plant and replaced it with drought-tolerant native California trees and shrubs.

"We wanted to create a landscape that demonstrated how beautiful, colorful, and resource-efficient xeriscaping can be," said Asif Sheikh, BWP’s Acting Manager for Water Engineering and Planning. “It turned out really nice, and the water we’re saving by eliminating that turf grass is enough to supply three average Burbank households for a year,” he added.

What is xeriscaping? A combination of the Greek word “xeros,” meaning dry or arid, and the English word “landscape,” xeriscaping is the use of native plants that are naturally able to thrive in dry climates.

The trees and shrubs BWP used are not only colorful, but they also have colorful names. The shrubs included Spanish Bayonet, Firesticks, Red Yucca, Blue Elf Aloe, and Tilt Head. We also planted Palo Verde and Desert Willow trees.

Asif encourages people to come to the Valley Pumping Plant, located at 2030 North Hollywood Way, to see for themselves that beauty and water-efficiency can go hand in hand.

How to Contact Us

Customer Service: (818) 238-3700

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Currents Editors


JEANNINE EDWARDS jjedwards@burbankca.gov


Creative Director

TRACIE NEISWONGER tneiswonger@burbankca.gov

EV Expert