La Rue Road median update

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Staff from the Arboretum and Public Garden’s Grounds and Landscape Services team planting the median in February 2014.

Early in 2014, teams from the Arboretum and Public Garden, including Grounds and Landscape Services, assembled to plant the northernmost section of the La Rue Road median with plants selected for their seasonal interest, water-wise qualities and long-term durability. When selecting the plants used for this project, Ellen Zagory, director of public horticulture, also wanted to make sure the flora blended well with surrounding landscapes. Note the repetition of the Calamagrostis acutifora ‘Karl Foerster’ feather reed grass both in the median and as part of the student dormitory landscapes across the street.

Photo of northern portion of La Rue Road median.

In order for this landscape to blend well with the surrounding areas, grasses that appear in the median also appear in the student dormitory landscape across the street.

If you happen to see the median in person and notice an empty island triangle as you cross La Rue Road at Russell Boulevard, fear not! That area is being held for our partners at the UC Davis California Center for Urban Horticulture who are planning to use that spot as a testing ground for a flowering plant that needs little to no water—it’s a good thing because that part of the median is not equipped with any irrigation!

The final portion of the median is scheduled for planting this fall. For more pictures, see our PHOTO GALLERY of this project.

LEARN MORE about this project. (Click this link and scroll down to see previous posts.)

Shovels pour in at beer tasting event

Photo from beer tasting and food pairing event sponsored by Whole Foods Market in Davis.

To help with the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden’s effort to collect 400 shovels for a city and campus sculpture project, Whole Foods Market in Davis generously sponsored a beer tasting and food pairing event on Friday, August 9 where guests could partake in the festivities by donating a used shovel (or paying $5).

Image of article in the Davis Enterprise.The event helped us secure over 50 shovels for use in creating a vine-inspired archway in the soon-to-be-completed California Native Plant GATEway Garden. We now have over 350 shovels towards our objective, and, with another Whole Foods sponsored wine tasting and food pairing event right around the corner (Friday, September 13), we are well on the way to meeting our goal!

Thank you to Whole Foods and everyone who attended with shovels in hand!

Thank you to The Davis Enterprise for helping get the word out about the event as well with a front page article and photo! CLICK HERE to read the full article.

SEE PHOTOS from the event.

(All photos by UC Davis Arboretum volunteer photographer Susie Nishio.)

Taking out turf and trading up: landscaping the La Rue Road median

Group photo of some UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden team members just after completing the first planting along the La Rue Road median.

Group photo of some UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden team members just after completing the first portion of sustainable landscaping along the La Rue Road median.

(Note: This content also appeared in the Davis Enterprise on March 6, 2013.)

The change was gradual—the grass once blanketing La Rue Road median between Russell Boulevard and Garrod Drive faded then disappeared completely in the winter of 2011 leaving a large strip of bare earth exposed along the high-profile UC Davis campus beltway. The change left many wondering, “What is going on there?”

Like many community residents forced to question the feasibility of managing their landscapes, UC Davis budget cuts required campus leadership to get creative and transform high-water, high-maintenance lawns to attractive, low-water, easy-care landscapes to reduce operations and maintenance costs.

“For such a bland-looking landscape, the hours and resources spent caring for the median just didn’t make sense,” Bob Segar, assistant vice chancellor of campus planning and community resources. “Regular maintenance like mowing required our teams to re-route traffic a couple times a month, not to mention the amount of water required to keep the grass green and fuel to run the equipment.”

UC Davis will be taking on more of these types of landscape conversions as the result of a reorganization merging the campus’s professional outdoor design, care and operations staff from the Arboretum, Grounds and Landscape Services, Campus Planning & Landscape Architecture, Civil and Industrial Services and the Putah Creek Riparian Reserve and Campus Naturalized Land into the UC Davis Arboretum & Public Garden.

Photo of planting UC Davis beltway La Rue Road median on March 5, 2013.

UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden team planting La Rue Road median on March 5, 2013.

“Taking out turf and designing a landscape to take its place is not as easy as it may sound,” Cary Avery, associate director of grounds and landscape Services. “Just getting rid of the Bermuda grass took about a year—it’s tricky. Bermuda’s extensive root system and winter dormant period meant we had to give the grass at least two growing seasons followed quickly by herbicide application and removal. We didn’t want to risk it coming back to roost in our new landscape.”

Yesterday, after almost a year and a half of planning and preparation, we can now begin to appreciate the final transformation. Teams from the UC Davis Arboretum and Public Garden planted the first third (from Hutchison Drive to Garrod Drive), of the almost 50,000 square foot area with plants evaluated by staff horticulturists and landscape architects to be regionally-appropriate for this space as well as suitable for our unique valley conditions. Landscaping for the rest of the median is scheduled for completion in early fall.

Andrew Fulks, director of the putah creek riparian reserve and campus naturalized lands, emphasized the water savings. “The shift from overhead pop-up spray irrigation to a sub-surface drip irrigation system will reduce our water use substantially. Once we have run the system for a few months in the summer we’ll know the exact amount of savings, which we can use to project future campus-wide efforts at water reduction.”

Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture for the arboretum selected the plant palette, “These plants demand little of our time yet offer a big return in form, color, flower and durability. They’ll stand up and sparkle even with little irrigation in hot summer sun.”

“Our goal is that this project will serve as a best practice case study of lawn removal for institutional landscapes everywhere,” Kathleen Socolofsky, director and assistant vice chancellor for the arboretum and public garden. “We are documenting our process and will report back on our resource savings from less labor, fuel, emissions and water use, as the landscape matures.”

For home gardeners interested in transforming their lawns into more sustainable landscapes, UC Davis Arboretum plant sales are a great resource. The sales feature a broad variety of low-maintenance, drought-tolerant plants and are staffed by expert volunteers and staff horticulturists who can help advise customers on landscaping projects. The Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum Member Appreciation Sale will be this Saturday, March 9 from 9 am-1pm at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive across from the veterinary medicine teaching hospital.

“This sale is for Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum members, but anyone can join at the door. Members receive 10% off their plant sale purchases at all sales, an additional $10 off their purchase at the March 9 sale, free or discounted entry to hundreds of public gardens nationwide as well as discounts at local nurseries. The benefits far outweigh the cost,” Suzanne Ullensvang, resource development manager for the arboretum. “Members of the Davis Botanical Society are also welcome and receive the same discounts.”

Links for more information:

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