SanLorenzo2During one of California’s driest seasons in history and in light of Governor Jerry Brown’s recent mandates to curb water usage, students at the Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning Department are ahead of the game.

The group of Landscape Architect graduate students include Rebecca Correa, Yael Hadar, Han Zhen Li, Wan-Chi Luo, Kathleen O’Leary and Katrina Ortiz, who together created “Gardens for Lorenzo,” an illustrative booklet that outlines drought-tolerant garden designs. Undergraduate student Elizabeth Bailey was also involved in the project.

“Gardens for Lorenzo,” a 134-page booklet, combines text with photography, watercolor paintings, illustrations and graphics to present four prototype gardens including Cottage Garden, Herb Garden, California Native Garden and Lush & Dry Garden, featuring succulents. The designs were specifically created for San Lorenzo Village, a historic East Bay community that cropped up after World War II.

The project was created as part of a class about drought-tolerant gardens. Students began collaboration with Steve Kirk of the San Lorenzo Village Home Association after he approached the Landscape Architecture department, hoping to involve students in creating low-water garden designs as alternatives to San Lorenzo’s lawns.

Hadar worked as part of the design and graphics team on the publication. “The process was very fulfilling and we all had a great time meeting with the people of San Lorenzo,” said Hadar, who met with community members for feedback. “It was very important for me to be able to talk to people in the community and try to meet their needs.”

“The event challenges graduate students to take the results of hundreds of hours of academic research and discovery and present it in just under three minutes,” according to the University of California, Office of the President’s website.

Students researched the history and micro-climate of San Lorenzo and designed drafts in the class, Water Savvy Garden Design: Case Study in San Lorenzo, taught by Professor Dawn Kooyumjian. The class was funded by the San Lorenzo Village Home Association and, which together contributed $8,000.


Students also applied pointers they learned from, such as sheet mulching tips from the Lose Your Lawn — Gain a Garden program.

They illustrated fiscal and environmental reasons to replace a traditional lawn or garden with a low-water or native garden. For example, being able to save as much as 51,000 gallons of water, annually, per home. In the booklet, it’s explained that native gardens use 83% less water and require 68% less maintenance than do traditional gardens, and eliminate the need to use chemical fertilizers.

Students, however, know architectural design is just the tip of the iceberg to solving environmental issues like California’s drought.

“Sharing the knowledge of water-efficient landscapes is as important as showing the residents our design projects,” said Zhen Li. “Drought-resistant plants are as beautiful as others, and they are the most ideal for California gardens.”

Be sure to check out “Gardens for Lorenzo” booklet for a host of helpful information on plants, water needs, maintenance, and best practices for sustainability for your California garden.