Posts Tagged ‘landscape conversion’

As you can see from these before and after photos, the grass on the La Rue Road medians is now prepped for removal and conversion from a high-maintenance, high-water lawn, to a low-water, low-maintenance, beautiful landscape featuring plant selections from the UC Davis Arboretum All-Star program.


Photo of La Rue Road median before spray.


Photo of La Rue Road median after spraying.

Campus Planning and Landscape Architecture architects Skip Mezger and Christina DeMartini Reyes are currently working on a draft irrigation and planting plan in partnership with Arboretum horticulturalists Ellen Zagory, Emily Griswold, and Ryan Deering. Civil and Industrial Services will begin removing the grass next week and retrofitting the irrigation from spray to drip.

To read more about how UC Davis is working to redefine this campus landscapes click  here.


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Another pilot conversion project is the Arboretum meadow turf conversion at Shields Oak Grove. This project continues moving forward as well.  Initial herbicide treatments took place last week just before the storms moved in.  The next step will be a retrofit of the irrigation system, followed by seeding around November 15 with purple needlegrass, a native California grass.  For more information about this low-maintenance, low-water, regionally-appropriate landscape conversion, read our previous article here.

Purple needlegrass (Nassella pulchra) was once a dominant species in California grasslands before invasive grasses became dominant. The seeds of N. pulchra were an important food source for many California Indian tribes. Today, it is the ‘State Grass of California’ and plays an important role in native grassland restoration and erosion control.  (Excerpt on purple needlegrass from Wikipedia.)

Photo of purple needlegrass below.

Photo of Purple Needlegrass

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As part of the UC Davis Public Garden Initiative, the campus will undertake a master planning effort to redesign portions of the campus landscape to save money, improve campus aesthetics, and provide more opportunities for teaching, research, and community engagement.

Two pilot projects have been initiated that will convert high-maintenance turf areas into lower-maintenance and lower-cost landscape types.  These landscape types will showcase Central Valley ecosystems and Valley-Wise plants.  In addition to less water use and less cost to maintain, these conversions will be more attractive and give UC Davis a unique look and sense of place.

Project 1: La Rue Median Strip conversion

La Rue median strip

The first project is the conversion of the La Rue road median strip from turf to mulch and shrubs.  The turf represents a 1950’s-era aesthetic, and requires a high frequency of maintenance (see photo above).  The safety of the workers maintaining a turf area in the middle of a busy road is also a concern.  The redesigned median will be designed and built by the Campus Planning and Community Resources team, leveraging the strengths of the Arboretum, Putah Creek Riparian Reserve, Grounds, Agricultural Services, and Landscape Services.

The Arboretum will be working with Skip Mezger, Campus Landscape Architect, to design the median using drought-tolerant shrubs and grasses.  These plants require lower water use, are more aesthetic than turf, and require less frequency of maintenance.  Mulch for the project will be developed by chipping tree branches gathered during routine maintenance on campus, and through removal of eucalyptus trees from along Putah Creek, as part of habitat restoration efforts.

Weed abatement at this site began yesterday and will occur again in 3-4 weeks.   So now, when you see brown patches here, you’ll know that’s a good thing!  The UC Davis Public Garden team is preparing to convert this site!

After the conversion project is complete, the La Rue median will have landscape similar to that of King Hall (see photo below).

King Hall landscape

Project 2: Arboretum Meadow

Oak Grove meadow

The second project is creation of the Arboretum Meadow at the west end of the Arboretum.  The beloved Shields Oak Grove is one of the most important collections of mature oak trees in the world.  Recently there was a native grassland restoration under some of the oaks (see photo above), and the Arboretum Meadow will be created on 2 acres of turf between the largest stands of oaks.  The turf will be replaced with native California grasses which will provide homes for insects and animals, and will dramatically reduce water use and maintenance costs.  It will also be available as a teaching and research area about California native grasslands.

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