A Message From Editor Helen M. Stone

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.”

— Hal Borland


It rained yesterday. Such a simple statement, but such a huge concept. In California, the whole state is a giant tinderbox waiting to go up in flames, so the thought of rain brings a smile to everyone’s face. However, the long drought has made the unusual summer rain a mere “drop in the bucket.”

Although drought and water restrictions are really a way of life in the Southwest, this year has been especially trying. It seems the Green Industry just can’t catch a break. The economy has finally shown signs of life, but the intense drought has made everyone in California wary about new plantings, except to replace turfgrass.

Now, I am the first one to get outraged about inappropriate use of turf. As a founding member of the San Diego Xeriscape Council back in the 1980s, I was suddenly made aware of how many places turf was planted where it really didn’t belong. Yes, it looked pretty. But were those little strips of green in the medians or on slopes around shopping centers really a good idea?

Well, while the answer to that question was a resounding “no,” we now know that there are places that turf is just about irreplaceable.

For example, if you watched the women’s soccer World Cup finals (Woo hoo! Go USA!), you might have noticed that the playing field was artificial turf. After the rousing victory and celebration, the ugly specter of sexism raised its head.

Not only did the women’s team receive a mere pittance monetarily (in comparison with the men’s team), but the fact that artificial turf has been shown to be much harder on athletes’ bodies than real grass was once again highlighted. The issue had arisen previously, but the fact that the women athletes were forced to play on the artificial surface while the men’s team was spared was once again news.

A viral video shot in Arizona for pet lovers also pointed out a very real concern with artificial turf. A remote thermometer pegs the surface temperature of the fake grass at a whopping 185 degrees F – enough to damage those tender doggie foot pads. Hotter than asphalt, concrete or any other surface tested, the video was shared and reshared to warn pet owners about the possible injury their beloved furbabies could suffer.

When Las Vegas instituted its “cash for grass” program years ago, concerns were raised about the overall health of trees and shrubs that were planted in or near turf areas. These concerns were seldom addressed and the result was dead trees everywhere. Now areas of California and Northern Nevada are experiencing the same problems.

Please check out the book review in this issue for an excellent downloadable document by Don Hodel and Dennis Pittenger about the drought and landscapes. It is a voice of reason in an increasingly hysterical discussion.

And please mark your calendar for this year’s Desert Green Conference, October 22-23 at Texas Station in North Las Vegas. There will be lots of great information on keeping trees, shrubs and even turf thriving and healthy with the least amount of water.

Patience and persistence. That’s exactly what we as an industry need to get through this new challenge. Can we do it? Of course we can!