Village Matters

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Garden by the Sea

By Ann Christoph
By Ann Christoph

Arbor Day was an occasion to celebrate and ponder what trees and landscaping contribute to our lives–and to inspire us to do much more.

Laguna Beach can be a “Garden by the Sea.” We are well on our way, but we need to do more to make our town a garden.

Look for every opportunity to plant something, if pavement is not needed, remove it and plant!

Keep parking spaces in the garage, driveway or street; avoid filling up side and front yards with pavement. Create more planted medians—like those in South Laguna—all up and down Coast Highway.

Of course, we don’t just plant “something”; we plant appropriate and beautiful plants.

Like the succulents—Aloes, agaves, jade plants that do so well. Aloe arborescens—tree aloe–is the signature plant in the foreground of almost every photo and painting of Heisler Park. Can you imagine the beauty of our town at Christmas time if the blooming tree aloes were as abundant as the Christmas lights?

Like native plants—the reliable lemonade berry, toyon, and coast sunflower.

Like trees of varying heights. We are in danger of becoming a “land of short trees” like Cameo Shores or Emerald Bay. Our tall treescape is a treasure and it is what adds nature and character to our neighborhoods and puts buildings in perspective. A big tree can make even a too-big house look smaller. We must respect views of the ocean, but we must also continue to plant tall trees—or our town will become overwhelmed by views of buildings instead of foliage.

For more of a garden atmosphere we can plant flowering trees like red flowering gum, smaller growing coral trees, golden medallion tree, New Zealand Christmas tree.

Lastly we can make our town more of a garden by taking better care of the plants we already have. That means doing proper pruning instead of the severe pruning we frequently see.

The city’s Landscape and Scenic Highways Resource Document gives illustrations of better ways to prune.

We need to stop using hedge pruners that make our plants into balls and cubes. Think of grooming shrubbery to enhance its natural branching patterns rather than shaving it into shapes. There is another way to think of “cleaning up.” It doesn’t mean removing every fallen leaf and exposing bare dirt all around every plant. Leaves and needles should build up on the soil surface creating natural mulch. This creates healthy growing environments for the plants by replenishing nutrients and enhancing water percolation.

Our pledge for our Garden by the Sea should be: No more severe pruning. No more balls and cubes. No more raked dirt.

Yes to more mulch! Yes to more trees and flowering plants!


Ann Christoph is a landscape architect. She, Bob Borthwick and Greg Vail worked as city consultants on the Landscape and Scenic Highways Element and Resource Document. She also designed the South Laguna Community Garden Park, the South Laguna medians, Bluebird Park, South Laguna Village Green, and with Borthwick, Alta Laguna Park.



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