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Home > Feature Articles > Landscaping

Benefits of Native Landscaping for Pepperdine & Caltrans

Pepperdine & Caltrans both use this local, native plant landscaping technique to succeed with native plant landscaping on a large scale.

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May 20, 2007 - Los Angeles, CA --

Pepperdine University's hilly seaside campus, and Caltrans' statewide construction projects are both examples of Californians' changing approach to the local landscape.

Rick Leach, director of facilities management and planning for Pepperdine, reports that the local, native plantings are part of a 10-year project to get good native plant and soil cover on all the slopes. A real paradigm shift!

Basically, the local native planting method replants the slopes with seeds and soil collected by hand from the site seven years ago, before grading began. The hand selection also allowed landscapers to eliminate any nonnative plant species that had invaded the site. The seeds are stored in ideal conditions, and the original soil was also collected from the native planting sites. It was mixed with composted chips from campus trees and stored in biodegradable burlap sacks. The sacks were placed on slopes and packed into rivulets from erosion. This reinaugurates a topsoil on which the seeding of the native seed stock is applied.

Stephen Davis, distinguished professor of biology at Pepperdine, said the use of native soil from the site is critical to the reestablishment and future vigor of the native plants. That soil, he said, contains fungal and nitrogen-fixing organisms that are specifically symbiotic with the local native plants.

This local native habitat method is endorsed by Douglas Failing, Los Angeles director for the California Department of Transportation, which for more than two decades has used it to re-vegetate hillsides affected by massive highway construction projects. "All seeds and plants differ from each other when you go from microclimate to microclimate. With this you know you've got seeds and plants that are going to be compatible with what's out there already."

Caltrans has employed the method widely throughout the state. About 90% of the plants the agency has used in restoration projects have been native, according to agency spokesman David Anderson.


  • Drought-resistant native flora saves water and maintenance in commercial and residential landscaping.
  • Native plants on native soil requires less fertilizer and chemical pesticides, etc. -- thus protecting our groundwater supply
  • Native flora supports native wildlife and the natural soil systems that make up the local biodiversity system.
  • Native flora thrives in microclimates that vary widely.
  • Appreciation of California's unique environment and natural ecosystems.
  • Native plants have deep roots that protect soils from erosion and the plants during dry seasons and droughts
  • Native plants will be the hardiest survivors of climate change and record drought events.
  • Native landscapes are virtually self-sustaining!

Source: Los Angeles Times

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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