UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

UC Botanical Garden offers "Waterwise" guide and plant sale

– With winter rains around the corner, now may seem an unlikely time to ponder planting drought-tolerant plants, but experts at the University of California Botanical Garden say fall is the ideal season to get a head start on smart Bay Area gardening.

Waterwise Gardening Tour posterIts publication, "Waterwise Gardening Tour," offers a colorful, carefully mapped out guide to 100 drought-resistant plants thriving among the 34-acre public garden's collection of more than 12,000 kinds of plants. It also offers practical tips on how to design a garden using these plants, which can thrive on a sip of water rather than a steady stream.

"It's very much an illustration of our mission, which is related to environmental conservation," said Paul Licht, director of the UC Botanical Garden and dean emeritus of UC Berkeley's College of Letters & Science.

Those who step into the garden can follow the book's eight self-guided, 30-minute or 60-minute tours to see first-hand how these waterwise plants look when mature and in the process get a glimpse of the garden's other offerings, said Licht.

The 70-page book extols the virtues of the botanical garden's native plants, ranging from the Mexican Grass Tree and Wonga-Wonga Vine to the Sea Daffodil, California Poppy, Pajaro Manzanita and more. The plants naturally hail from the New World desert, southern Africa, South America, the Australia-New Zealand-High South Pacific island region, Mexico and Central America, and California. Also in the garden and book are palms and cycads, which come from a primitive evolutionary line of non-flowering plants.

"Waterwise" points out that the typical Bay Area garden uses enough water every year to flood it six feet deep, at least twice as much as plants need to be healthy. A properly designed, water-efficient garden, the book advises, requires less pruning, weeding, pest control, fertilizer and mowing and is better adapted to seasonal changes and fluctuations in rainfall.

Among the book's basic tips:


  • Consider needs for outdoor shelter from the sun or winds and for exercise space for children and pets.

  • The garden area requiring water can be reduced by the incorporation of brick, flagstone and decking, and by grouping plants according to water needs.

  • Shelter plants requiring more water in the shade and place those needing less water in hotter spots facing south or west.

  • Adding compost or other organic supplements to the soil when planting helps soil retain moisture.

  • Program your irrigation system to increase its efficiency.

  • Don't over fertilize -- that creates lush growth, but thirstier plants.

  • Remove weeds that compete with garden plants for sun and water.

  • Consider how much lawn space you need, or if you need a lawn at all.

The "Waterwise" book includes a list of Bay Area nurseries, as well as organizations, agencies and publications that can help with garden design, plant selection and garden maintenance.

To help maximize the current planting season, the Botanical Garden is holding its fall plant sale from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 25. Admission to the plant sale is free. As well as waterwise plants, the sale will feature California native plants, one-of-a-kind hybrids, rare trees and shrubs, ferns, perennials, cacti, orchids, bulbs, vines and more from its own global collection.

A complete list of plants for sale at the garden famous for its large number of rare and endangered species is available online at: http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/plantSale/pSaleListIndex.htm.

Free docent-led tours of the garden's waterwise collection take place at 1:30 p.m. the third Thursday and following Saturday and Sunday of each month.

"Waterwise" is available for $5.95 exclusively at the Botanical Garden Shop at 200 Centennial Dr. Sample selections of the book are online at: http://botanicalgarden.berkeley.edu/waterwise/index.html.

In addition to the book and plant sale, UC garden horticulturalists and others will showcase waterwise ideas for creating a dramatic, water-efficient garden from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. "A Global Palette of Plants for Inspired Waterwise Gardening" will include lunch, refreshments and a copy of the "Waterwise" book. The cost is $40 for Botanical Garden members and $45 for the general public.

The garden is open daily from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and is closed the first Tuesday of each month. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors 65 and older, and $1 for children ages 3 though 18. Admission is free for garden members and UC Berkeley faculty, staff and students. It is free to all on the first Thursday of each month.