The Living Los Angeles Landscape: A Key To Enjoying L.A.

Do you currently reside somewhere with less than 284 days of sunshine?  Are you tired of having to supplement Vitamin D?  Don’t want to be S.A.D. anymore?  Come to L.A.!  In this mini-guide, I will help you understand the living Los Angeles landscape; this one thing will make for a rich, full experience.  L.A. gets a lot of attention for being the host of Hollywood, but I was never into that side of the place.  I went to the farmers market there once and scored some whole grain baguettes to die for, but I mostly stick to the foothills where Nature looms.

You don’t have to be a nature girl (or boy) though to benefit from understanding the living Los Angeles landscape.  First of all, what do I mean by that?

Living In Los Angeles Isn’t All About Hollywood

When you first come here, you are going to quickly see that traffic is the way it is because of sprawl but also due to the incredible complexity of the area’s landscape.  Hills dominate much of the region, and a number of different climate zones affect what grows here.  If you are thinking about buying a home in Los Angeles, Orange, or Culver City, where the winters are colder due to what landscape nerds like me call basins and all those hilltops I mentioned.  Cooler air settles in these spots. But it doesn’t usually freeze in these areas of the county, so you can grow bananas and other subtropical plants.  Protect them by planting under overhangs or trees.

I focus on pollinator habitat when specifying plants for my clients.  Most urban and suburban landscapes these days are degraded, even if they look green or there are plants present.  Often, the soil is compacted and dessicated, or high-maintenance species dominate landscaped properties.  I do my best to educate and improve this situation during the normal course of my work.  Homeowners are often aware of the wildlife in the area but don’t know how to respond or participate in a meaningful way.  I help them do that, and everybody benefits.  Understanding is often lacking when it comes to caring for the living Los Angeles landscape.  One article in the LA Times misstated that Monarch butterflies prefer a species of Milkweed other than the one they must have to reproduce (Asclepias speciosa), for instance.  Misunderstandings like this can cause ecological problems, but I find that a little effort can and does go a long way.  If you are coming to the region as a renter, you can plant insect gardens in little niches in just about any landscape.  Plant health improves with the presence of beneficial organisms, and the plants in turn are then more able to restore the soil in which they are planted.

image: living los angeles landscapeIn a land of automobiles, it can be easy to miss the land speeding past the window.  You might not know this, but the Army Corps of Engineers has begun to reverse its original paving over of the L.A. River in some sections.  It’s dangerous to try and see one stretch of restored river habitat by glancing out the window as you speed around the twists and turns of the 110. But it is there, cooling and moistening the air and offering vital habitat for amazing species like hawks, osprey, and even pelicans.

The Los Angeles area as a whole is rich with an astoundingly diverse range of species.  They come in part due to the variety of climate conditions and ecosystem types found here.  It might take a couple hours round trip, but you can visit the beach and then go for a hike.  The foothills are chock full of neat creatures.  On my first-ever trip here, I hiked into one of the canyons of the Sierra Nevadas and discovered a stream.  Climbing the boulders alongside it for a while, I paused to look down into a pool and spotted two white fish circling each other!

Whether you are planning a visit or looking to relocate, the landscape of the Los Angeles area is an outstanding asset that can be used – and stewarded – to improve your quality of life.  Understanding the land will also help you quickly orient to the place, even if Google still probably navigates more efficiently through traffic than even the most seasoned native.

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