GGI Project – Mountain View Cemetery Oakland

It’s called pervious (concrete) paving and it’s got the attention of an increasing number of designers and property developers.  Why? Because it can save money and it’s better for the environment than standard concrete paving.  In fact, it’s among the EPA’s Best Management Practices.

What it is  An innovative technology that consists of a porous concrete surface used primarily for driveways and parking lots.

What it does

It enables rainwater to drain directly into the soil, naturally filtering it, before running off.  Conventional concrete paving is impervious in which uneven surfaces cause puddling and storm water pollution.  See illustration below.


Properties of Pervious Paving

Water, cement material, with little or no sand,  together forms a paste that is applied to crushed stone. The result is a highly porous surface.  Illustration on the right shows the difference between pervious paving and conventional.


The Benefits

Saves Money

  • Due to its superior durability, strength and long life span
  • Property developers and managers spend fewer dollars on stormwater management systems and irrigation systems
  • Can also minimize sewer system usage and avoid municipal stormwater impact fees

Environmental Benefits

  • Recharges groundwater
  • Reduces stormwater runoff;
  • Water filtering treatment; can infiltrate 70%-80% of annual rainfall.
  • Low impact development
  • LEED credits – see below

LEED Credits Available for Pervious Paving

Pervious paving (also referred to as porous paving, pervious concrete) satisfies several LEED categories including: water efficiency, materials and resources and innovation in design. 

There are specific credits that apply.  Below is a few.  Please ask Gardeners’ Guild for more information and see below for our pervious paving project in Oakland.

  • LEED Credit SS-C7.1 – Heat Island Effect – Non-Roof
  • LEED Credit WE C1.1 Water Efficient Landscaping
  • LEED Credits MR-C4.1 and MR-C4.2 Recycled Content

Oakland Cemetery Elects Pervious Paving

Close up – Mountain View Pervious Paving

I drove out to Mountain View Cemetery last week to take some photos of a porous paving project Gardeners’ Guild completed about six months ago.  I took some photos and spoke to Craig Nuchols, the Building and Grounds Supervisor.  He graciously gave me access to the parking lot, newly paved with the porous concrete material.  I asked him what he thought.  He was pleased with the results.  “It’s doing the job its supposed to do”, he said.  The heavy rains this past season was the best way to test their investment.  Unlike impervious concrete in which rain puddles in cracks and any uneven surface, the rainfall neatly percolated through. 
See more photos of our construction work







Winner of Sonoma County Water Awareness Contest for 3rd and 4th Graders

Simple Irrigation Fixes That Can Save $$$$

Consider this first: 80% of plant problems are due to over-watering.  (Source Sunset Magazine)

Gardeners’ Guild saved a residential community client 53% off their water bill by rigorous monitoring of their system and simple repairs.

  • Fixing Irrigation Leaks and Breaks*
  • Capping irrigation in places that didn’t require watering
  • Consistent monitoring

Make sure you are not wasting water due to leaks!  Here are some facts about leaks:

  • Drip irrigation is efficient when it is not leaky.  If an emitter gets chopped, tubing can get punctured and valves can get stuck open.
  • A system that has a leak of 1/32nd of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month.
  • Check your garden hose for leaks at its connection to the spigot.  It it leaks while you run your hose, replace the hose washer to ensure a tight connection.

If you have a high water bill and suspect it is due to a leak, consult with certified irrigation professionals like Gardeners’ Guild.  We have a team of experts who know precisely where to look.  Whether it’s your residence or a commercial building call us even if you have a question.

Irrigation improvements will also make a difference

  • For ground cover and shrubs – convert from spray irrigation to drip.
  • For turfgrass – convert to high efficiency nozzles.  Turn your standard spray head into a precision device.  It will reduce runoff and save you money.
  • Automatic rain shutoff device; called a rain sensor, will shut off your irrigation system when it senses a specified amount of rain has fallen.  It is simple and inexpensive.
  • Smart or weather based irrigation controllers will save you upwards of 30% off your water bill. They calculate plant water requirements using on site or remote weather stations.

Cultural Practices

  • Remove all or some of your turfgrass and replace with drought tolerant plants or natives.
  • Is your lawn compacted?  This impedes the soil from absorbing water.  Aeration and dethatching will reduce the amount of water your lawn needs.
  • You can mow less.  Allow it to grow out as seasonally appropriate.  It will lessen heat exposure to soil, producing deeper roots and providing a larger soil reservoir to draw from.
  • Mulch your planter beds.  This will increase their water holding capacity.
  • Organic products make your soil healthier and it will hold more water.


State of California – late April news

The state water board held an informational workshop on urban water conservation measures to discuss potential adjustments to the drought emergency regulation extension.  Possible action to adjust the conservation requirements would likely be taken in May 2016.

They considered whether any elements of these measures could be modified.  If so, how/how much? Some water agencies are requesting that the state relax the restrictions.

The following water agencies seem to be in a waiting mode.  Others (not listed have not commented)



Their website states that despite much needed rain, they remain in Stage 4 drought and wait to hear determination by Governor Brown’s administration.

Water supply status:

  • Total system storage: 72% full
  • Mokelumne watershed precipitation: 48.01 inches
  • Precipitation – 107% of average


Their website states the Water Resources Control Board has extended statewide emergency water conservation through October 2016.

Sonoma County Water Agency

They seem to be waiting for direction from the state.  And, reservoirs are in much better shape. (See graphic below)


Customers in this county have achieved impressive savings of 27% for March. This agency is also waiting for the state’s advisement.



cloud silver lining

Much of my weather wisdom is gathered from Daniel Swain from his blog  The Climate Scientist and Phd. candidate for Stanford’s Department of Environmental Earth Science coined the term – “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge” after the obstinate high pressure system that ushered in much of our drought.

His most recent post summarizes El Niño’s impact on California’s 2015-2016 rainy season.  My snapshot is focused on Northern California.

  • Our rainfall was considered near or above average.  He considers it “modest drought relief”.
  • The northernmost portion of California fared the best with some areas besting 150% of the long term average.
  • Snowpack, while improved, overall was below the long term average. (both north and south)
  • The best news! Reservoirs levels are much improved.

The final analysis according to Daniel and other experts is that this outgoing rainy season overall – has not made a sufficient dent in the huge shortfall of precipitation since 2012.

We had high expectations for this monster El Niño.  Daniel Swain’s tries to make scientific sense of why it didn’t measure up.  If you want more detailed information with charts and graphs see his blog.

Breaking News on the horizon: the forecast suggests rain starting next Thursday, May 5 through Saturday, May 7th.

La Niña?

While too early to predict with any certainty, all American and international models are suggesting La Niña conditions in the tropical Pacific Ocean by late summer.

What does this portend for California’s rainy season?

  • Unfortunately Southern California is again, the loser as it tends to have a drier season.
  • Based on historical evidence, Northern California could go wet or dry, but early forecasts aren’t optimistic about any more drought relief in 2016-2017.

We will continue to post updates as they come.


Every year journalists in the industry forecast what is new for the next year.  What I saw when digging around (no pun intended) were subtle offshoots of similar themes over the past few years.  This post tries to make sense of what experts are forecasting and why homeowners and property managers should be interested.

Trends in Commercial Landscaping

Outdoor Meeting Areas

More work getting done outdoors.  The trend – landscaped meeting areas  that include hardscape, plantings and comfortable furnishings including WIFI – are big differentiators.  It’s an employee’s market.  Job seekers want more flexibility and a work environment that suits their healthy lifestyle which means having the option to work, exercise or meet on site.  Examples of this trend are tech companies, including Facebook. Their new nine acre rooftop park boasts a half mile walking loop and 400 trees.

Low Maintenance /Water Conserving Landscaping / LEED

This, while not new, is starting to look like the norm in landscaping designs. Property Managers have become educated to the benefits of rain sensors, smart irrigation controllers and drip irrigation where appropriate.

LEED has recently purchased SITES (Sustainable a rating system for sustainable landscape design started 2009. Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) says “Landscapes knit together the fabric of our communities, and sustainable landscapes are critical in their ability to reduce water demand, filter and reduce storm water runoff, provide wildlife habitat, reduce energy consumption, improve air quality, improve human health, and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. SITES is an important addition to our toolkit, and GBCI appreciates this opportunity to support this additional contribution to healthy, thriving communities and neighborhoods.” This is a new opportunity property developers and managers.

Multi-Family Residences

The construction boom in San Francisco and other urban and suburban continues.abated. San Francisco, (3rd in the nation for ultra “high net worth” residents) is building about the most prestigious condominiums catering to the affluent residents with amenities such as beautifully landscaped outdoor living areas that include an entertainment, games, outdoor grills.  Each more luxurious than the next.  This trend is fueled in part by job growth in high-tech and bio-tech industries.

The target market for these are Millennials, GenXrs and to a lesser, but growing extent, baby boomers.

  • 54% of milennials rent versus buy* as many prefer living in urban walk-able areas.*
  • More baby boomers are selling their homes and either rent in more urban areas or assisted living communities.*
*Source: Urban Land Institute & Pricewaterhouse Coopers survey

Commercial Property Outdoor Signage

6 Spyglass After Photos PDF

Gardeners’ Guild Project

 An article in “Turf Design/Build” website talks about traditional stone and column entryways being replaced with color panels with raised layers of glass and steel.  You cannot say plants with out adding the suffix “drought tolerant”. There are a host of creative solutions to differentiate your property without spending your entire budget.  Boulders, succulents, mulching perennials and other permanent plantings offer color, texture and beauty.



Residential Garden Trends

Ecologically friendly landscapes

Factors that are driving this trend include the drought, higher percentage of homeowners with dogs.  In fact a study of San Francisco residents counts 120,000 dogs.   Both San Francisco and Marin County are gradually moving toward reducing the use of pesticides.  The Marin I.J. says that the county may initiate an educational campaign against Roundup aimed at homeowners who use the product.

Some sustainable elements include:

  • Rainwater/greywater harvesting
  • Native / adapted drought tolerant plants
  • Permeable paving

Gardens that Rejuvenate

cohodes - saxon holt 006

Gardeners’ Guild Project



People are increasingly overworked and are looking at gardens for Zen like experiences that include music, lights and water.  Textural elements include statues, water fountains and planters.  More people are growing their own food.




Yes –  this word is being used.  Changing demographics; growing number of dog owners who demand a pet friendly garden.  They are particular about plant types and will eliminate any that may be harmful.

Outdoor Kitchens

A Spectacular Landscape Transformation

Gardeners’ Guild Project


This is not new, but it is expanding.  Our warming climate is one factor.

Three top design elements include:

  •   Fire pits/fireplaces
  •   Lighting
  •   Wireless/internet connectivity



  • American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Lawn & Landscape Magazine
  • HGTV
  • Marin Independent Journal