What to Expect at the Sierra Madre Post Office

Now that the Sierra Madre Post Office garden foliage is in the ground, the garden is 33 percent complete. It typically takes three years and skilled maintenance for a properly planted native garden to achieve its full aesthetic and impact. It is worth the wait!

The garden’s foliage will “sleep, creep, then leap.” Here is what that will look and feel like.

Yearling White Sage may this size as it develops its roots. In its third year, it may have an eight foot diameter.


In its first year, the foliage you installed may feel tiny and growth-free. It may appear seem as if it will fail to thrive. This is all normal! In the first year, expect:

Aesthetic: Plants look small and feel stagnant

New foliage grows a great deal in the first year, but all this growth is underground. Its first priority is developing a deep the root system that will ensure it thrives long term through LA’s full climate cycle. Above ground, foliage may appear stagnant. This is no reason to worry… 93-97 percent of the foliage planted can be expected to succeed long term.

Needs: Watchful eyes… and patience

The garden’s foliage will need deep supplemental water, but not too much and not too often. It will appreciate three inches of organic mulch to keep its roots cool and hydrated. It will not respond favorably to chemical fertilizers, pesticides or insecticides, but sweet talk and singing? That may be worth a try!

Notice:  While the garden’s new plants may have just a few blooms, you may catch them flirting with butterflies, bees, and birds.

Girlscouts gaze at the hip-height silver foliage of the Brittlebush they planted 2 years before.
At the second anniversary of the city hall garden installation, girlscouts assess the success of the Brittlebush they planted.


In the second year, foliage will begin to grow above ground. It’s okay to get excited!

Aesthetic: Something is happening!

We’ll begin to notice new growth above ground in 2024. This may look like a plant slightly increasing in height or width or sprouting a few inches from where it was  installed. (This will feel particularly pronounced in the foliage you planted.) There will be still more blooms!

Needs: Structural prunes and cut-backs

As foliage begins to grow, this is when we most want to guide its shape and path. It’s a particularly important time for trees and large shrubs – we will structure them for long term form and health. Even as the native foliage begins to grow above ground, it will not want excessive water, nor will it appreciate chemical fertilizers or pesticides. It may now be quite attached to the sound of your voice.

Notice: Are the plants you installed growing taller? Or wider?


Surprise! The lush, leafy, lovely, low-water garden we all envisioned may appear quite suddenly.

Aesthetic: This is what we imagined!

In its third year, the garden will have the shape we imagined. It will feels\ lush, leafy, lovely, full and full of life. Blooms and berries will be abundant, and fauna will begin making it home. Large shrubs and trees may still have space to grow – and they will. Groundcovers and mid-sized plants will seem to have achieved perfection and may now want a little more territory than shown in the initial design.

Needs: Less water, less attention, more enjoyment!

The deep roots of our foliage will give it the ability to withstand our hot, dry summers with less water. It will continue to appreciate about three inches of organic mulch, as it keeps the soil cool and helps it retain hydration. At this point, we’ll begin deep winter cut-backs to make sure the garden maintains its form through abundant spring growth.

Notice: Even with most of its foliage at full size, the garden as a whole has form. There is no need for “brush clearance,” as each plant is in the right place with just enough space.

In its fourth year, only the tree in the New Look for LA in the Center Circle at Descanso Gardens had yet to reach its full size.


Beyond the three year establishment period, the garden will continue to grow. At some point it will feel like a perpetual garden party.

Aesthetic: Garden Tour Worthy!

We’ll likely wonder how the garden could be more beautiful than it was the year before. We may begin to see some spreaders like Indian Mallow, Yarrow and Red Buckwheat try to leave their defined territory. (It’s okay if to delight in that!) Trees and hedges will feel robust, and they may create cooler microclimates surrounding the post office. The garden’s colors, textures, blooms and berries change with the seasons. Birds, butterflies and fauna will have settled into the habitat we’ve created.

Needs: Not Much…

Well established foliage will need even less water and have still-greater resilience. It will continue to appreciate fresh, deep mulch, particularly in high heat and low water years. Effectively spaced and placed for fire defense and growth, pruning will maintain health and form. Even as it ages, it will be happy to hear you talk and sing to it!

Notice: Even once the garden is “done,” it continues to evolve and change. Daily! A new bloom. A new berry. A color change. Caterpillars cocooning. A new nest. What do you notice?

Sources and Resources

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