What will Sierra Madre look like in 2050? The answer depends, in large part, on the landscaping choices we make right now.

The community of Sierra Madre began transforming its aesthetic to one authentic to the LA foothills in 2015. The lush, leafy, low-water Authentic Foothill Gardens at Sierra Madre City Hall Gardens deliver year round beauty and save about 75 percent of the water previously used to maintain the space. Two expansive bioswales capture stormwater to refuel the city’s water independence. Featured plants mitigate fire danger, retain slopes, feed wildlife, and improve the resilience of both our adjacent wildspaces and the city itself. Just as importantly, residents more frequently explore and enjoy the space.

In 2022, residents expanded the community’s public habitat.  Like the city hall gardens, the outdoor space surrounding the Sierra Madre Post Office now includes a bioswale and a supportive smart irrigation system. It models the protective Zone 0, now recommended by local and regional fire departments. The strategically sized, spaced and placed native foliage will establish over the course of three years to fulfill the design vision in 2025.

Each of these gardens was envisioned and funded by a community leader and designed by FormLA Landscaping in collaboration with the community and city officials. Volunteers, guided by FormLA Landscaping professionals, installed the foliage. The gardens are maintained by FormLA Landscaping.


The authentic foothill gardens at Sierra Madre City Hall and the Sierra Madre Post Office represent the work of the full Sierra Madre community. Thank you to all the residents who participated in everything from the visioning processes to the gardens’ installation!

These gardens could not have been brought to life without the key contributions from residents Glenn Putnam, Suzanne Haller, the Girl Scouts, Bob Spears and Jim Walsworth as well as the city’s Chris Cimino and James Carlson.

We would also like to show our gratitude to the following sponsor organizations who donated their visions, funds, materials, and/or expertise to these projects.


Native plant landscaping in public spaces positively impacts human and pet health, wildlife habitat, the environment, public infrastructure, operational budgets, economic development, and even private home values. Here are a few areas where Sierra Madre residents can expect to see a benefit from the city hall and post office landscapes.

Reduce Operational Costs

We expect to save operational costs, including:

  1. 100 percent of the annual flower budget
  2. 100 percent of the toxic chemical fertilizer budget
  3. 100 percent of the toxic chemical pesticide budget
  4. 100 percent of soil amendment budget
  5. 81 percent of the time spent on maintenance
  6. 75 percent of the funds used for mower petrol
  7. 60-80 percent of the water previously needed
  8. 63 percent of fees associated with garden waste
  9. 15-50 percent of the energy dedicated to climate control

Save and Refuel Water 

Saving water was the primary goal of eliminating the expanses of lawn and annuals that once filled surrounding city hall.  While the established shrubs at the post office likely used less water than a lawn, the new, native foliage and drip irrigation system will use less still. We expect the lush, leafy gardens to save anywhere from 70-80 percent of the water once used to maintain the area. Just as importantly, the bioswales will now actively work to recharge Sierra Madre’s groundwater.

Protect Our Cool

Choosing a lush, leafy garden with foliage authentic to the foothills will keep the area surrounding city hall and the post office cool. This not only makes for a more enjoyable outdoor space, it can actually cool the adjacent buildings and protect established trees as well.

Support You

Public spaces impact home values, particularly park and school spaces. The following not only give fauna, you and your family a place to play, wander and enjoy, it can increase your home values!  Here’s why:

  • Beautiful park space increases nearby home values,
  • Vibrant foliage attracts consumers to business areas, and
  • The young foliage will appreciate in value as it grows.

Support Wildlife

Even young native plant life will attract and support California native butterflies, birds and other fauna. The more we plant, the more wildlife will stop by to delight us!

Provide an Example

While the drought increased California’s focus on saving water, we have needs and goals beyond simple water savings.  We want to earn water independence, protect our area from fires and slides, cool the air naturally where possible, and maintain the beauty of our city.  We intend these gardens to serve as a model for reaching all of those goals with our garden choices.