Natural Phenomena to Consider When Landscaping in California

Natural Phenomena to Consider When Landscaping in California

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Moving to California is a dream for many. If you have been lucky enough to move our landscaping or building business to the state, no doubt you’re going to have a lot of fun planning and designing your customers’ spaces. But living in California brings with it some environmental phenomena that you need to prepare for.

Gardening and landscaping in California are blessed with excellent climate conditions if you use the right plants (e.g., drought-resistant), but the location of those plants and the location and construction of hardscaping are important. You can create a lovely outdoor space for your clients, but construction must follow several guidelines.

If you ignore the guidelines, not only can your landscape sustain damage more easily, but you may also be in violation of the law. Working with a professional building supply company ensures that your materials are in line with what the state and scientists deem the safest.

El Nino Rains, the North American Monsoon, and Atmospheric Rivers

El Nino affects large swaths of the country, so this shouldn’t be a new phenomena for you, but in California, the effect is usually one of lots of rain. Some El Nino years are surprisingly dry, but when the conditions are right, you can see a lot of rain released over a few weeks. This precipitation creates drainage problems.

All landscaping needs excellent drainage that is built to handle rather large capacities of water. Even if the customers you’re helping are in the desert, those areas can see large storms as well. Build in better drainage than you think the area needs; ensure that reaching the interior of the drainage to clean out debris is easy.

Also note that the southeastern desert areas of California are at the western edge of the North American Monsoon. While storms there are not as frequent or large as they are in places like Tucson, local areas can receive flooding rains during the summer. Drains leading from hardscaped areas, proper grading, and avoidance of areas that could constrict flow (and result in flooded yards) are essential.

Atmospheric rivers aren’t unique to California, but they do pack a punch across the state. These are essentially weather system trains that dump storm after storm over one area of the state. It was an atmospheric river that contributed to the massive water amounts that nearly destroyed the Oroville Dam in 2017.

So you see that despite California’s history of drought, all landscaping needs to be ready to handle excessively large amounts of runoff. Keep that in mind when placing materials like flagstone, which will not allow the ground underneath to absorb water.

Earthquakes and Mudslides

Shifting land is also a concern. Quakes can send loose soil in all directions, so paving requires that you prepare the soil underneath very carefully. Retaining walls have to be built to state standards and braced well; so do plant stands and other garden features. Pools shouldn’t be very close to the house as the shaking can send pool water flying in waves.

For clients who live on slopes, mudslides are a definite concern. Lightweight landscaping is needed toward the edge of the yard.


Fires are a concern even if the client doesn’t live by a greenbelt or rural area. For those with a lot of land, defensible space planning is vital and required by state law. The area around the house is perfect for hardscaping like patios, while trees and other large plants can be moved back toward the edges of the yard.

Defensible space protects houses from flying sparks and falling, flaming leaves. It can be harder to achieve in crowded urban neighborhoods and newer subdivisions where houses are built very close together, but it’s still necessary to follow.

If you want to find the best building materials for local homeowners, Bourget Bros. Building Materials is ready to help. We have a large supply of everything from flagstones and slabs to xeriscaping materials that let you create a fantastic, and safe, landscape.

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