Meet 3 of Hollywood's Drought Fighters: "We Live in a Desert. It's Not Supposed to Look Like Long Island"
This trio of industry players have replaced thirsty lawns with smart, water-reducing options (drip systems, artificial turf) without sacrificing style.
This story first appeared in the Oct. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Catherine McCord and producer Jonathan Gordon
When Gordon (Joy, Silver Linings Playbook) was growing up in New York City, he didn't have a clue where his food was grown. As far as he was concerned, "It all came from [supermarkets] Gristedes or Sloan's." Today, the father of three passes a tray of savory baked "bacon" strips he made with an eggplant he plucked from the edible garden he and his wife, actress and mom blogger McCord (weelicious.com), planted behind their 100-year-old traditional two-story in Los Feliz, not far from Griffith Park. At McCord's urging, he has become something of a convert to organic food, making pilgrimages to the Hollywood farmers market every Sunday, changing his diet and dropping 30 pounds along the way. With the help of Lauri Kranz of Edible Gardens L.A., Gordon and McCord designated a grass-rimmed area outside their kitchen door for a year-round family garden that would be easily accessible to the kids. They now are growing potfuls of Japanese eggplant, Italian heirloom eggplant, tomatoes, tomatillos, peppers, green beans, passion fruit and footlong zucchinis that peek out from among vine-laden beds. To conserve water, Kranz installed a drip system "to output the bare minimum," says Gordon, "and we're supplementing by filling a can with water and fish emulsion to water by hand when plants look like they are fading." When they lost a mature tree, they replaced it with a fig tree that doesn't need too much water; they also replaced the grass below it with drought-tolerant ground cover instead. Now they're letting the front lawn brown out, since the kids spend more time in the garden than playing on the grass. "Amazing how quickly it has faded [in just a few weeks]," says Gordon. Adds McCord, 41, "The edible plants are so much more important to us. I kind of like the gold grass. Even in Griffith Park, they're letting it go totally gold."
McCord and Gordon's edible garden.
Drew Buckley and Cyndi McClellan Buckley
Like any good homeowner, Drew is proud of the emerald lawn that blankets his backyard. In fact, when the COO of Electus (producer of Jane the Virgin and Running Wild With Bear Grylls) and his wife, Cyndi (former president of news and network strategy at E!), entertain friends in the poolside garden of their Windsor Square home, he'll ask point-blank, "Do you like my grass?" Invariably, guests will say it's great. And then he'll drop the bomb: "Yeah, it's fake." Drew, 44, admits he gets a kick out of their shocked reactions, but "I have to think that some people are saying, especially now, that maybe we should consider what the Buckleys did." What they did was replace their lawn with smooth, eternally green blades of artificial grass. They first made the leap about seven years ago, when they were living in a smaller place nearby. "It was like having a living room with wall-to-wall carpet outside, so you could lie down on it and put blankets on it," says Cyndi, 43. When they moved to a house with a bigger yard, their concern was bigger water bills. "You're constantly taking care of grass," she says. "With turf, we don't have to even think about our backyard." Artificial landscape grass comes in more than 25 varieties; the Buckleys chose one with a brown fiber base that resembles soil. Plus, they don't have to worry about kids Joe, 10, or Charlotte, 5, getting grass stains on their clothes (but in the dog days of summer, the grass can get hot; shoes are recommended). The people next door seem to approve: They too have installed a faux lawn in front of their house.
From left, Cyndi, Drew, Joe and Charlotte Buckley were photographed by Daniel Hennessy Aug. 6 at their home in Los Angeles.
ICM's Hildy Gottlieb and Walter Hill
"My water bill was outrageous," says agent Gottlieb, whose clients include Taissa Farmiga and Marcia Gay Harden. Though she and her husband of nearly 30 years, director Hill, love their 1928 Italianate home in the flats of Beverly Hills, she remembers looking around her neighborhood two years ago and wondering why anyone would need so much lawn. "So many of the big houses have front yards the kids don't play on — so why have the grass? I know we live in a desert. It's not supposed to look like Long Island." So she and Hill, 73, decided to take action. They hired garden designer Dryden Helgoe, who had landscaped their Malibu beach house six years earlier, and asked her to replace the broad, sloping lawn of their stately two-story home — the sometime scene of ICM's private 250-guest Oscar party — with an elegant design that wouldn't require much water. "We always felt we could do better making the lawn stylistically part of the house," says Hill. "Nothing showy or elaborate." Helgoe says she tore out about 6,000 square feet of grass and terraced the property, creating two tiers lined with boxwoods, agave, blue fescue, lavender, rosemary and Italian cypress ("to add to the Old World formality of the house," says Helgoe), divided by a gravel pathway and anchored by three olive trees. She left the existing birds of paradise and a Melaleuca tree for continuity. Today, it not only feels like a slice of Tuscany, it saves the couple hundreds of dollars a month in water bills. "We were so afraid of being too bold," says Gottlieb. "I was very nervous about what other people on the block would think. But once they started putting plants in, it was like, 'Oh yeah!' " After it was finished, passers-by would stop to pay compliments. Says Hill of recent city water restrictions, "I think the biggest thing is that it's fair — that the big as well as the small are being asked to make sacrifices. Because I think everyone understands that we have a problem."
Gottlieb and Hill were photographed by Gregg Segal on Aug. 3 at their home in Beverly Hills.
Gottlieb and Hill's yard.