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River of Leaves (2022)

The persistent drought has led an increasing number of Southern California homeowners to replace their lawns with xeriscaping— decorative landscaping using drought-tolerant plants that do not require constant watering, often along with materials like rocks or wood. Xeriscaping also avoids the air and noise pollution from the two-stroke engines of lawnmowers and leaf-blowers.

This example of xeriscaping features rocks arranged to suggest rivulets of flowing water. Although fall foliage isn’t part of the Southern California landscape, some trees do shed colorful leaves when the weather turns sufficiently cold in late autumn. Here a nearby tree filled the rock garden with a river of leaves.

Xeriscaping (pronounced “zeer-uh-scaping”) combines the Greek word xeros (meaning “dry”) with landscaping. And yes, there is an (indirect) connection with the familiar trademarked name for copiers. When scientists at the Haloid Photographic Company perfected the now-ubiquitous electrostatic copier in 1958, they called the process it used xerography, combining xeros with -graphy, from the Greek word for “writing.” (Scientists like to give their discoveries and inventions Greek or Latin names.) Unlike earlier copiers that used wet chemicals, the new electrostatic technology used a dry powder. Thus, a variation on the Greek xeros became the trademark for the copier, and then the name of the company that made it— Xerox.


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