Trip Recap

The California Native Plant Society - Orange County Chapter had a terrific private tour of the truly amazing new Nature Gardens at the Natural History Museum of L.A. Co. It is an incredible place with lots of natives, wildlife everywhere and is very sustainable and very educational. Highly recommended! It is a great place to bring children and young people as well as adults. There is something for everyone. Many thanks to Rachel Whitt for organizing the visit.

The garden opened on the 100 year centennial of the museum, in 2013 and in the ensuing two years has filled in very nicely. prior to creating this garden and the habitat that it provides, almost the entire area was a paved parking lot. What a difference. The plant selections are primarily California natives, but other selections from similar Meditarranean climates are interspersed. The garden was designed by the well known Mia Lehrer and Associates and the garden director is the equally well known Carol Bornstein, a California native plant expert formerly of the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

One of the most noticable architectural features of the garden is an impressive stacked stone retaining wall. It was hundreds of feet in length and the workmanship that went into it was impressive. Narrow sections of stones were installed vertically - at a slightly random and haphazard angle - leaving cracks for spaces to plant succulents and other plants. The wall is made from 3.2 million pounds of Pritchard Flagstone and imported from Montana. The stone is 4.5 billion years old and is the oldest item in the garden.

The pond in the garden a favorite place and is included to demonstrate the significance of water in a Mediterranean climate and to provide water for the animals and insects that live in or visit the garden. Many native plants are present here, including water clover, native cattails, water lilies, maidenhair ferns, San Diego sedge, potentilla and other plants. They surround the pond and some grow submerged within the water. Native arroyo chub live in the pond and manage the mosquitos and contribute to the ecology.

Several turf substitutes are demonstrated near the outdoor amphitheater, including a nice area of Carex pansa, with a patch of Carex praegracilis not far away.

Wildlife is literally everywhere in the garden and habitat is one of the principal goals of the garden. The garden is not only a public display, but is a living laboratory, where research is actively being conducted. Birds, butterflies and insects are teaming almost everywhere. A portion of the meadow garden was even reserved for native ground nesting bees.

The edible gardens are probably the most popular part of the Nature Gardens for the general public. The plantings is this portion were robust and healthy, all maintained organically, like the rest of the garden. The extensive raised beds housed most of the traditional and untraditional vegetables and herbs, while the surrounding land was used for fruits, berries and larger plants. A large section of southern high bush blueberries was thriving, as were a very tasty 'Brown Turkey' fig, a banana, kiwi, numerous citrus, apples, peaches, a large papaya and others.

Not surprisingly (to a bunch of plant and garden fanatics) the composting area garnered a lot of attention from our group. It actually got a round of applause. Now that's wierd. All of the green waste generated by the garden is composted and reused on site.

Richard Halsey was our excellent tour guide and leader and could not have been better. He is the head gardener-horticulturist at the garden and has been involved from the early stages. He knew the answer to every question and provided insight and background stories that we would not have otherwise known.

After the tour of the gardens was complete several attendees visited the museum as well, which is included in admission.

A most remarkable day and one of the benefits of being involved inThe Orange County Chapter of The California Native Plant Society.