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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Our New Garden: Mother Nature’s Garden of Health

The past few months have been busy.  In addition to the usual winter tasks, we’ve been installing a new garden.  Mother Nature’s Garden of Health is located to the east of the main garden, just off our outdoor classroom, in an area previously unplanted.  The photo below shows the Garden of Health prior to installation. 
Future site of Mother Nature's Garden of Health

The Board of the Friends of the Gardena Willows Wetland Preserve – where our gardens are located - envisioned a garden that would complement Mother Nature’s Backyard for teaching purposes.  While the main garden contains many interesting and useful plants, its size limits the number of species.  As a result, a number of important locally native medicinal plants could not be included. 

The Garden of Health features medicinal plants that either grew locally or could have been obtained through trade by local Native Californians.   Thus the majority of plants once grew in the Los Angeles basin, on the Southern Channel islands or in the surrounding Santa Monica, San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains.  The plants range from trees/large shrubs to herbaceous annuals and perennials – even a few vines. 
Melissa Diaz (center) during garden planting

Final plan - Mother Nature's Garden of Health

Dr. Vadheim and CSU Dominguez Hills undergraduate student Melissa Diaz – with helpful comments from Board Member Kelley Dawdy - designed the garden during the summer/fall of 2013.   The design went through several iterations (see above) resulting in a final design that is simple, formal and reminiscent of medicinal gardens throughout the world.  The formal walkways and brick-lined planting beds will work well with the plants, many of which have an ‘informal’ growth habit.

Adam D'Jamily on newly installed bench - Mother Nature's Garden of Health

The paths, planting beds, bench and large pots were installed as an Eagle Scout project by Adam D’Jamily and Boy Scout Troop 586 (Redondo Beach, CA).  A concurrent Eagle Scout project (Andrew Harley – Troop 860, Hermosa Beach, CA  ) completed the  installation of the outdoor classroom.

The garden installation took several days, with most of the hardscape work done on January 25-26, 2014.  After mechanical leveling (above), volunteers laid out the paths and beds, leveled the ground and installed the bricks.  The bricks aren’t mortared, but getting all the beds level was quite a challenge.  After the decomposed granite pathways were laid, the garden and open air classroom looked quite nice (below).

Obtaining plants for the Garden of Health has been a bit of a challenge.  Some plants are readily available, while many others are ‘specialty natives’ available from only a few sources.  As a result, we’re raising many of the plants from seed in the Cal State Dominguez Hills native plant nursery.   Some of the plants won’t be ready for planting until next winter.  That’s probably a good thing as the drought promises to make this a difficult summer for new gardens.

Preparing plants at CSUDH greenhouse; plants ready for planting; planting day

The Garden of Health was planted by CSUDH students and community volunteers on February 22, exactly two years after Mother Nature’s Backyard was planted.  The photos above highlight the planting.  Fortunately, we had a major rainstorm soon after planting, which helped the plants off to a good start.

Mother Nature's Garden of Health and outdoor classroom - 3/17/14

The plants are growing well despite the drought; we even have a few flowers right now.  The original garden plan, with plants, is available under the ‘Original Garden Plans’ page.  An updated plant list is available under ‘Current Plant Lists’.   We’ll keep you posted on the garden’s progress with current photographs and posts featuring the plants.

1 comment:

  1. Fabulous project. Thanks for creating this! Native heritage is so important to us all - so much to learn.

    And, when you update us, please let us know the stories of healing and helpfulness from these plants.