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Native Plant Garden Blossoms Once Again in Temescal Canyon

Organizers who have made a nearly three-year labor of love to revitalize the Temescal Canyon Pacific Palisades Native Plant Garden are looking for more volunteers as they head into the fall planting season.

Considered the first public native plant garden in Los Angeles west of Eagle Rock, the Temescal Canyon Pacific Palisade Native Plant Garden is completely revitalized after some much needed care in the last year, and its supporters are looking for volunteers to help put in new plantings this weekend.

Designer Michael Terry of the California Native Plant Society, whose involvement with the nearly 25-year-old site's upkeep is through Palisades Beautiful and the Pacific Palisades Garden Club, gave Patch a tour of the garden last week, pointing out various species such as island bush snapdragon, island tree mallow, Catalina ironwoods and much more. There are approximately 174 native plants in the garden, with a section called the "Xeriscape," which is devoted to exotic plants from places such as Australia, South Africa and Mediterranean climates. 

Bringing the garden up to date

Nearly 20 volunteers since fall 2011 helped clean up the brush and invasive plants in the garden, Terry said, who recently gave a status update to the community council along with the Department of Recreation and Parks. Terry, who was sought by the garden club for designing the native plant garden at nearby Canyon Charter School, said students from Canyon, Palisades Charter High School, New Roads School and Paul Revere Charter Middle School have all put in community service hours to refurbish the lush 400-yard garden along Temescal Canyon Road. The ongoing effort to keep the garden pristine began in the spring of 2010.

During the past two years by applying through the garden club, three grants, totaling more than $3,000, have been secured to purchase more than 170 plants. The grants came through efforts by the California Garden Clubs, Inc., Pacific Palisades Junior Women's Club (now the women's club), according to Barbara Marinacci, president of Palisades Beautiful who initiated the first clean-up efforts. Mulch, fill and other volunteering efforts have been come from the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Pacific Palisades Historical Society.

After receiving an email almost three years ago from a nearby resident who frequently walked through the garden, originally dedicated in 1988, addressing its "deplorable" condition, Marinacci said she sought out Terry for the pro bono work after hearing about his work at Canyon Charter School.

Educating the community about the garden

"We tend this like a home garden on a large scale," Terry said, noting they make an effort to educate students and volunteers about the various tasks of tending the garden, so they know the purpose. "Some kids will say they'll come back to see their plant when it's grown up.

One effort Terry said that needs to be reiterated is the over-watering of the garden, since the majority of the native plants are adapted to the southern California climate.

"Oak trees have been decimated in California by fungal diseases because people put water under them in the summer," he said. "But the trees have slowed down their process naturally. The roots chase the water down."

Gearing up for the next planting season

Marinacci added that, fortunately, a sizable fund remains for them to use when we start buying plants again in October, when the planting season begins as cool and, hopefully, sometimes wet weather arrives.

"Only about a quarter of the available space has been replanted with perennials, though of course in the other areas there are numerous native trees and shrubs that were planted in the late 1980s and are now sizable, and Mike Terry will produce plans for appropriate plantings around them," she said."

Marinacci said Terry's extraordinarily good not just at the planning and plant purchasing tasks, but at supervising volunteer work and determining a watering schedule, and deciding on explicit tasks for the monthly volunteer workday on the last Saturday of every month. Terry also does a great deal of hard physical labor, such as down trees, sawing off huge limbs and digging holes.

Marinacci focuses more on soliciting volunteers, publicizing their efforts and fundraising, as well as assuming most responsibility for watering the plants, which must be done daily after they are first planted, and then on staggered schedules.

And they will continue fixing up the adjacent Xeriscape Garden, with its Mediterranean-climate plants, to improve the overall appearance of this northeastern section of the city park.

On Saturday, Sept. 29, the group will be working at the site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will trim off spent blossoms on the flowering plants, pull out new weeds sprouting up, among other tasks.

For more information, view the attached flyer, call Marinacci at 310-459-0190 or e-mail ppgardenclub@verizon.net.

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