Dispatches from California

A Dispatch from the LA Arboretum

cal2A top U.S. tourist destination, the LA Arboretum is 127 acres of stunning trees, shrubs and other plants set against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. Broken down into geographical and botanical collections, the Arboretum features many rare and endangered species.

But the Arboretum is, expectedly, looking for ways to conserve water during this intense California drought. So far, they have reduced all the grass areas in their 127 acre site – only grasses found within event areas are still left. They are also highlighting landscape design ideas for visitors, a sort-of “resource library” for water reduction ideas.

One of their larger water conservation initiatives is Crescent Farm, a hugelkulture (roughly translated from German as “hill culture”) that is now used to grow trees, vegetables and other fruits.

A hugel (also called a ‘nurse log’ in the Pacific Northwest) is a gardening technique where fallen logs (or any biomass) are laid flat on the ground and then covered with soil and mulch (to form a raised bed). Once set up, get started planting! The benefit of a hugel is that, when built appropriately, the fallen logs retain moisture and therefore the plants don’t need to be watered. One visitor summarized it best: “Log. Fill in. Plant.”

This particular hugel at The Arboretum replaced an unused 70-year-old lawn and almost immediately became a habitat for bugs, rabbits and more. In fact, Crescent Farm is now one of the most popular sites at the Arboretum for schoolchildren to learn about water management, a key lesson for anyone growing up in California.

The trees in the photo (right) were planted in the hugel two months ago and although they are currently being watered (to compensate for the drought), Arboretum staffers are confident that water will soon be unnecessary.

So why should you care about the LA Arboretum? And why pay attention to the California drought if you live outside the state? Here are two reasons:

1.) Field trips are the best. Don’t live in LA? That’s OK, why not visit your local arboretum? Familiarize yourself with the trees and plants in your area (and beyond), and learn more about possible pests, diseases or other concerns that may affect your landscape.

2.) You never know. We live in uncertain times and a drought may hit your area in the future. Pay attention to what’s happening in California and how they are dealing.

A Dispatch from The Huntington

huntington-japanese-gardenCovering 120 acres, the Huntington features more than a dozen specialized, and stunning, gardens. Highlights include the Japanese Garden, Chinese Garden, and Desert Garden. With over 15,000 plant varieties, the lush landscape is simply gorgeous. To complement the outdoor beauty, the Huntington also features world-class art museums and libraries.

Founded in 1919 by Henry E. Huntington, this LA landmark is a private nonprofit institution. Mr. Huntington was a businessman who built a financial empire that included California railroad companies, utilities, and real estate holdings. A wealthy man devoted to education and beauty, he built “one of the finest research libraries in the world, established a splendid art collection, and created an array of botanical gardens with plants from a geographic range spanning the globe.”

Yes, this post reads like a love letter to the Huntington. There’s no denying that. Just look at the photo found at the right of this text! The educational information about the ancient trees, diverse species, and landscape work are fascinating, but simply too overwhelming to condense into this post. Instead, why not visit the Huntington for yourself or learn more about its work online here. Can’t make it to California?  Spend a few moments researching your local area and find a similar facility in your area – it undoubtedly exists.

The Who, What, When, Where & Why

So how (and why) did TCIA learn all about Crescent Farm at the LA Arboretum and snap all these photos at The Huntington?

A TCIA staffer visited the LA Arboretum and The Huntington during a visit to California for the Garden Writers Association Annual Symposium, a get-together of garden writers/bloggers from around the world.

TCIA, who attends as an exhibitor, uses this event to educate (well, remind) these writers/bloggers about the importance of proper tree care and hiring professionals. We also attend education forums, solicit potential writers for and TCI Magazine, and make connections within the industry for future collaborations, workshop sites, etc.

Learn more about TCIA’s work here.

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