|Mediterranean Garden Society|
Looking for the Natives: A Treasure hunt in Los Angeles
by Ann Semaan Beisch
Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 87, January 2017
In this article, Ann Semaan Beisch takes a look at how the attitude that native Californian plants are unworthy as subjects for botanic gardens has been changing in response to the long period of drought gripping the state. She finds that at last their value is being acknowledged.
Ann writes: By looking at the different histories of a few of our local renowned gardens, and the very recent re-emergence of native plants in those gardens, not only will one experience a California landscape, but one will better understand the six-year drought that has plagued us so dramatically.
One of her examples is the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens.
Ann writes: In another part of the story of the extermination of native plants by gardeners there is the Huntington. In 1903 Henry Huntington, a successful railroad industrialist, developer and urban transportation visionary, purchased the 600-acre San Marino Ranch. He proceeded to develop on about half of a 207-acre parcel the stately and magnificent gardens that would become the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens. Huntington’s head gardener and kindred spirit, William Hetrich, writes in his 1949 memoirs, The Huntington Botanical Gardens, 1905-1949: Personal Recollections, that the first order of business in implementing his employer’s large vision for the land and large budget to carry it out was to study the lie of the land, clear the grounds in preparation for roads, pathways and fences, develop a grand-scale nursery for the massive planting of flora from around the world, and install commercial groves of fruit trees. Within this evolving landscape and commercial farming development, the only native plants that were preserved were the California Engelmann oak, Quercus engelmannii and coast live oaks, Q. agrifolia. ……To sum up, The Huntington has more than 15,000 different kinds of plants in just over a dozen special gardens and collections on its formal, manicured and magnificent grounds and in each case, until 2013, native plants were not really included, let alone showcased.
The "formal" native planting in the new, 2015, development at The Huntington
Another view of the "formal" native planting
Natives in pots at Huntington
Less formal native planting
Another view of the less formal native planting
A Californian native, Our Lord’s Candle, Hesperoyucca whipplei
A Californian native, Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia