They Unpaved The Parking Lot, And Put Up A Paradise
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the LA Natural History Museum's Nature Gardens. Prior to the gardens being open to the public in 2013, the 3.5 acre area was mostly parking lot. The well-known firm of Mia Leher and Associates were assigned to create a Nature garden where the parking lot once was.
The intent of the garden is to provide a taste of nature in an urban environment, with habitat for many birds and insects.
Large raised planters doing double duty as a wall edging the front part of the garden are built of argillite stone slabs stacked vertically.
Prostrate Rosemary and other low-growing plants drape gracefully over parts of the walls.This wide path is actually an emergency fire lane: a safety requirement for a public facility. All these large trees were planted only about five years ago. The many native Oaks, Sycamores, and Alders are large enough to make the garden seem much older than it is.
A native Dudleya tucked into the stone wall:
Falugia paradoxa, common name Apache Plume, is a featured plant.
Of course, Agaves.
Agaves near paths have their terminal spine nipped. Many school children visit the garden daily.
Dalea greggii is a low spreading plant that is a valuable food plant for pollinators.
Although there are some identification signs, the Nature garden are not intended as a botanical garden. It is intended as habitat for native fauna and as an educational opportunity for human visitors. If you grow it, they will come. And they have.
Several examples of our native Heteromeles arbutifolia.
Delicate Bouteloua gracilis flowers contrast with the big bold leaves of Agave americana.
Behind the Agave, Cercidium x 'Desert Museum'.
Looping whips of steel are welded into a serpentine, sinuous, vine-like safety barrier for the pond.
The original wing of the museum was built in 1913. The garden in part celebrates the museum's 100th anniversary.
This grassy meadow provides extensive insect habitat. The three vertical beams on the right are drilled with holes to provide nesting for native solitary bees.
The wonderful allure of this garden was in its expression of the California climate. It captures the "genius of the place". This garden is California and no where else.
Our summer is our "winter". It is a time of dormancy, of browns, golds, and tawny straws.
Aloe 'Cynthia Gitty', for the hummers:
A Baccharis 'Sentry' hedge:
There's the fire lane, looking the other direction:
Beyond the county museum's nature garden is the city's formal rose garden, evoking an older Los Angeles, once upon a time, a city with a lot less people and therefore a lot more water for gardens.
The Nature Garden's roses are an allée of 'Lady Banks' growing on supports crafted from pieces of rebar.
Beyond the allée is the "edible garden". Food is harvested for museum events or donated to a local food bank. The fluted green planters are intended to illustrate for local apartment dwellers that food can be grown even in a small area.
Oh, hey. That's a booster rocket for the space shuttle, lurking behind a Eucalyptus.
This portion of the garden is meant to represent the ecology of the Los Angeles river, back before it was turned into a concrete ditch.
Sambucus mexicana, Elderberry. Once upon a time I made elderberry jelly. Intense, wild, purple-black.
Back in 2012, rammed-earth walls were A Thing.
What a lovely view from the compost bins. The garden is designed to be "sustainable", which is still A Thing.
After the tour, a brief meeting with former residents of California.
Although this garden is completely surrounded by urban Los Angeles, it seems to perfectly capture what the place was before it was Los Angeles. The Museum unpaved the parking lot, and put up a paradise. Sometimes you don't know what you've got, until you get it back.