Photos by Christina Salvador-Klenz
By Tessa St. Marie
It was a day for the plants earlier this month when approximately 1,000 people joined local dignitaries to celebrate the completion of a total restoration of the Native Plant Garden at Rancho Los Alamitos Historic Ranch and Gardens.
A formal dedication of the garden began at 9am followed by a public celebration at 11:30am. Attendees enjoyed tours of the gardens, a native plant sale, seminars on garden-related topics, activities for children, and music provided by the Susie Hansen Latin Band.
“We wanted today to be a family-friendly day that included all parts of our community as well as local dignitaries to help underscore the role of Rancho Los Alamitos as a place for learning and new experiences for everyone,” said Rancho Los Alamitos Executive Director Pamela Seager, in a prepared statement.
Florence Bixby, who lived at Rancho Los Alamitos with her husband Fred from 1906 to 1961, developed the native garden in the mid 1920s. “The original garden was a mixture of native plant and ornamentals from around the world,” explained Matt Randolph, ASLA, landscape architect for the project. “The goal then was to create a garden that was beautiful and would also be both resilient and able to endure Southern California’s climate. One of the challenges we faced with this restoration was to maintain that balance, while creating a garden that is relevant to the Rancho as it is today.”
According to Seager, based on materials from the Ranch archive, the restoration of the native garden recreates Bixby’s interpretation of a natural landscape. Waterfalls and streams have been repaired, and reproductions of furniture and artifacts revive the almost 90 year-old native garden.
A series of lectures and demonstrations were led throughout the day by a variety of speakers, including actual members of the Tongva tribe, horticulturalists, and educators.
Visitors were also treated to a display of Tongva Native American cultural items and a sampling of Native American food from the area from Tongva descendents, a composting demonstration by Curtis Thompson of the Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program, and a cooking demonstration by local chef Debbi Dubbs.
The celebration was a joint effort between Rancho Los Alamitos and the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
Rancho Los Alamitos is owned by the City of Long Beach and is run by the Rancho Los Alamitos Foundation. More than 50,000 people of all ages visit the Rancho every year. The Rancho is open year-round to the public Wednesday through Sunday from 1pm to 5pm. Free tours of the ranch house and gardens are offered.