UPDATE: THIS IS AN OLD POST THAT I’M NOW FINISHING WOW TIME FLIES
It came time to pick a new badge, and a couple of things happened. I got a new job, which prevented me from being able to do much work on my Folk Dancing badge and some of my others. Also, folk dancing is tough with just one person (or less fun anyway). I am planning to go to Heritage Square’s Annual Square Dance, but September is a long way away, so priorities priorities [UPDATE: I made it to the Square Dance a year later in 2015! Better late than never. Video is HERE. Hypnotic, isn’t it? It’s no Doc Brown wild times in Back To The Future III, but I’ll take it. There was also a pie baking contest. I highly recommend it.]
But really, let’s please take a minute to appreciate how gorgeous the Heritage Square Museum is in Montecito Heights. It’s a collection of old Victorian buildings, an old train station, they’ve recreated an old general store, the list goes on. It’s like you’re magically transported to an old town from the late 1800’s. I always saw the roofs of the Victorians driving to Highland Park on the 110 (oh the first glorious parkway in Los Angeles!), and didn’t realize it was Heritage Square until square dancing called.
But I digress…so this month we got to choose our own badge. What was it going to be…Chicken cooping? My boss has 4 chickens [UPDATE: now 2], and I’ve talked about coming over to help feed them. Not quite ready for that yet though. I decided to go with the Wild Plant Badge. We had just bought a bunch of succulents for our home, and on a recent hike up Echo Mountain, I kept running into this pleasant smelling native plant growing everywhere, but I couldn’t identify it (and probably should’ve photographed it). I decided it was time to learn about some of these new plants growing in my new backyard of Southern California, and it’s now become the humble beginnings of a lifelong journey.
This new badge was a great excuse to go to The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens to fulfill three of my Wild Plant Badge requirements. My lovely friend Rachel was in town from Toronto at the time, so we decided to embark on an adventure there together.
1. Identify, out-of-doors, thirty wild plants.
12. Take a trip to the grounds or estate of someone who has a wild-plant garden. Learn something about the transplanting and growing of wild plants. Try growing one or more for yourself.
13. Visit a botanical garden to see the wild plants uncommon or unknown in your section.
IDENTIFY [Here’s a Top 5, Though I did identify 30]
I have actually learned to transplant and grow many wild plants since this visit, and since I moved into a house now, I have a little more space to work with. BEHOLD the front yard assortment below. We took some cuttings from our lovely neighbors: blue chalk stick (Senecio) in the foreground, which are good confidence builders for a gardener just starting out because they’re incredibly resilient, a lavender bush (since died), two native plants called Indian Mallow with yellow flowers (Abutilon), an Agave, Purple Aeoniums, and a few Nopales paddles cut from the cactus garden at the AirBnB we stayed in over Christmas. They had an incredible cactus garden, and I will say, these things have grown swimmingly since. The Mallow shriveled up and died at first, but 2 of 3 ended up surviving, and now they’re huge.
Apparently something to always remember in the native plant world (which I’m learning more about daily through my Theodore Payne Foundation membership) is, “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap.” Also something to be aware of, is that there are so many different species of plants that the scientific names are always preferred over the layman’s term. It’s better for actual plant identification, but makes me feel like I need an infinite amount of flashcards. It’s a whole other language, but if you’re interested in it, don’t give up. The way to learn how to garden is by talking to people who have gardens, and making mistakes. I’ve made a lot so far.
Still on the search for that great smelling plant from Echo Mountain. I guess I’ll have to make the trek back up again to find out. The Wild Plant quest continues…