Turn the Valley into One Enormous Garden

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) thriving in a community garden plot

English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) thriving in a community garden plot

There is a question as to whether gardeners are born generous or become generous through gardening, but one fact is indisputable: Gardeners are among the most generous people on earth. If your neighbor raises irises, or tomatoes and lettuces, and you happen to pay that neighbor a neighborly visit, especially when that neighbor is working in the garden, you will invariably go home with a bouquet of irises or a dinner salad. And if you live next door to someone with a plum or a lemon tree, you will be the recipient of many bags of plums and lemons over the years.

Today, we gardeners face the wonderful challenge of turning the Valley into – or back into – one enormous garden.

At one time, there were orange and walnut groves from San Gabriel to Woodland Hills. Sylmar was famous for its fig and olive orchards. Van Nuys Boulevard was bordered by tomato farms and bean fields. The Los Angeles River flowed from Canoga Park to Glendale and watered stands of oak, alder and sycamore along the way.
While we cannot bring back the orange groves and the oaks, we can plant gardens almost anywhere. The nostalgia and yearning for a closer connection to nature – and to the many pleasures that cultivating the earth can bring – has spawned community groups that plant flower gardens along the flood channel once traversed by the Los Angeles River. Examples of these gardens are visible along Valleyheart Drive between Fulton and Colwater Canyon avenues in the Sherman Oaks/Studio City area. Community gardens flourish under power lines from Arleta to Granada Hills and in the shadows of freeways – most notably in the Sepulveda Gardens, located just south of the 101 Freeway near Magnolia Boulevard and Havenhurst Avenue in Encino.
Gardening is the only activity that is guaranteed to better acquaint you with your neighbors. It may be considered intrusive to knock on someone’s door without an invitation, but working in the front yard is always an open invitation to neighbors and passers-by to come closer and stay a while.
There is a question as to whether gardeners are born generous or become generous through gardening, but one fact is indisputable: Gardeners are among the most generous people on earth. If your neighbor raises irises, or tomatoes and lettuces, and you happen to pay that neighbor a neighborly visit, especially when that neighbor is working in the garden, you will invariably go home with a bouquet of irises or a dinner salad. And if you live next door to someone with a plum or a lemon tree, you will be the recipient of many bags of plums and lemons over the years.
A greater diversity of plants now dots the landscape, bringing into our neighborhoods more birds and butterflies, whose presence is also encouraged by the proliferation of ponds and fountains as hardscape water features.
In the next century, thanks to computers, people will be spending more time at home than ever before. The immediate environment, especially the garden that surrounds the house, is bound to become more important than ever.
As gardeners, it is our mission to remind people of what gardening can do for them and for their community. Front-yard gardens should be our priority for the new year. Lawns should be carved up into herb gardens, vegetable plots and orchards. We gardeners have always been happy to share our plants and our knowledge of how to care for them with those around us. The time has come to take our message literally to the streets, planting our gardens up to their very edge.

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