Spotlight on Amigos' Gardeners
By Jerry Donohue
As spring has arrived with its multitude of colors due to the abundant rains this year, I have been viewing plants blossoming that I’d thought dormant or dead due to our drought. The sand verbena and beach primrose are glorious throughout the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve and Bolsa Chica State Beach. Although plant identification has never achieved the notoriety accorded to birding, I would like to highlight the efforts of Amigos gardeners.
Five years ago, Amigos took over the task of managing the gardens that surround the Visitor Center. This landfill came from a variety of sources which included asphalt and large rocks. In the early days, under the careful guidance of Margaret Carlberg, Ross Griswold and I weeded invasive plants and planted young seedlings with a variety of community helpers. Water was often hand carried to plants and though some of the plants managed to thrive, many died. When Margaret moved away, Amigos maintained the garden as best we could.
We were overjoyed when Rachael Lloyd became a docent and had an extensive knowledge of plants. In 2014, she organized a monthly educational program involving students from high schools near Cypress. We averaged 5-10 students each month who kept the garden going. In 2015, a Segerstrom High School environmental science teacher, Tom Pfeifer, took the docent class and brought up to 10 students who were in a GSP (Global Sustainability Program) project with him. (By the way, Tom was voted Teacher of the Year this year from over 100 teachers on staff.) We did a combination of gardening, FLOW and even poster presentations at the Science Symposium in April 2016.
I was privileged to travel with these students to South Africa last summer as part of a Picerne Foundation grant to study rhino behavior at an Earthwatch site. Next month, these scholars will be going to schools such as: UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Brown, Notre Dame, UCLA, UCI, UC San Diego, UC Riverside, DePaul, UC Santa Cruz and UC Santa Barbara. Most of these students came back this year to again support the gardening program along with 20 new students. With the additional help from Jeanne Lepowsky and Radi Ali, we have been able to revitalize the garden and teach basic gardening techniques. Drop by our booths at the BCER north parking lot on Earth Day, April 22 and meet some of these wonderful student workers.