Saturday, February 26, 2011

Botanical Garden: more than flowers

The cool, brisk February morning accompanies a warm sun, hazed by wisps of clouds, the smell of the last rain still lingering in the air. A small child geared with hiking boots and a warm fleece sweater yells to his mother as he chases a brown bird. Around a tree, an elderly woman takes out her pencil and parchment to detail a familiar orange poppy, one of many that speckle the grounds. It is the perfect day for a hike.

Any type of weather calls residents and visitors to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden located in Claremont, Calif. Leslie Husa, the gardens admission casher, can be seen harvesting oak saplings just popped out of the acorn and placing them into a recycled coffee cups.

“Look at these little guys,” Husa said, as a child peers over her shoulder. “I am going to take them back to the nursery so they do not dry out in this sun. These saplings can quickly die if not moved into some shade.”

The Botanical Gardens, which are open from 9a.m.-5p.m. all but four days a year, act as many outlets and serve the community in various ways. Families can be seen skipping up to the trodden paths, scientists poke and prod at the local Californian vegetation, others are harnessed with a good book and some just strolling, taking in the sights of their first walkabout.

“We have large events that bring many people in here all the time, a lot of them do not realize what a treasure it is,” Husa said. “Many of our members come here daily, a lot use our facility as an after-work routine.”

The grounds are composed of the gardens, research facilities, a gift shop and a commercial nursery where you can purchase any of the plants you enjoy. The grounds are dedicated to California native plants and thrive off of the philosophy of biodiversity and the importance of conservation. It is a sanctuary for wildlife as well as the overworked who come to rejuvenate here.

The Garden’s spokeswoman Paulina Nash said she used to get away from the stresses of life by visiting with her family on the weekends. “There are so many facets to the garden, it can bring anyone here for any reason, or to just relax and enjoy life again,” Nash said.

But the garden brings more than just a sense of relaxation, it inspires wellness in many ways.

“Before I worked here, I’d enjoy the garden for what I saw, now I love it for what it is, conservation in water and energy,” Nash said. “I feel like I was a part of the help.”

The garden sits nestled just behind the Claremont School of Theology, at North College Ave. and Foothill Blvd.

“Being between the 210 and 10 freeways and just outside the craziness of Los Angeles, you would think this area would reflect the same, but it is exactly the opposite,” Nash said.

Many people visit the garden expecting the stereotypical flowers and meadows, but there is much more to this local treasure.

The fact that the garden is composed of all Californian plants helps individuals learn to cultivate some of their own.

“We are re-doing our front yard, we always knew this place was beautiful and a place to getaway, we want our house to be the same,” San Dimas resident Carol Barnick said during a recent visit.

“It is my first time here, but after a few hours I have discovered such a sense of peace, I am a fan,” said Paul Barnick, Carolshusband.

Californian vegetation goes beyond its boarders, into parts of Oregon and down past Baja.

“Plants do not know politics and boundary lines, they just grow,” Nash said.

The garden has numerous events throughout the week for families, students and even yoga enthusiasts. There are also yoga and tai-chi classes out here in the garden, you do not have to be a member to enjoy the relaxing workout said Nash.

The regular fee is $8 for adults, $6 for students and $4 for children. Memberships vary, but the garden offers the same events to all.

If you are looking to explore this local relaxation spot, its annual spring open allows free admission for March 19th and May 6th.

Whether you are looking for a bird walk, a place to get away, or an atmosphere that puts you in the middle of nature, then the 86-acre sanctuary is a wonderful escape.

“Once, I visited the nursery looking for a tree and found one I loved but could not think of a space for it. An old man looked at me and said ‘we all grow in the space we are given.’ I think that phrase sums up this place perfectly,” Nash said.

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