With California's drought now on front burner ideas for conserving water are in plentiful supply. One is to replace green lawns with foliage that uses less water. And this generally turns to using the State's native plants that are used to the region's wide swings in amount of rainfall.
One perfect place to learn about California native plants, some 22,000 in number, is the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden located in Claremont.
The Botanic Garden has an interesting history. It was founded in 1927 by Susanna Bixly Bryant, a member of a California pioneer family. Since that early beginning the Rancho Garden has achieved world wide status as a research institution, always directed to preserve California''s natural, native flora.
With eighty six acres there are three areas for viewing, Alluvial Gardens, California Plant communities and Indian Hill Mesa. Each area has it own collections. Alluvial Gardens is named for soil washed down from the San Gabriel Mountains and includes a Channel Island collection, Palm Oasis and Desert Garden.
The Indian Hill Mesa offers cultivars and wild species including manzanitas, conifers and riparian habitats. The third area, California Plant Communities has one walking through forest, grasslands, chaparral and desert.
All species of plants are clearly identifies for the visitor and invite leisurely inspection. The plants cover a region, besides California, southern Oregon, western Nevada and Baja.
Currently the Botanic Garden is also featuring a Butterfly Pavilion which will continue through the summer.
On our visit we soon discovered there was far too much to see and appreciate on just one afternoon. Our own plans for converting our front lawn to more water friendly foliage demands that we return to the Garden for some much needed advice and education.
We did find time to chat with Norma Standard in the Garden Gift Shop to learn more about the facility. She has served as a docent at the Botanic Garden for twenty years. The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is located at 1500 North College Avenue in Claremont. Admission is $8 for adults, $6 for seniors and students. It is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. A "grow a native garden" program is a regularly scheduled event. For more information call 909 625- 8767, on the web at www.rsabg.org.
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