Monday, August 31, 2015

Tree of Life Visit

Very rarely does my day job and my interest in nature cross paths. I'm working on the installation of a garden that took me to the magical place that is Tree of Life. The nursery is known for California natives, specifically Orange County natives.

It is located at one of the most southern points of Orange County, inland, and is at the foot of the Cleveland National Forest is San Juan Capistrano. It is a few miles away from a suburban sprawl but the staff still say they have to go into town like it's a rural area. When you turn in off the winding two lane road you are met with a dirt road.

Walking up to the first building called Casa La Paz, or house of peace, you truly enter a sanctuary. A large tree and canopy provides shade in front of Casa La Paz where there is a display of various plants on wood tables or in the ground. Inside Casa La Paz are books on plants, landscapes, birds, nature and hiking.

The true beauty is found on the shelves and shelves of outdoor plants. Many people believe that to have a drought tolerant and native garden in Southern California it means desert plants. They are far from the truth. Southern California's climate is actually Mediterranean, which means beautiful flowering plants in purples, yellows and pinks, wispy grasses and some succulents. All which I found at Tree of Life.

The pollinator and butterfly garden area was my absolute favorite. Besides the various types of bees flying around, I saw at least 6 varieties of butterflies all of different sizes and colors. There were these quarter sized yellow flowers that looked like they were made of tissue paper. Their petals were crinkled, but were the brightest yellow I've ever seen in nature. The bees loved them.

I fell in love with the yarrow. It looks so much like wild carrots with long leaves and the tiniest white flowers. It is also known as plumajillo which means little feather in Spanish, which is absolutely true. There is a variety called Paprika that is red and yellow, though I find the white feather plant to be more beautiful and true to nature. It can be used to make tea, tinctures and salves for healing cuts. It is also edible and can be eaten as a leafy vegetable. I regret not bringing home a few with me.

Being shown plants that can replace turf and can even sometimes be mowed was amazing. The Melica imperfecta was a beautiful grass that is actually native to Anaheim, and it was gorgeous.

On the way out I got to see Queen Anne's lace for the first time. I always expected it to be white, but it had this reddish brown tint to it. Almost like it was vintage lace. Next to it was a Bay Tree. I plucked a leaf and gave it a rub and the smell reminded me of Italian food. The canopy was huge. There were  two Manzanita trees next to it, and the difference between the red and green of the two trees was so stark.

I cannot wait to return to Casa de Paz and its colorful garden. Next time it might be a leisure trip since I heard there is great hiking in the area and a small roadside cafe with a 360 degree view. I am thankful to be working on a project that led me to this magical place. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Seal Beach, Trashy Beach

I have never visited Seal Beach and found so much trash. Ever.

Walking along the pier I noticed trash stuck between the wood boards of the pier and started picking it up. I found a plastic cup that I stuffed everything into along the way. I found a few plastic food wrappers, but mostly water bottle caps and discarded pieces of fishing line. As I was bending over to pick up trash I spotted a beautiful California Sea Lion just off the pier. I had been so focused on the trash on the pier that I hadn't noticed all of the trash in the water.

There were bottles and pieces of Styrofoam floating among the body boarders. As I made my way back to shore I noticed how much trash lined the sand where the high tide had broke. The entire beach was littered with trash that looked like it had been washed ashore. Where had so much trash come from?

The most disturbing part about all of this is the beach was full of people sitting in the trash. What has the world come to when it is acceptable to visit a beach and set up your chairs, towels and kid's play things in a pile of trash? Even the space in front of the life guard tower was littered with trash that included glass bottles.

We found a half buried plastic grocery bag in the sand and started collecting as much trash as we could. It was the first time in a while that I was happy to see a plastic bag. The litter was a mix of Styrofoam, plastic food packaging and small pieces of plastic. I'm not talking microplastics or nurdles. The pieces were made of hard plastic and were mostly flat about the size of a quarter or smaller. It looked like they were pieces of plastic that had once been beach toys. After spending time in the hot sun and water those pieces will eventually break into smaller pieces and then become microplastics.

Considering the wildlife I saw on the beach which included a sea lion, different birds and small crabs in the sand, it scares me to think that they probably have already been feasting on the trash spread across the sand and water. With the amount of trash left on the beach, there is no sign of that stopping.

It was only a week ago that I was at Huntington Beach and although I did pick up a few pieces of trash here and there it was sparse in comparison to the amount of trash at Seal Beach. I have to ask again, where did all of this trash come from? Is the City of Seal Beach taking responsibility by not only picking up the trash, but educating beach goers about ocean pollution?

What is the solution to curbing beach pollution? Beach clean ups are becoming a band-aid to the problem. How does the community of citizens concerned with ocean pollution reach and educate those who litter? Share your ideas in the comments.