Gardening and Our Values
Who are the indigenous inhabitants and traditional caretakers of this land?
The Gabrielieno-Tongva / Kizh Gabrieleño are the indigenous inhabitants and stewards of the Greater Los Angeles Watershed. Many of the plants in the garden are integral parts of their lives and are found throughout the mountains, rivers, and coastline of the Los Angeles basin.
The garden says it is a regenerative garden, but what is regenerative gardening?
There is no single, standardized, definition of “regenerative gardening.” Regenerative gardening for us is a method of gardening that harnesses natural processes to increase and maintain the health of the soil. At Arlington Garden, we employ these methods in order to build healthy garden habitats and a diverse ecosystem of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria. In agricultural contexts, similar methods can be used to grow a broad range of food crops.
Most of the regenerative gardening techniques we use in the garden were first used by indigenous and traditional gardeners before the advent of industrialized agriculture, and regenerative gardening is not a new discovery. Soil ecologists have, however, learned more about some of the natural processes that make it so effective, although there is still much that scientists don’t fully understand about soil ecosystems.
One important component of soil health is the presence of flourishing microbial communities such as mycorrhizal fungi in the root zone. These symbiotic fungi contribute to plant health by colonizing the roots of many plant species, helping their hosts absorb water and nutrients from the surrounding soil (2015 Carbon Soil Restoration). In return, the host plants exude carbon-rich compounds that provide energy for the beneficial fungi.
To develop beneficial microbial communities, it is important to increase the amount of organic matter (carbon) in the soil and to promote plant-microbe symbiosis. Regenerative gardening uses a toolbox of techniques to accomplish these objectives (2015 Carbon Soil Restoration):
- Using the appropriate compost / mulch rather than fertilizers (where possible)
- Growing a diverse group of plant species including many perennials
- Avoiding bare soil (where possible)
- Avoiding tilling or otherwise disturbing the soil (where possible)
- Avoiding pesticides/fungicides/herbicides and instead encouraging predatory insects
Studies have shown that these techniques can significantly increase the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil as compared to more traditional gardening methods. Hence, along with increasing soil health and promoting plant growth, regenerative gardening can be a part of the larger solution to climate change!
What is a habitat garden?
A habitat garden is a diverse ecosystem of plants, animals, fungi, and bacteria in natural relationships. A successful habitat garden will have healthy, microbe-rich soil, diverse plant life, and food and shelter for animals. Unlike “traditional” ornamental gardens, which take formal European or Asian landscapes as their model, habitat gardens are modeled on native plant communities. The Chaparral plant community, for example, is an important model for Arlington Garden, since chaparral plants are adapted to our region and host many native insect and animal species, providing them with food, shelter, and medicine.
Although Arlington Garden is focused on supporting plants and animals native to our region, you will find many non-native plants and animals in the garden as well. Non-native species can be incorporated into the diverse ecosystems that habitat gardens aim to produce, and there can be good reasons to incorporate them. For instance, plants adapted to grow in hotter, drier climates (such as Baja California) perform well in our warming urban landscapes.
Why are there weeds in the garden?
One common conception of a weed is just a plant that is unwelcome in a garden.
At Arlington Garden, we welcome plants that are often considered weeds, because they provide food and shelter for insects and other animals. For example, if you have visited the garden, you may have seen sow thistles (tall plants in the genus Sonchus), which attract ladybugs and provide food for goldfinches. These plants are usually classified as weeds, but since we welcome them at Arlington Garden, we don’t consider them to be weeds at all!
According to another conception, weeds are plants that easily outcompete and displace food crops, ornamental, or native plant species. Bermuda Grass (Cynodon species) is a weed according to this conception, because it spreads rapidly via underground runners, allowing it to quickly overgrow a garden. We remove many weeds in this latter category, including Bermuda Grass, but — as with most aspects of gardening — removing weeds is cyclical, and tough plants like Bermuda Grass will show up periodically throughout the year.
Why are there leaves and sticks on the ground?
Regenerative gardening aims to increase soil health by adding more carbon (in the form of organic matter) to the soil. Hence, we “leave the leaves” and trimmings on the ground in order to increase soil health. Using plant material on site keeps it out of the landfill, which in turn saves fuel and labor, thus cutting down on pollution. The natural mulch that results also slows soil evaporation and provides habitat to local wildlife. But it’s not all practical — we also think that a carpet of fallen leaves looks lovely!
Is the garden organic?
The garden and its products (such as its oranges) have not been certified organic by any certifying agency. However, we do not use any pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or herbicides in the garden. The resulting ecosystem is healthier for all sorts of animals (yes, including humans)!
Why do parts of the garden look messy?
Arlington Garden is a habitat garden which provides refuge to both humans and to native plants and animals. In order to provide productive habitat, the lower half of the garden is planted to reflect the sort of landscape found in the surrounding forests and hills. It combines a diverse group of plant species in a dense, naturalistic style, which might look “messy” when compared to a more traditional garden designed solely for humans.
Why do some flowers in the garden have dry/dead stalks and seed heads?
Our horticultural team leaves many dry/dead stalks and flower heads on plants in the garden in order to provide food and shelter for animals and insects. Many of these dried seed heads are also quite striking, such as the rust-colored spheres of native Buckwheat (Eriogonum) species.
I see a lot of mulch in the garden — why is that?
One regenerative method the garden employs is covering certain unwanted plants with mulch rather than weeding them out of the soil. This allows us to add more organic matter to the soil while avoiding disturbing its microbial communities.
How many different plant species are growing in the garden?
A plant survey completed in 2017 identified 305 different species, subspecies, or cultivars (so the true number of distinct species is less than 305) growing in the garden. The alphabetical survey begins with Acacia cognata and ends with Zauschneria (now Epilobium 🙂 canum!
Is Arlington Garden a native plant garden?
We are a mediterranean climate garden. The lower half of Arlington Garden (the section of the garden closer to S. Pasadena Ave.) is predominately planted with species native to our region. The upper half of the garden features species from other mediterranean regions including the Mediterranean Basin, the western Cape of South Africa, and Southern Australia.
Is Arlington Garden a good place for birding?
According to ebird.org (which is a birding listing tool from Cornell University) 106 different species have been reported in Arlington Garden as of July 2020, and there are possibly many more that have not been reported.
How much water does Arlington Garden use?
The garden with its dense plantings uses 47% of the water of an average residential property (per acre) and less water (per acre) than the surrounding homes!
Why doesn’t Arlington Garden have any traditional lawns?
Arlington Garden’s vision of gardening is habitat-centered and dedicated to resilience in the face of climate change. We do not have any traditional lawns because they provide minimal habitat to our native species, they require damaging, non-regenerative techniques to maintain, and they are extremely water-hungry. Part of Arlington Garden’s mission is to demonstrate that water-wise habitat gardens without traditional lawns can be beautiful parts of the urban landscape. Instead of a lawn, we have a meadow area with low-growing perennial grasses that serves a similar role. But this meadow “lawn” is low water and doesn’t require mowing!
Can I book an event during the pandemic?
We are not presently booking any events due to public health restrictions. We are still booking photography permits, however, which you can do here. Any questions about bookings can be directed to email@example.com.
How should I prepare when visiting during the pandemic?
- Please stay at home if you are feeling unwell or have been in contact with someone who may have coronavirus.
- Please wear a mask at all times while in the garden.
- We are not able to regularly sanitize any of the fixtures (tables, chairs, benches), so we suggest that you avoid using them.
- Many of our paths are windy and narrow and it is difficult to enforce a “right of way.”
- Please be mindful that others may be using these paths and maintain at least a six-feet distance at all times.
- The garden is closed on Tuesdays for the safety of our horticultural team.
Is there an entry fee?
Arlington Garden is always free to the public and no ticket is required. Just show up anytime during our normal hours.
What are your hours?
We are open every day from 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM except Tuesdays when the garden is closed for maintenance.
Are there bathrooms in the garden? Is there a drinking fountain?
There is no publicly accessible restroom or potable water source in the garden, so we encourage you to plan ahead.
Can I picnic in the garden?
Picnicking is permitted in the garden. Since there is limited trash service in the garden, we ask that you pack out all of your trash.
Where should I park when visiting?
There is free street parking on Arlington Dr between Orange Grove Blvd and S. Pasadena Ave. We are in a residential neighborhood, so remember to be respectful of our neighbors.
How can I visit the garden via public transportation?
The garden is accessible via a number of different bus and rail lines and then a (somewhat) short walk. Here is a map of stops in the general vicinity of the garden.
How can I support the garden?
How do I become a volunteer gardener?
Everyone is invited to garden with our Director of Horticulture, Leigh Talmo, every Tuesday from 9:00AM to 12:00PM. New volunteers are required to attend an orientation session (offered the first Tuesday of every month) before beginning. If you would like to volunteer, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is your photo permit policy?
Our affordable photo permits are essential to supporting the operations and maintenance of the garden.
Visitors are welcome to take certain types of informal, candid photography or video for personal use without a permit. However, we require permits for photo sessions for weddings, engagements, family portraits, graduation, proms, quinceaneras, senior portraits, holiday cards, maternity or baby photos, or similar events, as well as fashion or product photography, or photos taken for portfolios. This applies even when the photographer is a friend, family member, or other non-professional. Costume changes and/or models are only allowed with a professional photography permit. Photographers may not use their representations of the garden for any public or commercial purpose unless approved by Arlington Garden.
The $100/hour fee charged to professional photographers goes towards maintaining the garden. Click here to learn more about purchasing a permit. If you have additional questions, you can send them to us at email@example.com.
Am I allowed to pick fruit and flowers?
Although it is tempting, please refrain from picking fruits or flowers in the garden. If you would like to sample the garden’s oranges, you can purchase our sweet orange marmalade, made from oranges grown on site using regenerative techniques.
Who do I contact to schedule a field-trip/guided tour at the garden?
Please contact our Programs Manager, Paloma Avila at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I bring a pet?
Pets are welcome in the garden as long as they are on leash and always stay on the pathways. Please make sure to pick-up after your pets.