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Beachcomber
5199 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. #608
Post Office Box 15679
Long Beach California, 90815-0679
Phone: (562) 597-8000
Fax: (562) 597-9410
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Feature Stories

1000s of Plants at Prices 'Best in Town'

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 8
4/18/2014


By Kirt Ramirez

The Long Beach City College Horticulture Club is having its 42nd annual plant sale and open house Friday, April 18 and Saturday, April 19 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Pacific Coast Campus.

The public may park for free in any of the student stalls during the event, which kicked off on Wednesday, April 16. The horticulture gardens are located on May Avenue off of Pacific Coast Highway – between Walnut and Orange Avenues. The event is considered a fundraiser and money raised will support the horticulture department and related student scholarships.

“This is the most beautiful place on campus,” said Jorge Ochoa, horticulture instructor and program director, during a recent tour of the gardens. “Everything you see here is done by the students.”

Thousands of plants on hand include water-wise blooms, tomato, vegetable and herb plants, cacti and succulents, fruit trees, tropical house plants, shrubs, and for the first time, passion vines. “We have a little bit of everything,” Ochoa said, adding that the prices are the best in town.

In addition to plant life, the gardens feature a butterfly house and chicken pen with a rooster and attractive chickens in an orchard setting of fruit trees.

Upon entering the gated grounds, people will see over a hundred varieties of Mediterranean-climate-zone plants from areas of Chile, California, Australia, South Africa, the European Mediterranean basin and others. The west coasts of parts of these places also have the rare cold water cloud phenomenon similar to California’s “June gloom.”

If a person takes a plant from coastal Central Chile and puts it in the ground in Long Beach, it will probably do very well. If California poppies are brought to other Mediterranean climates, they too will probably flourish. Mediterranean climates are rare and are characterized by cold, wet winters and dry, warm summers.

“It’s best to have plants from the same climate,” Ochoa said, adding that bringing plants from the California mountains or deserts to the beach is not a good thing. “Some plants are native to California, but that doesn’t mean they’re native to the coast and this is a problem.”

Ochoa and his students will be available to answer questions from visitors. In addition to plants from other parts of the world, some true-native plants – native to the Long Beach/Orange County/Los Angeles areas – will be offered.

Residents might think native plants must look dry and unattractive. However, Ochoa explained that plants native to Mediterranean climates are generally prettiest in spring after the winter rains, then go dormant during the dry summer and then start waking up again later in the fall when the rains start up again.

Examples of some of the common foliage once native to the Long Beach/Orange County/Los Angeles areas include chamise, toyon, bigpod ceanothus, chaparral yucca, narrow-leaf milkweed, holly-leaf cherry, greenbark ceanothus, Mexican elderberry, black sage, showy penstemon, bush monkey flower, wishbone bush, chaparral mallow, chaparral currant, bush poppy, wooly blue curls, Nevin’s barberry, golden currant, bush sunflower, fuchsia-flowered gooseberry, malva rosa, canyon sunflower, heart leaf, penstemon, California buckwheat, California fuchsia, deerweed, white sage and probably yarrow.

However, none of these plants made it to the Water Department’s list of the top 40 most popular water conserving plants residents are using in the Lawn to Garden program – except for yarrow. Most of the foliage used by residents is not native to California but to other parts of the world.

Meanwhile, Donnie Haigh, park naturalist with the El Dorado Nature Center, was asked to comment on true native plants.

“Southern California native plants are no different than most flowering plants in that they don’t bloom all year round. There are a few that do have long bloom seasons such as native sages, sunflowers and many others.

“Many shrubs and trees provide spring or summer flowers and some fall berries. A well planned native garden will provide color and interest all year.

“Native plants of Southern California offer a wide range of sensory delights of color, texture and aroma. They can be used as screening or shade, are attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds and other pollinators. A native garden helps preserve our natural heritage and provides years of enjoyment to one’s family and neighborhood.

“Certain local native pollinators and birds cannot survive without specific plants native to this area. Some native plant communities are becoming endangered due to urban development. Planting local natives can offset some of that loss.”

Haigh said residents with native gardens can expect many species of butterflies and birds to visit.

kirt@longbeachcomber.com