A Note from Jennifer Lowe
It all started with the flu. (Well, actually it started in childhood when I would scratch out vegetable patches in our backyard, under the bemused eyes of my non-farming family.) I needed a book to keep me prone/resting, and picked up Judith Larner’s Gardening with a Wild Heart. Ms. Larner lyrically depicts California’s quilt of colors that flourished before my ancestors’ animals unwittingly spread a wild oats and mustard carpet on top. She describes how the native bird and butterfly numbers are shrinking because their supermarkets are closing. Ninety percent of native bugs eat native plants. No plants, no bugs, no birds and butterflies.
I was completely convicted, even though it wasn’t me personally who removed the native chaparral and planted olive trees on my ancestor’s Ojai dirt farm. Wonderful! On a garden by garden basis, I could recreate that original California Glory and restore habitat for the original birds, butterflies and (non-stinging) bees!
Coincidentally, about the same time in 1999, I was hooked into an Oakland Park and Playground restoration. During a five year rebirth process, our neighborhood group successfully built a flourishing new park/playground for the Bella Vista community and elementary school. The Trust for Public Land graciously, and diligently, raised 1.7 million for the construction. The project expanded the 2D trompe l’oeil and mural skills honed in my former business, Artwerks, into 3D, with scent and touch thrown in for good measure! It is a privilege to create artworks that can be walked through, smelled and gamboled in.
In 2005 I returned to Los Angeles and put out my landscape shingle. It is a thrill to bring order, beauty and life to tired, jumbled canvases, and to create spaces that are restful, restorative and recreational. I now ‘paint’ with plants, concrete, and rock in addition to paint, glass and tile. Your landscape is a 3D artwork we create together.
A final word on the native plant aspect of landscape design, especially if you are considering lawn replacement due to the drought, native plants, when used, create a free floor show of Hummingbirds, Monarchs, Anise Swallowtails, Phoebes, Towhees, Scarlet Tanagers and Quail—if you’re lucky. Low water plants have evolved to not see a drop of water for 5–7 months—and live. (We also have high water creek plants to choose from. California has a stunning and diverse 5,500 plant species).
Happy garden dreaming!
Bella Vista Park and Elementary School