PASADENA — Earthside Nature Center is bursting into bloom these days.
The three-acre one-time dump, wedged between a concrete flood control channel and city streets in East Pasadena, becomes a showplace for 500 species of California's native wildflowers every spring.
Once the site was wasted land where people discarded junk. Then the owner, the City of Pasadena, turned the land over to a loosely put-together band of interested parties in 1971. The city imposed one condition, recalls Terry Lee, one of the founders: "Don't ask us for money.
The founders never did. The garden was created entirely from donations of plants and maintained by volunteers.
'Filled With Old Cars'
"It was filled with old cars, trash, and even the remains of a house," Lee said. "But we knew it could be a wonderful place.
Lee and some other founders--all affiliates of the adjacent Pasadena Girls Club--agreed on planting native California plants because "they would survive anything, even droughts," she said. Designs for trails, a pond and an outdoor classroom evolved from the donations and the growing plants. Seeds sprouted, and redwood trees, sycamores, water lilies, and shrubbery proliferated.
Native Californians were behind an even larger concept: The founders, who still are so loosely organized that they have no group name, remembered when wildflowers grew throughout Pasadena. Children now have to be shown that they exist and are worth cultivating, they reasoned.
No Emotional Attachment
"Kids don't have the emotional attachment (to the plants) that we have," said Kevin Connelly of Arcadia, the center's horticulturist and main gardener. "They'll be making the decisions of the future, so we have to depend on them preserving what we have.
"Most vegetation around us is from other parts of the world, and they have no way of knowing this unless we teach them."
Connelly tells of a neighbor who has lived within a few feet of the center for all of its 14 years and only recently learned of its existence.
Nancy Krueger, a founder and frequent guide, invites her little charges to hug trees and stroke leaves, hoping they'll learn "that it's this chaparral that holds everything together."
Smell the Flowers
When a first-grade class from Pasadena's Longfellow School visited recently, Krueger and Lee handed the children leaves, twigs and birds nests to touch. The children were invited to smell, but not pick, the flowers.
"The only reason we have flowers is so they can make seeds, to make more plants," Lee said. "I want you to remember that all your lives."
The garden, at 3160 E. Del Mar Blvd., will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 13-15, and again on April 20 and 21. From April 27 to June 16 it will be open on Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. Admission for adults is $2. Children under 16 are admitted free when accompanied by an adult.