Water Conservation Garden
By Donna Mallen, Karen England and Janet Ward for Let's Talk Plants! March 2022.
For our first live meeting since February 2020, we had a new venue, the Water Conservation Garden at Cuyamaca College in Rancho San Diego.
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The Water Conservation Garden is an educational garden, nearly six acres in size, promoting low water usage and climate-tolerant plants for our region. Situated between the coastal and inland weather boundaries of the County, it is well-placed as a demonstration garden, where you can observe the plants' mature growth habits in our local climate before buying them at a nursery.
In addition to its collection of Southern California native plants, the garden incorporates other Mediterranean-zone plants, including varieties of grevilleas and emu bushes from Australia, plants that will attract birds and butterflies, and plenty of stunning succulents from around the world. Also, there are fire-wise planting ideas, edible gardening demonstration plots, and in the spring and summer, a live butterfly pavilion.
There are ground-cover displays of various options the home gardener can consider, showing the relative water-consumption of each, as well as mulching, composting, irrigation and water-harvesting exhibits. The garden is designed to welcome children to have fun while learning about plants and nature, along with their parents.
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The presenter, Bob Gordon, along with his feathered friend Huxley, a Harris’s Hawk, gave a wonderful overview of raptors and their important place in the ecosystems of our gardens.
As gardeners, we are constantly interacting with the wildlife who share space with us, whether intentionally or without realizing how our actions are impacting these other inhabitants.
Although we are generally tuned in to such things as the necessities of habitat preservation, the benefits of integrated pest management and organic gardening, and though we may gladly go to extremes to balance nature’s needs with our gardening goals, there is much for us to learn about our co-habitants and the critical consequences we may unknowingly cause for them.
Dr. Bob Gordon helped us expand our knowledge base into the natural history of local raptors – the birds of prey that we welcome to our landscape as partners in controlling the gophers, mice, rats and other rodents and who assume our gardens are being maintained for their sole pleasure.
Unfortunately, Zooming this in-person meeting was not possible with a live bird present, (not blaming the bird! It was not the wonderful bird's fault ... but there was just no way to get the bird on Zoom) in spite of the extensive preparations that we made to be able to Zoom and record the proceedings. Apologies to those who couldn't make it and were looking forward to attending on Zoom or watching it later on YouTube, we are sorry it didn't work out.
However, good news! We are using what we learned from this inaugural in-person general meeting and we will be ready to Zoom the next in-person meeting which, by the way, we are confident will not include animals.