A Backyard Even Mother Nature Would Crow About

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The Willows Wetland Preserve has a new look in the form of a special garden. Called “Mother Nature’s Backyard,” the special garden which opened in early June, captures the essence of the preserve and all of its beauty.

The Mother Nature's Backyard shows off a variety of California flowers, shrubs and trees. The Catalina Silverlace is one type of plant that can survive very well in clay soil and hot California weather. Some plants, such as the monkey flower and the coyote mint, live under the shade of trees.

The Willows Wetland Preserve has a new look in the form of a special garden. Called “Mother Nature’s Backyard,” the special garden which opened in early June, captures the essence of the preserve and all of its beauty.

The Mother Nature's Backyard shows off a variety of California flowers, shrubs and trees. The Catalina Silverlace is one type of plant that can survive very well in clay soil and hot California weather. Some plants, such as the monkey flower and the coyote mint, live under the shade of trees.

Connie Vadheim, a board member of the Friends of Willows Wetland Preserve, said that the garden was designed to look like a typical backyard. According to Vadheim, it will teach people about native plants that can survive very well in the Gardena weather.

"The plants use less water and they attract birds and butterflies way more than other plants do," Vadheim said. "Lots of gardens, maybe a butterfly flies through, but you don't see bees, you don't see butterflies. However, native plants tend to attract all sorts of pretty insects, big and small. This means that it is more attractive and interesting for people who pass through the garden."

Vadheim, who is also a professor at California State University at Dominguez Hills, came up with the proposal to create Mother Nature's Backyard. She hopes that people will take ideas from the nature garden and put them to work in their own gardens. According to her, the “backyard” located at the southwest corner of the wetlands, was created to show people how to save water in preparation for future restrictions on water usage.

"The purpose is to show people how to use water wisely," Vadheim said. "We're running out of water [in California]. Some of the times that are not normally dry, there are now lots of them. Water restrictions will soon become the norm, so we decided to look ahead with this garden."

The architecture and the watering systems for the garden were designed by Kelly Dawdy, a board member of the Friends of Willows Wetland Preserve. Dawdy, an experienced landscape architect, said that the Mother Nature's Backyard includes plenty of water-saving forms of architecture.

The garden was intended to teach people how to keep runoff water from flowing out of the garden.

"The way we have recycled materials and pavement, the garden was set up to have lots of teaching," Dawdy said. "Instead of collecting water on the rooftop emptying out on the street, we can empty it into the garden. We have rain gardens. These are low spots in the landscape for the rain to sit and infiltrate. We also have a rain barrel. It's a fifty-gallon plastic barrel. And then we have French drain that will send the water away from the foundation and deliver it deeper to the root zone of trees."

The idea for the Mother Nature's Garden started when the West Basin Municipal Water District offered to donate a grant to the Friends of Willows Wetland Preserve. Director Don Dear of the West Basin Municipal Water District, was instrumental in getting a $9,599 grant from the water agency for the creation of the garden.

According to Dear, there is only so much water in Southern California, so it is important for residents to conserve water. He is hoping that the new garden will convince people to change their lawns so that they can reduce the water used to water them.

"It gives people an example of what to do with their garden," Dear said. "Seventy-five percent water used is for lawns and garden. If you change your lawns into Mother Nature types of gardens, you can reduce the amount of water you use to keep things watered."

Friends of Willows Wetland Preserve volunteered to create the new demonstration garden. Cheral Sherman, vice president of the Friends of Willows Wetland Preserve, said that the project was bigger than they had originally projected. She added this is the first time the group received a grant, so they were not as experienced at calculating the cost of the project.

"Because we were new to this, the funds became bigger than I initially projected," Sherman said. "Then we found out that as we were coming toward the end that we still didn't have enough money. And so we went to the California Native Plants Society and they gave us funding for the roof [over the garden]. We were really blessed with all the funding we received."

The California Native Plants Society donated $4, 670 to finish developing Mother Nature's Backyard. Sherman hopes that the garden will teach people more about the importance of saving water in California.

"If you run out of water, what are you going to have to drink?" Sherman said. "Through the use of native plants, that's just one of the many hundred ways that you can reduce the use of water. It's the same as keeping water shut off when you brush your teeth. Native plants don't require as much water as the common plants do. Therefore, they only need to be watered once a month once they get established."

The Mother Nature's Backyard is located in the Willows Wetland Preserve, with entry at the south end of Arthur Johnson Memorial Park, 1200 W. 170th St., Gardena.

For more information, visit the garden's website at mother-natures-backyard.blogspot.com or send an e-mail to mothernaturesbackyard10@gmail.com.