Since I became Gardens Manager, I have walked the Gardens more times than most people. I have walked the Gardens in triple-digit temperatures, pouring rain, and windy conditions. In my experience, the transition periods are the best times to go a little farther in your Gardens walk. That means if you are accustomed to mostly taking the paved routes or stopping in Ficus Grove or Bobcat Rocks, now is an excellent time to explore the Australia or Sierra Foothills areas of the Gardens to observe the changing seasons.
In the Sierra Foothills area there are a few things to keep an eye out for as you hike the winding trails. I mentioned the Native Bee Garden in the last issue and that installation is still in progress. We are going slowly, but with good reason. We wanted to focus on practices that would help promote plant vigor while reducing our labor input. The Bee Garden will be the first garden to have hydrozones. Grouping plants by similar water requirements will help us conserve water and provide the various specimens with an ideal water regimen. Including all the natives in the new garden, both existing and newly planted, we will need seven zones. To enhance water conservation most of the plants will be irrigated with drip emitters, and a few zones will run on bubblers and rotary nozzles.
From the Bee Garden (trail marker 23), you can head to trail marker 22 and see a hillside of brittlebush, Encelia farinosa. Most of the shrubs on the hill were pruned recently, as brittlebush responds well to the occasional low pruning. This area will be an extension of the Bee Garden to provide greater forage area for native bees. With the regular watering we are now providing, the shrubs should fill out soon and dot the hill with yellow flowers.
Most of my recommendations over the years have been to look at a specimen up close. As a final recommendation, while the weather is nice, I suggest taking a walk on our perimeter trail, which circles the highest area of the Gardens. I usually start on the Coastal Sage Scrub side and stop throughout the hike to take in the view from different vantage points. My favorite view on the perimeter trail is east of Balanced Rock. From there, I can see the different zones I mentioned, and I can also see some of the lower areas of the Gardens and a good amount of the city and campus. Cool, clear mornings provide a spectacular view if you take the time for this hike.