by Kiana Contreras
Maybe you’ve noticed the new burned wood sign outside The Outback, claiming Site of the Wildflowering LA Project. Don’t be stumped by the seemingly empty plots of dirt…something big is happening.
Wildflowering LA is a county wide project, initiated by artist Fritz Haeg, spreading indigenous wildflowers in 50 designated sites around the LA area. A man of many mediums, Haeg’s bold and thought-provoking work has come in the form of animal architecture, preserved foods, massive crocheted rugs, and now a metropolitan restoration project. For Wildflowering LA, Haeg has partnered with the Theodore Payne Foundation, an organization dedicated to preserving, restoring and spreading awareness of native California flora in memory of the passionate landscape architect Theodore Payne. The project itself is regulated by LAND, the Los Angeles Nomadic Division, a non-profit “committed to curating site- and situation-specific contemporary art projects in Los Angeles and beyond” (http://nomadicdivision.org/about/mission/). Together, these three forces have created a far reaching, beautiful, and powerful initiative.
How does it work?
The wildflower sites are determined on an open call basis. They must be public spaces and ensure the variety of site distribution around Los Angeles. The owner of the site is then given one of four seed mixes depending on the site location: coastal, flatland, highland, or roadside. Each mix contains the prospect for hundreds of indigenous wildflowers like the California poppy, Lupines, California Bluebells, and even a flower called Blazing Star. The Outback features a seed mix. Soon, Pitzer students will enjoy the sight of these bright and happy native wildflowers quite literally in our own backyard.
The sites were planted in the fall of 2013 and if they are not already, should be fully blooming in the spring of 2014. Between March and June, tours will be available displaying the Wildflowering LA Project in all of its springtime glory. The next show is April 26 and 27 at The Shed Site in Pasadena. Check out wildflowering.org for more details.
Wild success is not unearned, however. The sites require care in order to grow and bloom in the midst of a statewide drought. The project guidelines suggest a deep watering every seven to ten days, which is still much less than any non-native green lawn would require. To the sprouting seedlings, February’s extensive rainstorm was much appreciated, to say the least.
Designated Land Stewards Adin Bonapart and Karina Faulstich do the watering and care for The Outback site. As members of Paul Faulstich’s class, Restoring Nature, they were part of the Pitzer initiative to join the Wildflowering LA project in the first place. Pitzer’s site was a later addition, but now, “Small green leaves are popping up everywhere, and little yellow and white flowers have been starting to blossom and are just divine to look at” says Bonapart.
Wildflowers seem to be an appropriate addition to the indigenous habitat of The Outback. As Bonapart explains, “Wildflowers are very important to the ecology of the area. They encourage pollinators, prevent soil erosion, and deter invasive species…The wildflowers in the Outback Preserve are just one manifestation of the beautiful, diverse, and rare coastal and alluvial sage scrub habitat.”
Students are encouraged to admire the blooming wildflowers alongside all of the flora and fauna of The Outback. It is also important to be respectful of trails and mindful of any trash you may leave behind. The preserve is in fact, a preserve, and with that we are responsible for its cleanliness and wellbeing. Pitzer’s participation in Wildflowering LA adds the title of art project to The Outback’s repertoire.
What are you waiting for? Go on, get out, and enjoy the sunshine and natural artwork of Wildflowering LA without ever leaving campus.
All photos courtesy of Kiana Contreras.