Calhoun’s Can(n)ons, The Bay News, Morro Bay CA
For June 21, 07
Little Acorns, Mighty Oaks
And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.
Years ago, I was told a bit of doggerel to explain how oaks grow: First year sleeping, second year creeping, third year leaping. That image came to mind as I watched a slide presentation followed by an informal walk-about at the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden’s new education building and amphitheatre, which is under construction at the El Chorro Regional Park off Highway 1, across from Cuesta College. (The planned official grand opening is for August, so watch for announcements since that’s one party it would be a shame to miss.)
The building’s design was a joint venture between Habitat Studio and San Luis Sustainability Group. Of partial hay-bale construction, it is cunningly positioned to utilize the sun and seasons, solar panels will generate needed electricity, and a new $250,000 complete wastewater treatment project will result in tertiary treated water that will then be available for reuse -- a very smart use of resources, since water is one of the things sure to be in short supply in the coming years. (There’s a matching Greg Hind Foundation Grant for the wastewater plan. They have a last little bit to go, so a donation earmarked specifically for that will be a 2-for-one bang for the buck.)
Down the road a bit is the Gateway Gardens, which was the original first small footprint of a huge dream that was started years ago by a handful of people who had a totally insane idea of creating a 150 acre, world-class botanical garden featuring all the plants that grow in the same climate range and conditions as California. It’s a range that includes such far-flung areas as parts of Chile, Australia, South America and the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Ocean. The plants that grow in these kinds of “coastal deserts” are extraordinarily varied, beautiful, hardy and drought tolerant. The entire 150 acres will be divided into zones that will feature the plants native to their particular regions.
Besides creating a jewel of a botanical garden, a tourist destination, a gem of beauty where local residents can do a walkabout for recreation and solace, the gardens will also have additional educational functions -- programs for school kids from all over the county and eventually the state, as well as research stations and programs for plant propagation, study, and as an education resource for county gardeners who will have an opportunity to see first hand a huge variety of plant examples that will be well suited to their own, soon-to-be water-scarce gardens.
Like the little acorn, to the outside world this enormously grand project appeared to be “sleeping.” In truth, I often thought the dream was an impossible one that would be dead on arrival. But that’s because I wasn’t paying attention. I didn’t hear the music in the garden. Quietly, plant by plant, spade by spade, acre by acre, the project was creeping forward. Now, like the oak, its tip-point has come and it’s “leaping.”
The county has given the nonprofit SLO Botanical Garden a long term lease on the additional acreage around the small “starter” Garden Gateway Center, there is a recently completed Life Celebration Garden, featuring sculpture and memorial bronze “memory medallions,” and soon the new education center building will open. Meantime, the Gateway Garden serves as a busy center for school classes, a wide variety of hands-on gardening activities, not to mention their annual plant sales, a very popular opportunity for homeowners to buy a wide variety of often hard-to-find native plants that have been grown by the busy volunteers.
That, of course, is the heart of the Botanical Garden’s success: volunteers that are as hardy and tough as any of the plants they propagate. “No” and “Can’t” are clearly not in their vocabulary. The results can be seen blooming at the park, with more to come. For further information on their completed plans and future goals, visit their website at www.Slobg.org, or call 546-3501, leave a message and a volunteer will return your call.
Or, best of all, take a drive to El Chorro Regional Park and take a walk through their Gateway Garden. If you’ve got a green thumb, you’ll find a group that can use your hands-on help. If your thumb is grey, but you’ve got some green in your wallet, you might consider donating some of it to their programs. Their work is a perfect example of what a little acorn can lead to – a mighty amazing garden right here in our own back yard.