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Point Loma Native Plant Garden is a quiet location nestled between Boulevard Nimitz and Rue Voltaire. THOMAS MELVILLE / PENINSULA BEACON

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Tucked away in a quiet residential neighborhood, the more than two-acre Point Loma Native Plant Garden is a neighborhood prize and a hidden gem.

The neighbors call it their backyard, ”said Al Field, a local volunteer who maintains the community garden. “And they’re very possessive about it.”

This park is for the community, ”agreed Jennifer Frey of the San Diego River Park Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the maintenance of the 52-mile stretch of the San Diego River, from the Eastern Mountains to Point Loma and the side. “It’s taken care of by the community. We love to bring the community in and see how beautiful these native plants are, to see how ecologically valuable they are to the San Diego watershed. We want them to take it upon themselves to be stewards who take care of this and learn why native plants are so important.

Noting that there were around 400 volunteers a year who looked after the garden every other weekend before COVID, Frey added, “This is their place to recreate and learn about native plants and help cultivate some of it. of their watershed. This is one of the only sites where we host volunteers that is not located directly in the river, but in the San Diego River watershed.

Field and Frey spoke about the origin of the garden.

It was a vacant space from 1972 to 1988 when the Point Loma Garden Club got together with the City Parks and Recreation Department and they built all the hiking trails and installed major equipment ”, Field said. “The foundation of the river park took over after 2002. They (the garden club) just couldn’t handle the maintenance needs.”

It was set aside as a reserve in 1976, ”Frey said. It is city-owned and part of Colliers Park, but beautification, improvement and community involvement is managed by the River Park Foundation and volunteers take care of pruning, planting and watering . Native habitat is also a way to help protect the watershed as they don’t use as much fertilizer and pesticides etc.

Field noted that all of the plants in the garden are native to California, including the Catalina Islands.

The Point Loma Native Plant Garden is community funded and donation based with the support of grants, ”said Frey. “Due to COVID, we had to engage with a handful of selected grassroots volunteers who were superstars during the pandemic,” she said.

Joel Kalmonson, another 17-year-old Aboriginal garden volunteer, expedited a quick tour of the sprawling garden complex with many comfortable benches. During the tour, many native desert fragrant plants are revealed, such as Santa Cruz Ceonothis Island, canyon gray sagebrush, native milkweed (a habitat of the monarch butterfly) and several varieties of cacti, as well as top-notch specimens of the Torrey pine. The garden, located at the corner of Greene Street and Mendocino Boulevard, is also home to a native plant nursery.

The best time to visit the garden?

There is really something to see all year round, to see the changes, ”Frey replied. “And sage smells great all year round.”

Spring, March through June, is the best because you get the flowers, ”Field replied.

Neighbor Mike Rall, who lives one block away, showed up walking his dog on a sunny Saturday afternoon.

It’s great, Joel and Al take good care of this place, ”noted Rall, adding that the garden has become a community center.

I see the same people here all the time, ”said Rall. “There are people from La Jolla who came down the other day just to see this place. It’s good to go for a walk because it’s right here, very close. There is tons of space. Everyone remains spread out. We can keep the distance, And if we want to see each other, we can. They did a great job with the trails and there is a variety of them for people with different abilities, even with walkers and wheelchairs.

Rall added, “It’s a showcase of the beauty of our natural and native plants, and they can be used in a garden to make it unique. And we get all kinds of wildlife here, from swamp hawks and barn owls, to a variety of jays and native birds like hummingbirds. This place is amazing.

We are really looking forward to having events here again as soon as it is safe to do so, ”concluded Frey. “In the meantime, we would like people to come and enjoy and explore it. There are a lot of different opportunities where you can enjoy the river right now.

For a virtual tour, visit virtual tour of the garden. For more information visit sandiegoriver.org.

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