Spring 2018 Newsletter
MANY HANDS HELP OUR ETHNOBOTANICAL GARDENS THRIVE
By Sara French and Jay Scherf
You made our gardens bloom - thank you volunteers!
From planting in the snow to watching newly-hatched chicks in our garden at San Juan Bautista, this spring has been AMLT’s busiest season ever for our educational gardens. In just the past two months, AMLT has completely overhauled the gardens at Pie Ranch and San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, while simultaneously building from scratch our largest garden to-date at the new entrance to Castle Rock State Park. How were we able to get so much accomplished on such a tight schedule? It was only possible with the dedicated efforts of our supporters, our volunteers!
We first broke ground at San Juan Bautista State Historic Park (SJB) in summer of 2015, but last fall the garden was still far from complete. Large ornamentals still took up a lot of space, and other areas lacked native plant cover. Our revamp began in earnest when volunteer docents at SJB transplanted a huge historic rose and removed the last of the ornamentals with our Native Stewards. Then in March, accompanied by two of SJB’s feral hens and their broods of baby chicks, AMLT staff, Native Stewards, and volunteers planted out the rest of the garden. We planted 28 species in the garden, and added 20 metal plant labels including Mutsun names! Installing a large illustrated interpretive panel will crown the garden revamp this summer.
Our Amah Mutsun garden at Pie Ranch received a similar revamp on April 21 when over 30 volunteers came together to plant almost 500 additional native plants in the four ‘slices’ of the garden. The Pie Ranch garden contains four themed sections that hold grassland foods, plants for basketry and fibers, nuts and berries, and plants used for personal care. The slices surround a traditional tule hut built by Native Stewards. On May 19, volunteers came together again to install interpretive signs that were designed by AMLT and include original artwork by Amah Mutsun Tribal Band members. Interpretive signs in both the Pie Ranch and San Juan Bautista gardens formalize the gardens and make them more effective as educational resources for the thousands of visitors who come through Pie Ranch and San Juan Bautista annually. We are very excited about these developments, and grateful to our dedicated volunteers who attend our monthly work days to help these gardens grow.
Volunteers who joined us the weekend of March 24-25 endured freezing temperatures and rain to help us install our ethnobotanical demonstration garden at the new Robert C. Kirkwood entrance to Castle Rock State Park. This garden, designed in partnership with Sempervirens Fund, members of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, and help from the landscaping company California Nativescapes, is over 3,500 square feet and contains 60+ species of culturally significant native plants local to the area. As this garden is just outside of Amah Mutsun territory, we relied on members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe to bless our work at the site and communicate with the ancestors of the land. Vincent Medina, Muwekma Ohlone tribal citizen, offered a prayer in the Chochenyo language on the first day of our work in the Castle Rock garden, and his prayer reminded us that like the Native people, the native plants are beautiful, they are powerful, they are strong, and they should be honored. Volunteering in our ethnobotanical gardens is a way to honor native plants and Native people, and we welcome all people to join us in this important and beautiful work.
Volunteer days happen in our Mutsun garden at the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park every 2nd Saturday of the month from 10:00-2:00, and in our Mutsun garden at Pie Ranch every 3rd Saturday of the month from 1:00-5:00.