Saturday, December 13, 2008

Secret Garden

Closed off for more than a decade, the weathered remnants of Earthside Nature Center hold forth. Like the Secret Garden, it waits to be restored.

In its heyday, Earthside was a wonderful garden of native plants and wildflowers on grounds shaded by sycamores and oaks and surrounded by grape vines. Naturalists held guided tours to teach others about native plants. In 1989 Earthside won the American Horticultural Society’s award for Urban Beautification.

Earthside Nature Center was photographed and described in the book The Natural Habitat Garden:

“At Earthside Nature Center, a two-acre garden only for natives founded in 1971, [Kevin] Connelly and naturalist-author Elna Bakker work with more than color combinations in mind. Though the place is positively brilliant, what was first in the gardeners’ minds was a desire to see plants with their natural companions.” The book describes two acres of flat gardens with pathways zig- zagging down the hillside next to the wash.

Connelly and Bakker were forward-thinking and quite accomplished. They combined their talents to make Earthside. Bakker was a noted naturalist who wrote many books including "An Island Called California: an introduction to its natural communities" published by UC California Press. She died in 1995 and was remembered in this article which now appears at the Sierra Club website. The Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club awards the Elna Bakker Nature Interpretation Plaque for outstanding achievement and creativity. Kevin Connelly was active with the Theodore Payne Foundation, which published his book A Gardner's Guide to Wildflowers. He also wrote Month by Month in a Water-Wise Garden.

Today, you’d need to know exactly where to go to find Earthside. The Earthside remnants sit a couple of hundred yards behind an abandoned child care center on the south side of Del Mar Blvd. But, if you can get past the chain link fence fronting Del Mar, the sign warning of rat traps, the fallen trees, glass and gopher holes, the old Earthside awaits. Earthside (which seems like more than two acres) is bordered on the west by Eaton Wash channel and the Eaton Blanche park and on the east by the Edison power lines. On Saturday, my son and I walked the area. The sky was gray, but hopefully these pictures are enough to get your imagination going.

Also, thanks to Richard Janisch for uncovering this gem!

One of the terraced paths leading down the hill beside the wash.

A potting shed with bench and sink to the right. Also, notice how deep the leaves are around the picnic table.

Another trail, now blocked by a fallen tree, heading southward alongside the wash. A 1967 plan approved by the Pasadena Parks Director, but never implemented, designated part of this area east of the wash for overnight group camping.

Grape vines, like those in the foreground, border much of the nature center. This is taken standing on one of the terraced trails looking south from the nature center. That's the Eaton Wash with Eaton Blanche park to the right.

A kiosk that, according to a faded sign, was donated by the Pasadena Rotary Club.

I had to push away old grape vines to see what this sign said. There are bunches of dried grapes on the left of this photo. I wonder what the Dr. Stephen Smith Learning Center was.

Yes, I know this is a repeat of a photo that appears above. But, I can't figure out how to delete just this one picture without deleting the entire post, which I really don't want to do!


Sarah said...

What a cool place! Took my daughter there today and took a few photos too. Neat and a little bit creepy!

Michael Coppess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Coppess said...

Sarah: Thank you for the wonderful pictures!

Miss Havisham's Tea Party said...

What a find! --So many discoveries around there.

Sarah Jane said...

You have just inspired me. I want to go!

pasadenapio said...

I heard about the garden over the years but had never seen photos until now. Thanks! I think I hear Huell Howser calling you...

Petrea said...

I googled this after reading Altadenahiker's post about this place. Michael, you find the coolest stuff!

landscaping trees said...

Anyone who wants to grow healthy plants should know that location is one of the most important factors that governs successful growth of plants. Most people buy a plant, go out into the garden, dig a hole somewhere, and place the plant in the soil: and when the plant fails to grow, they blame the nursery or soil. Site selection is vital if you want your plants to grow and thrive. Choosing the best site can save a lot of frustration and headaches. native plants tree nursery

David S said...

Well I went this late morn Sabbath to Del Mar & moseyed over to the Day Care, testing locks on various gates. Feeling like an interloper & discovering no point of entry w/ my sis & older but adventurous mum, we walked down Madre to check cul de sacs.

After talking to friendly & inquisitive lady on Yorkshire Dr., we were told Grayburn Rd has open wooden gate to the olde X-Mas tree nursery. We entered enthusiastically but no point of entry to be found through the forboding barbed wire round Earthside. I found a low spot near the Eaton Wash that I could've clamoured over,but ladies weren't that adventurous & limited time had me calling it a jaunt for the day,lol.

Calling my friend & hope to go next week before the developments of Pasadena transpire to erase history since past.

Petrea said...

That's too bad. When I went it was wide open. I guess we gave it too much publicity. I'm sorry to see the citizens are being kept out, it's a lovely piece of nostalgia.

David S said...

Hi Petrea,

I went on weekend so was wondering if gates locked only then? Did you go on week day when possibly gate or gates are opened? Authorities would moreso be patrolling on weekdays when shcools opened so this might be the case.

The lady I talked to in Chapman Woods told me neighborhood folks enter gate on Grayburn Rd. & take cannines on leash free walks under power lines. She never heard of Earthside & maybe I should keep it mum as might be in limelight a bit.

In anycase velvet touch of guerilla exploring might be called for on my part,lol.

Petrea said...

It was a weekday, I think. We parked in the lot at the tennis courts (on Del Mar) at Eaton Blanche Park. It's just west of the driveway to the empty building that fronts Earthside. The driveway gates were open at the time.

David Sneiders said...

Yes Petrea, parked at tennis courts as well. Had time December 1st 2pm & seeing gates secured again went to end of Grayburn Rd. cul-de-sac, through gate that leads to old X-Mas tree nursery area.

Hopped over low portion of olde barbed fence on SW corner of surrounding fence near the Eaton Canyon wash. Bent poking fencing inward, making sure clothes didn't catch & my guerilla exploration began,lol.

Noticed ends of telephone poles used as retaining walls rotting out but no feral bees in residence. Breathing in the unmanicured nature surrounding was refreshing but litter & stumps a bit saddening.

Taking pic's of the many plaques & flora signage, encountered spry coyote coming my direction from trailer/grapes area toward the open area after kiosk. Might be the the same one M.C. mentioned? After hesitating & sizing me up, seen me raising camera & gracefully bounded rapidly across grass toward wash, effortlessly leaping over fencing & blending into the overgrown foilage. Camera was turned off before I could fire off one shot,lol!

Was checking out the extensive grape vine thats meandered wildly up 15- 20 ft up the Sycamore tree by trailer. Still has many leaves & seen no pronounced buds that would indicate an appropriate vigorous cutting at this time. Seems our Indian summer has prolonged autumn so must check after these rains to salvage cuttings. Hopefully no development of area in near future.

Oh! Heres some pics most a rehash others have taken w/ few different perspectives:

Petrea said...

Great shots, David. I fear the photos we've all taken will be all that's left for posterity. To be honest, I won't fret too much as long as the site is used for the people in some good way. It would also be nice to see those plaques preserved, perhaps by the Pasadena Museum of History.

Michael Coppess said...

Hi David: Thank you for sharing your pictures and your adventure!!! I know I have in mind to grab a cutting or two this year and try it out.

With your efforts, Petrea's, mine and those of other local bloggers, we have compiled a nice body of work about this wonderful spot called Earthside. Can't tell you how pleased I am for all of this. May others see our work and join in the Earthide adventure. (But not before we get our cuttings!)

David Sneiders said...

Thanks for your comments on pics, inspired by all of yours immensely as well.

Petrea I hope someone connected w/ Pasadena historical society/ museum will deem the artifacts at Earthside redeemable as well. If the Cal Poly Pomona proj., Eaton Wash Corridor & Golden Necklace ( ) ever comes to fruition, remains to be seen.

Thank the Big Guy upstairs rains a pouring after the many drought laden winters. Michael I'm w/ you on a few cuttings to transplant. I assume all the vines are of the wild grape tasting like concords, or it that one in any particular location? Its being guarded by the coyote no doubt,lol. In any case gifted one of my new plot neighbors one of my mystery table grapes to make room for incoming juicer :). Now if I can only figure out how to grow rhubarb after my upteenth Armstrongs visit,lol. Enjoying the liquid sunshine in SGV :).

Petrea said...

As to whether or not anyone's interested in preserving these items, I know someone to ask so I sent an email. We'll see what we can find out, if anything.

David Sneiders said...

Petrea was anything revealed in contacting person(s) in regards to preserving memorabilia of Earthside? Went Friday Feb. 19th & see contractors are demoing the Girls Club infront already. The homeless are already destroying some of the structures but the plaques & pictures seem to still be intact. Hope Earthside can live on in some way not just swept under the proverbial carpet.

Petrea said...

David, I'm going to reply to you via your comment on Pasadena Daily Photo.

David Sneiders said...

Will do. I left message w/ Altadena Hiker as well as Michael & you all had most passionate/ pertinent coverage of Earthside.

David Sneiders said...

Dropped by Earthside round noon Saturday Aug 7th. Earthside is showing signs of being rehabed! Heres some pics to the evidence:

Whats the official word all?

Petrea said...

David, I don't know, but it looks like someone's fixing it up a little. It looks nice.

David Sneiders said...

Hi Petrea,
Found this on the net search but isn't dated or w/ backed up links or any official verification. Maybe an actual Boy Scout but in this wild west of the net I'm rightfully skeptical especially w/ $ involved:

Maybe someone here knows if this is legit? It is coming to fruition as this PDF states but not dated.

Hope some local org like open spaces of Pasadena is involved offically but so far all quiet on net.

Petrea said...

Hmm. I hope he's checked in with the City of Pasadena about this. They weren't too keen on folks hanging out over there.

Michael Coppess said...

I can add a few things.

All eagle projects need the permission of the owner, who in this case is the city. And I was aware of the project before it was done and was aware that it was done with city approval. The project was arranged by East Pasadena's current Planning Commissioner, who introduced me to Earthside a few years back. So, the city was advised and engaged in this.

That said, there remains the big question of what happens to Earthside. There is no current plan. Nor is there anyone or any organization in the picture who has indicated they want to restore and maintain the garden or has the resources to do so. Earthside is one of the most interesting opportunities in the city, but is a huge commitment! So, the scout project was done with city approval, but is not part of any set plan.

I think the hope(at least my hope) is that discrete restoration of select infrastructure (structures and trails) might be done that will enhance Earthside's appeal and possibly make it easier for an organization to take on the garden.

David Sneiders said...

Thanks for confirming & giving overview Michael. As the former care takers of Earthside were associated w/ the Theodore Payne org, , you would think they would have some interest in backing this as a satellite site for natives & a great meditative space/evirons for locals & the emergency care center.

Hopefully you knowing the Pasadena Planning Comish can drum up some further support for Earthside.

I'm just busy trying to find more San Gabriel Valley spaces for my rescued bees as this year inundated w/ honey bee colonies. Photographing from afar.

Cheers, David Sneiders

David Sneiders said...

Went this month to Earthside & someone is living in the Kiosk. They have padlocked it & also someone is living in the metal storage shed by the burnt bones of the once trailer. I was interested to see the potting haus but it either was saddly destroyed by the winds we had 2years back or vandals.

I had just seen this project on Facebook - WildFlowering LA - . It might be to late & not possible, but was wondering if anyone here, Michael, Petrea could suggest this site to the artist Fritz Haeg of Wildflowering LA & the City of Pasadena that owns lot? If not hopefully someone has a lot(s) that could be used for wildflower project.

My friends from France have a lot tucked in off the beaten dirt road in Garvanza, but isn't situated to LANDS criteria. I'm w/ 4 surviving Earthside grapes(pocket gophers yet to sample, knock on wood), rosemerry, planted bladder pod, Mt.Lemmon Marigold,AKA Tagetes lemmonii & less thorned prickly pear & more to come. Have a Great Thanksgiving all! Rains finally here to tantalize parched soil of southern California, YIPPIE!

Cheers, David

PS Will post Earthside pics later today:

David Sneiders said...

Google has been messing w/Picasa so here is on Flickr - , hope CalPoly or Pasadena will ressurect but seems like dereliction of duty for now. Wildflower LA project is inspiring for New Year 2014, A Great One to All!

David Sneiders said... Picasa closed & moved pics to above link. Need to stop by to see what is transpiring w/ Earthside