A wonderful trip to the Learning Garden at Venice High

Many thanks to Julie, Ingrid, Ed and all the other volunteers who shared their time and experiences with us at the Learning Garden this past Saturday.  We saw so many amazing things:  green and brown cotton!  Hairy Ball Milkweed!  David King’s famous rhubarb patch!  Edible mushrooms! A very unusual shiny-leaved mulberry we were welcomed to take cuttings from for propagation. The new-to-us plants growing in the Chinese Herbal Medicine garden. The huge red amaranth in the Ancient Grains Garden, etc. etc.  It was a beautiful day and so wonderful to see volunteers of all ages working together.  (Weekends are for the community; Venice High Students use the Garden during the week)

Note: after essentially and needlessly being razed to bare earth during construction at the high school, the Garden has been struggling to restore itself only to be threatened once again by extinction. Please Google what you can do to persuade the LAUSD to preserve this precious resource for the students and community. Volunteering hours are Saturdays and Sundays from 12-3.

Field Trip to Venice Learning Garden – January 13th @ 12:30 NOTE DIFFERENT TIME!

The Learning Garden was founded on the grounds of Venice High School in 2001 and, until his recent retirement, its Garden Master was David King, a regular and welcome presence  — with his students —  at our annual scion exchange.  Over all these past 23 years –despite repeated threats of extermination by the LAUSD – the Garden has continued to grow both physically and philosophically.   While of course there are fruit trees and the very successful rhubarb patch David boasted about when we first started our WLA rhubarb project, the Garden is now also home to one of the most extensive Chinese Medicinal gardens in the country. The students of Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine have played a major role in the development of this garden where  traditional Chinese Medicine schools are trained from seed to harvest to medicinal use  by world experts.

There is also a relatively new Tea Garden – complete with Camellia Sinensis black tea, as well as a variety of herbal tea plants, including hibiscus, rose hips, valerian, chamomile and more.

There is a Native California Garden with more than a hundred different types of native California species, as well as a Fiber Arts Garden which has attracted natural dyers thrilled at the colors that these plants bring to fabric.

And notably there is an Ancient Grain Garden which was planted by our chapter’s own master baker Wendy Temple! (You can see her in the Learning Garden video here.

There is also a Seed Saving Garden, a tribute to David King’s long emphasis on developing and fostering the plant strains most successful in our climate.  As he was quoted saying in an  LA Times blog: “As seeds grow out repeatedly in our soil and microclimates, they adapt.  Far more quickly than one could achieve at home , a variation (for example) of Waltham broccoli specific to Los Angeles or even specific to Venice can be developed, better suited to local conditions.”

And finally, of most interest to us Rare Fruit Growers, is the Tropical Garden where the papaya tree and dragon fruit planted years ago are now both accompanied by bananas, hibiscus, pineapple, kiwi, cassava and more.

But beyond all these horticultural must-sees, perhaps the most important achievement of The Learning Garden has been the continual growth of programs and gardens it has inspired over the years. With very little funding, The Learning Garden has demonstrated the true meaning of sustainability through community spirit and volunteerism. Over 250 high school students a year are trained in organic horticulture, and many have pursued careers in horticulture related fields. In its  Seed to Sale program, students learn the process from planting to harvesting to selling at the local Farmers Market. Art students regularly use the garden to draw and paint. The science classes are out in the compost piles learning the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles. Much as we saw at Steve List’s Sylmar Learning Center, the Learning Garden at Venice High  has inspired and supported gardens at many of its  feeder schools so that garden curriculum is developing from Kindergarten thru High School.

This is definitely a can’t miss field trip (subject of course to weather!) See you there.


Field trip to Hapa Joe’s Nursery November 11th @ 10 am

If you find yourself on Hapa Joe’s website Hapajoesnursery.com you are presented with an introduction  that is certainly  better than anything we could come up with, viz:

Connecting you to the world’s rarest, most exotic fruit seeds.

“… I’m Hapa Joe, a passionate conservationist, scientist, fruit hunter and adventurer. I travel the world to collect and source exotic and rare fruit seeds to share with you.”

What Joe doesn’t mention is that he is a member of our chapter and has kindly granted  us an extremely coveted invitation to visit his growing field… to learn about the collecting and growing of these very rare seeds and seedlings, and of course to hear of his adventures in the Amazon and beyond.

On his site, he goes on to say: “All seeds and seedlings have been “fair trade” sourced to create value within the local communities that inhabit these rapidly deforested areas.” This means that he has established close relationships within those local communities and we will get to hear about those as well. And of course about the current risks these communities are facing. This is truly a one-of-a-kind field trip.

Feel free to browse the  site to get some idea of the vast numbers and varieties of seeds and seedlings he offers…. some of which he will have available for sale.  When he spoke to the San Diego chapter recently, Joe sold out of what he calls his “cheap seedlings”, so bring dinero if you’re exotic fruit inclined.

Long time members know the rules about field trips:  no touching, no picking, no stomping, no requests for scions or fruit, etc. but if you are a new member please keep in mind that we are very very lucky guests and should behave accordingly: keep those hands and feet in check.  Despite his vast collection, Joe’s  yard is actually very small, so – as is true of most field trips — no guests will be allowed.



Summary of our amazing trip to Jorge Ochoa’s orchard!

July’s Passion Fruit Extravaganza turned out great.  Thanks to Jorge Ochoa’s abundant generosity, it was just as fun, popular, delicious, informing and exciting as it sounded like it would be.

We began under a large shade tree with a bountiful selection of food and drinks including pastries, hot passion fruit tea

and five coconut cream pies. (Even Bruce got all he wanted!).

We toured the gardens, sampled fruit from some of the plants, and if you wanted a cutting of something, there were two designated scion-takers ready to help. Then we went inside and Jorge provided a presentation of passion fruits he has been impressed with. Then finally, as promised, we went to the propagation greenhouse. For everyone who was willing to get their fingers dirty, we tested our skill at transferring little seedlings in dirt popsicles over to take-home bags. The root systems were still fragile, so this was tricky! There were four varieties: (1) a purple one similar to Frederick but from Australia, (2) Passiflora Ligularis (“Sweet Granadilla” — sometimes found in Hispanic markets), (3) a yellow-gold variety Jorge found in Peru, and (4) a yellow variety Jorge found in Westminster (the location is a trade secret). According to Jorge, all four are very sweet, without any of the bitterness that some passion fruit have. If you got any seedlings from this event, please keep track of what happens with them. We want to give Jorge an update in a couple of years about everyone’s growing experience. How did your plants do? What made them happy? What killed them? By helping him with these details, you’ll be helping other growers in the future. And for those of you who got Ligularis seedlings, remember to keep their roots cool!

Thank you, Alan, for arranging this field trip and writing this summary.

July 8th field trip: Passion Fruit Day with the amazing Jorge Ochoa!

We have a very special treat lined up for July 8th. A field trip to visit passiflora expert and explorer Jorge Ochoa. Jorge travels to tropical jungles and remote  village fruit markets to discover new varieties of yummy and/or breathtakingly beautiful passion fruit. And he is going to share what he has learned with us.

If you have never heard him, Jorge is one of the most passionate, informed and funny speakers ever. It is no accident a photo of one of his lectures to us is featured on the crfg.org site to illustrate Meetings.

For insurance reasons, this is limited to WLA chapter members only.  But of course joining is only a couple of clicks away.

Boy, did we have a great time at Sylmar High School!

Steve List's fabulous tomato plants

Steve List and Stefan Strong couldn’t have been more welcoming or informative and the work they and their students have done couldn’t be more impressive.  We were especially moved by Steve’s dedication to making horticulture and the gardens a safe place for those students who need one.

We lucked out with beautiful weather , enjoyed seeing many many thriving collections of plants (pollinator gardens, medicinal herb gardens, a whole slew of bearing orchards, a monster pitaya and chickens!) and went home with some lovely lavender plants.  Thank you to Steve and Stefan and to those members who made the trek out there.  It  was definitely worth it.

Photo above by Margaret Frane, of Steve and Stefan with their amazing tomato plants.  In containers and only watered twice (with rain water) this year.

May 13th Field Trip to Sylmar High School — Members Only!

Sylmar High School Agricultural Department head, Steve List has invited us for a tour of their amazing facility. The growing areas were built up from an empty lot by students over many years and are now a magnificent, multi-zoned field replete with ponds, farm animals, compost pits, and a worm farm.  There are multiple fruit trees and vegetable beds, hot houses, chickens, desert plants, and more, all fortified by the school’s own blend of enriched potting soil.

 There will be garden tours and information on fruit tree growing.  Steve teaches urban agriculture, nutrition, and edible landscaping to hundreds of students daily.  They learn to love gardening!   Steve is a great and knowledgeable speaker.   This is a remarkable garden.  Hope to see you there!

Address, time and other details in newsletter you should have received.  If you haven’t, please Contact Us,

Yes, our field trip today is on!

Mark Abraham, our host at Will Rogers Learning Garden, says short of a downpour we are welcome to come visit.  It is still vaguely drizzling but we are a hardy bunch.  Who doesn’t remember our field trip to Paradise Nursery in Chatsworth in the midst of the fires that surrounded it?  Sometimes the more difficult trips are the most memorable.  See you there!

Field Trip to Will Rogers Elementary will be contingent on weather

Per Mark Abraham, our host: “It’s predicted dry for a few days before Saturday, so if the morning is dry I am GAME ON and would think the site would be perfect for people to access – but if it rains we will have to cancel.”

If we do have to cancel, we will definitely reschedule this spring.  Be aware that volunteer days at the orchard are every third Sunday from 10 am to 2 pm and all you fruit-growers would be very welcome.

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