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Savoring Spring, Bruin-Style

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By Bekah Wright, Photos by Dave Lauridsen

Published Apr 1, 2012 8:00 AM


Theodore Payne Foundation: Blooming Beauty


Margaret Oakley '06 and Lisa Novik '79 in Sun Valley near Sunland Boulevard and La Tuna Canyon Road.

Had you overheard the conversation during a recent stroll through the Theodore Payne Foundation, you might have thought you were in a Harry Potter movie. "Check out the eriogonum arborescens," said Margaret Oakley, '06, TPF's volunteer coordinator. "How about this arctostaphylos for your deck?" countered Lisa Novick '79, the foundation's director of outreach and K-12 education.

The more time guests spend at TPF learning about California's native flora, the more they'll come to understand British horticulturist Theodore Payne's devotion to its preservation. Perhaps they'll enlist in TPF classes like Fire-safe Landscaping for Homeowners, Entomology for Gardeners, Chumash Healing with Native Plants or Relief Printing. Or perhaps they'll just be content with purchasing some of the nursery's 300 California native plant species for their home gardens.

But TPF's 22-acre Sun Valley property has plenty to appeal to nature lovers beyond its extensive nursery and class offerings. On the first Thursday of each month, there are free bird walks where everything from yellow-rumped warblers, Nuttall's woodpeckers and red-shouldered hawks can be spied. Available, too, are year-round tours, speakers, demonstration gardens, picnicking and a 1-mile, self-guided hike up La Tuna Canyon's Wildflower Hill.

As enchanting as the grounds are, the aroma of sage coaxes visitors into TPF's book and seed store. Outside a door to the seed room, a plaque celebrates TPF founding member Ed Peterson '30, a seedsman and volunteer at the foundation for more than 40 years.

TPF hosts activities off site, as well. Appealing to wildflower fans is TPF's Wildflower Hotline, which runs March through May (call 818-768-3533). Popular, too, is the annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour, which this year is on April 14 and 15. The self-driven tour spans more than 35 home gardens in portions of Los Angeles and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys.

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