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To help save the environment, think globally but act locally in your backyard with native plants – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

To help save the environment, think globally but act locally in your backyard with native plants – San Gabriel Valley Tribune

To help save the environment, think globally but act locally in your backyard with native plants – San Gabriel Valley Tribune


This Highland Park garden features a desert-style area with native wildflowers, bunchgrasses, and cacti. (Courtesy Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers and Native Plants


How can you save the Earth right from your backyard? First, click on the Zoom link. There I met six amazing people who are experts on all aspects of our planet, including ecology, horticulture, and wildlife.

Susan Gottlieb, of the Gottlieb Native Garden, was there with Diane Shader Smith. Shader Smith is an accidental environmentalist who was inspired by Mallory’s death. Will Battersby, who wrote and produced “Salt in My Soul,” the documentary about Mallorys life with cystic fibrosis, talked about how Mallory’s passion for the environment inspires him.

Scott Logan, Wild Wings Ecology, and Lili Singer, a horticulturist/writer, also attended. Doug Tallamy, a professor of agriculture at University of Delaware, spoke on behalf of his grassroots campaign to encourage everyone to plant native plants in their communities and restore biodiversity.

Beth Pratt, California Regional Executive Director for the National Wildlife Federation is the lady who raised $87 Million to build a freeway crossing to allow animals such as cougars to cross safely. Garry George, director of the Clean Energy Initiative of the Audubon Society served as moderator. All these brilliant and inspired people working tirelessly to protect natural causes shared one message: you, with the sad patch that is a garden, can save the Earth.

“It’s all connected, isn’t it?” Pratt, the cougar crossing lady, asked. “(For the wildlife crossing) we started with the small things, mushrooms, to base a healthy functional ecosystem. We start with the basics. You wouldn’t have mountain lions in the landscape without native plants. And it’s wondrous to contemplate finding the Gottlieb Native Garden (this National Wildlife Federation-Certified Backyard Wildlife Habitat) in a very unlikely place like Beverly Hills.”

In the past, we’ve only asked our gardens to be pretty, said Doug Tallamy.

“Now they have to support life, sequester carbon, feed pollinators and manager water,” he said. Tallamy’s call to action, at, believes conservation is everyone’s responsibility.

Susan Gottlieb was simply trying to conserve water in her garden, when she began digging in her Beverly Hills home over 30 years ago.

“My husband Dan asked me, ‘Why are you pulling out all this perfectly good ivy?’” she laughed. “But he appreciates it now. It’s almost a surprise that it’s done what it’s done. It was something I did not realize how important it was at the time I started it. It began as a water conservation project. Then it evolved into feed the birds, caterpillars, and other insects. I learned by trial and error and I’m pretty proud of it. I was gobsmacked by the diversity.”

Gottlieb offers regular tours of her garden to scientists like Scott Logan from Wild Wings Ecology. He applauds the positive side of the pandemic: people began to enjoy the outdoors more.

“Our souls are missing something when we disconnect from nature,” he said. “Go out into a garden and sit down and be quiet and see what happens. It really fills you.”

Lili Singer, a Horticulturist believes that even those with the weakest green thumbs can help.

“First, consider what your priorities are,” she said. “What is it you want your garden to do, and keep the plants that are there that might be compatible with native plants. Try to keep things as localized as possible. What is local to your area? Start small. Plant a pot of native wildflowers and you’ll see them bloom in a couple of months. Go to your local mountains and see what grows there, but don’t take them from the wild. Pull some weeds in your garden. The most mundane tasks can be life-affirming.”

Conservationists recommend that you start small and do your research. The Theodore Payne Foundation is another excellent source. theodorepayne.orgThe Sun Valley-based nonprofit specializes in the cultivation of native plants. California Native Plant Society, at cnps.orgAnother resource is.

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It is amazing to think that California is home to more than 5,500 species of native plants, 40% of which are found nowhere else on Earth. So we’re blessed to be here.

“Slow down, sit down on a rock and look close,” Singer said. “It’s a wonder what you will see sitting still in the garden. And it can be a time for human connectedness, too.”

Pratt said that the human-caused double crisis in our climate and threat to our biodiversity are human-caused.

“But we can all help with that,” she said. “Nature has spent millions of years getting it right, before we (caused) this lasting damage to our ecosystem. We’re coming to terms with it, and hopefully, good will come out of this. Look at whats possible.”

We can plant, we weed, and we have the potential to hope.

You can also find more information at these other sites saltinmysouldoc.comAnd


Anissa V. Rivera, columnist, “Mom’s the Word,” Pasadena Star-News, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Whittier Daily News, Azusa Herald, Glendora Press and West Covina Highlander, San Dimas/La Verne Highlander. Southern California News Group 605 E. Huntington Drive Suite 100 Monrovia CA 91016. 626-497-4869.

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