Visalia Showcases Native/Low-Water Plants in Demonstration Gardens

Nathan Garza at the St. John’s Parkway Garden. The garden is one of four set up in the city to educate residents.
Nathan Garza at the St. John’s Parkway Garden. The garden is one of four set up in the city to educate residents.

Two years before the drought compelled Governor Brown to declare a state emergency, Visalia was already ahead of the game, planning demonstration gardens to educate its residents about drought-resistant landscaping. Now the first of four of these gardens is ready to be part of the May 3rd Earth Day celebrations. Nathan Garza, Natural Resource Conservation technician, explained that these gardens are an example of how Visalia can keep the city looking beautiful during a drought and how homeowners can do the same.

The demonstration gardens are in the four quadrants of the city. The St. John’s Parkway Garden, about a block from Target in the northeast quadrant, was finished a few days ago when the identifying plant nameplates were installed. Garza said that the gardens have two examples of each type of plant, such as deer grass, redbud or manzanita, and California lilac. The nameplates identify each species and explain how to care for it. The other three gardens should be done by this summer. They include the West Main Street Park, the Cherry Meadow Park close to Pinkham Street, and the garden in southwest Visalia at the Packwood Creek Trail by Lowe’s.

Creating the gardens was a community-wide effort led by Visalia’s Community Services Employment Training (CSET) and local high schools. Redwood High School’s metal shop class made the iron nameplates for the two north gardens while El Diamante High School’s made the nameplates for the south gardens. CSET did most of the planting. Many other organizations came together to make these gardens a reality and will also be part of Visalia’s Earth Day celebrations.

Visalia’s Earth Day Celebration is Saturday, May 3rd, from 7:30am to 1:00pm at St. John’s Riverwalk on Ben Maddox and St. John’s River. The day begins with a birdwatching tour, then workshops will be given throughout the morning. An official tour of the demonstration garden is at 8:30. Visalia’s ten-year anniversary of celebrating Earth Day serendipitously coincides with the worst drought on record, so water conservation will be the day’s focus. There will be exhibitors, vendors, multiple water efficiency demonstrations, birding and native plant educational walks and live music. For those who can’t make it to St. John’s Parkway on Saturday and need help in designing their own drought-resistant landscaping, go to for a gallery of ideas, courtesy of California Water Service Company. Over 100 beautiful low-maintenance plants native to California are pictured as examples for a yard makeover.

For those who want more inspiration, the UC Master Gardeners of Tulare and Kings Counties are hosting free Garden Festivals where you can learn how to garden or prepare for this year’s landscaping projects. The festivals will have information on a wide variety of plants including fruits, veggies, herbs, ornamentals, natives and landscape trees, along with tips on saving water. The displays will show aspiring gardeners how to create sustainable landscapes, manage insects, diseases and much more. The next Home Gardening Festival is 10:00am to 2:00pm on Saturday, May 10, at Joyner Park in Downtown Exeter. The last one of the season will be at Bravo Lake Botanical Gardens in Woodlake on Naranjo and Valencia Blvds. Call 684-3300 for more information.

When planning a new garden, remember that starting in May, Visalia residents can water twice a week and three times a week during June, July, August and September. Not being able to water as much as our neighbors outside the city limits may make their lawns look greener, but as Garza said, “Look how beautiful Visalia will be when everyone else’s well runs dry. The hope is to get people to see what they can do with their garden and get away from planting fescue grass.”

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