Our Club's Start
In 1986, members of the newly formed Lake Hodges Native Plant Club wanted to have an area for a native plant garden. The plan for a garden became more urgent as development steadily destroyed habitat. The original idea was to locate it at Lake Hodges but this could not be worked out with the city of San Diego.
In 1987, Jim Gibbons as Head of Horticultural at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, (now the San Diego Zoo Safari Park) contacted the Club President; Dorris Baur. He offered the Lake Hodges Native Plant Club five acres on a hot, dry hillside in the northern part of the park to develop a native plant garden.
Gordon Gibson was appointed Curator and Pat Sigg, Project Coordinator. They began to lay out the garden on a scientific basis with each plant in plant communities designed on a grid plan. The plant communities represented different areas of San Diego County. All plants in the garden would be native to San Diego County. James Dillane was appointed Project Director and began to select areas for plant communities and purchase plants.
An ambitious trail network was developed with the cooperation and assistance of park personnel. This was a major project because of the large rocks, layout of the area and hard ground. A drip system was planned and installed to keep the plants alive while the garden was being established. It also helped supplement annual rainfall in some of the plant communities. The California Conservation Corps cleared many non-native bushes and trees that had naturalized in the area.
Many club members worked in the park to establish the garden. The club remains forever grateful for the work of Cliff Zimmer and Jim Phelps for their planning of the layout and infrastructure. Other strong support volunteers were Judy Wallace (Riparian), Rita Bourquein (Riparian), Hermine Mathews (Palm Oasis), Mary Marshall (Montane), Dorris Baur (Cypress), Ginny Dewey (brochures), Pat Sigg (Coastal Sage Scrub), and Jo Casterline.
Public dedication and opening of the garden was Earth Day in April 1991. Detailed data kept by Gordon Gibson enabled the Park to obtain accreditation as a Botanic Garden. The "Ramada,"a covered picnic table, was made possible by a generous donation from Mr. and Mrs. John Klaas.
The club raises funds for purchasing plants and garden supplies from plant sales and membership dues. It is a 501(c) non-profit organization.