Explore the California Native Garden

Explore the California Native Garden

California Native GardenHaving a home on the top of a hill can often provide enchanting views. In 1931 Llewellyn and Avis Bixby’s view was one of the developing communities interspersed with working oil rigs. So Ralph D. Cornell designed a buffer zone of plants to direct the eye upwards while the green canopies not only shielded the eye but help dampen the sounds as well. This buffer zone followed the driveway to the service yard, a dense planting that extended to the unfenced property line.

In selecting the plant material Cornell combined popular plants of the day with California native plants. This was less than common, as most native plants cultural needs were not well understood. Cornell however was an early advocate of using native species, and in Llewellyn Bixby a member of the Sierra Club, he found a kindred spirit who loved being out in nature. Naturally the potential of his home feeling like he was out in the countryside rather than watching the commerce of development would be an attractive goal.

California Native GardenWhen the City of Long Beach took ownership of the property they required a space to accommodate visitor’s cars. So they eliminated a large swath of the buffer zone to provide a parking lot.

When the Rancho Master Plan was developed it was decided to move the parking off site and use this space to develop a visitor center. The remaining buffer zone would be converted to a native garden. Retaining any surviving “exotics” from Cornell’s plan the California Native Garden was installed in 2015. If features a looping pathway with low curving retaining walls, a flight of stairs to gain access to the drive if you do not want to back track.

California Native GardenAnother feature is the dry stream bed at the base of the hill. Initially the cobbled streambed was installed by volunteer labor in 1970s, then improved by staff in the 1990s. The goal then was to reduce erosion from the rainwater that would run off the paved parking lot. It has been improved by creating wider and deeper segments to retain the rain flow and reducing the amount of water from leaving the property.

Notable Plants

California Sycamore – Platanus racemosa

Pecan – Carya illinoienensis

Coast Live Oak – Quercus agrifolia

Other Notable Plants:

  • Western Redbud – Cercis occidentalis
  • Catalina Ironwood – Lyonothamnus floribundus asplenifolius