Propegate and Protect Community

Roger Klemm, a Shadow Hills resident, works at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena where he writes, integrates, tests and operates software for interplanetary spacecraft and space-based research experiments. The Sunland Welcome Nature Garden is one of many community beautification and restoration projects he has completed since moving to the area in 1989. He presently serves as the president of the community’s Rotary Club.

In 2011, with the help of community volunteers, Klemm instigated the renovation of the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden.



The creation of the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden involved removing an expansive hillside of invasive, combustible Fountain Grass from the city-owned property.

From there, Klemm began an extensive native plant propagation effort that included more than 50 different species and totalled several hundred plants. The garden was planted in 2013, and has expanded to the Wildflowering Annex across the street. As all gardens do, it continues to grow and evolve over time.





  • Necessity: Highly invasive Fountain Grass sat at the intersection of the 210 Freeway and busy Sunland Boulevard, posing fire hazards.
  • Know-How: Roger Klemm recognized the danger and understood rewilding to be the solution.
  • Community: As a hyper-involved resident of the area, Klemm believed he could
    count on friends, neighbors and area businesses to help improve and beautify the space.


  • Free the community of a highly-visible patch of invasive Fountain Grass and educate the community about the dangers it presents, in wildspace and in gardens
  • Create a garden of plants authentic to the Sunland-Tujunga area
  • Keep water use to a minimum while increasing greenery, drought tolerance and mitigating fire danger
  • Inspire community pride, cohesion and native knowledge



  • Cost: $3800 for signage
  • Mitigation: Roger Klemm propagated more than 50 species of native plants. At its peak the propagation effort involved several hundred plants, and generated an estimated savings of several thousand dollars. FormLA Landscaping donated design decomposed granite path installation. Community volunteers both removed invasive grasses and planted the propagated natives, rewilding the approximately 5000 square foot space. The city’s public works team was also supportive.


  • Grants: $2000 from Metropolitan Water District in 2014 for the signage project
  • Community: A crowdfunding campaign raised $1800 for interpretive signage.
  • In-Kind: City of Los Angeles Office of Community Beautification, FormLA Landscaping, Love The Neighborhood Initiative, Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council Beautification Committee, Theodore Payne Foundation, and 50+ people provided in-kind support for the initial renovation and others have provided support along the way.

  • Removing invasive Fountain Grass is not easy, nor is preventing its resurgence!
  • The sheer expanse of the space meant we needed lots of plants.
  • A steep slope needed to be protected with deep roots and ember-catching, leafy canopy
  • Identifying local natives that can maintain hydration and greenery in Sunland’s hot, dry summers.
  • The site sits adjacent to heavy vehicle traffic including an abundance of 18-wheelers.
  • Increased use included people living in the garden, increasing the need for trash removal services.
    Returns on Investment

  • Enhanced fire safety in advance of the nearby La Tuna and Creek Fires
  • Reduction of water-use from 2-3 times a week to 2-3 times a year.
  • Perpetual blooms and beauty.
  • Community participation, collaboration and relationships
  • Community investment in the gardens’ success and the space
  • Greater community use of the space
  • Increased community knowledge of and confidence in working with natives
  • Expansion of the gardens to the Wildflower Annex across the street
  • Community pride
  • Inspired additional native, fire wise gardens along Foothill Boulevard
    Strategies to Replicate

  • A high-visibility site means people will quickly notice changes.
  • Choosing a site where safety, as well as beauty, can be improved.
  • Propagation of hyper-local natives, while difficult, provided substantial budget mitigation.
  • Adoption of the garden to assure the City that the work would be maintained.
  • Recruiting help – people want to contribute to their community’s beautification and safety!
  • Posting blooms, berries, butterflies, and work days to social media maintains engagement.
  • Include garden signage and plant IDs optimize educational value and encourage patronage.

    Q&A with Roger Klemm




  • Roger Klemm begins propagating hyper-local natives.


  • FormLA Landscaping completes the garden design.
  • September: Application package for the garden’s adoption submitted.

  • February: City approves adoption of the garden.
  • March: Community removes Fountain Grass and installs natives over three weekends.
  • November: Beginning of expansion to the Wildflower Annex

  • June: Official opening and dedication
  • $1800 crowdfunding campaign in 2014 for the signage project

  • October: Interpretive signage and new monument signs are installed.

  • Planting Day! 75 plants added.

  • Spring: The garden is in full buckwheat-beauty and full of wildlife!
  • Summer: Rock borders added.

  • October: The gardens are on the Theodore Payne Fire-Wise Tour!


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