About Roger Klemm

The Sunland Welcome Nature Garden is one of many community beautification and restoration projects completed by Roger Klemm has completed since moving to the area in 1989.

In 2011, with the help of the community, Klemm instigated the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden, a native plant makeover of a community entrance garden. The project involved removing an expansive hillside of invasive, combustible Fountain Grass. From there, Klemm instigated a native plant propagation effort that at its peak included over 50 different species, totaling several hundred plants. The garden was planted in 2013, and has expanded to the Wildflowering Annex across the street. As all gardens, it continues to evolve over time.

The Sunland Welcome Nature Garden builds upon Klemm’s long history of community contributions. Since buying their first house in Lake View Terrace in 1989, Klemm has been interested in environmentally sensible landscaping. He and his wife landscaped the yard of their first house in climate-appropriate and California native plants, enjoying a lush and interesting yard without using much water or slaving over the lawn mower every week.

While living in Lake View Terrace, Klemm was active in the community with an interest in plants native to the state of California that are appropriate for landscaping in the area. As a board member of the Lake View Terrace Improvement Association, he coordinated a grant of almost $5000 from California ReLeaf to plant 103 “environmentally tolerant, large-canopied, quality trees” in the parks and schools of Lake View Terrace in 1995. More than 20 years later, many of these trees are now mature, providing shade and other benefits for the community.

Klemm was involved with the Lake View Terrace Garden Club for six years, and coordinated the renovation of an ornamental garden at the intersection of Osborne Street and Foothill Boulevard. The goals of the garden renovation were to reduce water consumption and increase visual interest. The new plantings featured a much more efficient watering system, and drought-tolerant plants native to California and the Mediterranean, including species which are endangered or extinct in the wild. Sadly, this garden was not retained when the Discovery Cube was built.

Klemm has volunteered for the Theodore Payne Foundation in La Tuna Canyon, was a board member of the Verdugo/San Rafael Chapter of the Small Wilderness Area Preservation, and was active in renovation efforts at the Tujunga Ponds. He attended the TreePeople Citizen Forester class in the fall of 1994, and was involved with TreePeople through the four planting events of the California ReLeaf grant mentioned above.

After moving to Shadow Hills in 1996, Klemm renovated the entire yard of his house on Walnut Drive with mostly California native plants to create a more visually interesting alternative to a plain lawn. In addition, the new landscape has the benefits of lower maintenance and water needs, a key factor in landscaping with native plants. The hummingbirds and butterflies enjoy the new landscaping, too, as have visitors on the Theodore Payne Foundation’s native plant garden tours in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017.

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. He graduated from Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering in 1987. He is a member of the Sunland Tujunga Shadow Hills Rotary Club, and currently serves as the club president.

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5 Year Anniversary Message

Wow, hard to believe it’s been 5 years since we renovated the landscape at the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden. Time flies! Enjoy the memories, it’s been quite a project!

This garden got its start as an off-handed comment in an email thread between community members, grew to collecting seeds and cuttings from our local trails and a propagation effort that necessitated a whole new approach to potting containers, and resulted in a few dozen community members taking part in a wholescale renovation of the community entrance garden.

It’s been five years since about 50 people got together to rip out the invasive exotic Fountain Grass that the City had planted a decade before, and install the local native plants that now support the local bees, birds, lizards, and hummingbirds, grace the site with authentic beauty, and do so with minimal supplemental irrigation.

 

In February of 2013, after a several-month-long process, we adopted this property from the City. In March of that year we replaced the plants in the majority of the garden. It was hard work removing the hundreds of mature Fountain Grass plants, some of them growing inbetween rocks that were cemented in place. The replacement plants were tiny, and almost invisible among the mulch, but they grew well, and within a few months some were already blooming. In the fall we planted the rest of the garden, and the flowers haven’t stopped – pretty much every day of the year, something is blooming!

In 2014 we adopted and planted the parcel across the street, having been inspired by the Wildflowering LA art project. This Wildflowering Annex, as we call it, has its own challenges, with a surplus of weeds and no irrigation. We solarized the slopes in the summer of 2014, planted the top bench in December, and the Buckwheats and Sages have performed admirably on rainfall alone. When we get some real rain in the winter, the wildflowers are pretty in the spring.

In 2015 we ran a crowdfunding campaign, which combined with a grant from the Metropolitan Water District, enabled us to install interpretive signage to explain the motivation behind the garden and inspire people to take the message home to their own gardens.

 

See current garden gallery

In 2017 we trimmed the trees and bigger shrubs to open up sight lines and make the garden less attractive to the local transients. After some struggles with one particularly belligerent person, the City’s homeless task force prevailed and things have been mostly quiet. A couple weeks ago we planted 75 little plants, filling in holes from plants that either hadn’t survived, or that we haven’t been able to propagate. While we were planting, the hummingbirds were serenading us. Ahh, music to our ears!

-roger

Community Story

The garden is located at the 210 freeway and Sunland Boulevard in Sunland, California, 91040, in the east San Fernando Valley.

For more information, including full plans for the garden, a plant list, and an essay on the motivation for the garden, Look in our Facebook photo album “Garden Plans“.

The garden started as an off-hand comment between two native plant nuts about the Fountain Grass, and wouldn’t it be nice to replace it with local native plants. With great help from a number of people, we’ve now adopted the property from the City, and have planted over 50 species of plants from locally sourced seeds and cuttings representing the very best of the 300+ species of plants documented growing in the local hills since the year 2000. The garden will evolve over the next few years, as plants grow up and we’re able to grow some that are being challenging.

In 2013 we started gardening on the plot across the street as part of the Wildflowering LA art project. Unfortunately the wildflowers themselves were mostly a bust. In 2014 we solarized part of the soil, then planted the Wildflowering Annex with a simpler palette of local native plants that have grown without any supplemental irrigation, as there is no infrastructure on the site.

More Information

 

Impact

There are a few predictable impacts of creating a garden authentic to the San Fernando Valley. Here is where the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden makes an impact for our community and in your life.

Save Water 

Saving water was one goal behind eliminating the expanses Fountain Grass that once filled the Sunland Welcome Nature Garden.  The vibrant, blooming Wildflower Annex now thrives with no supplemental water, while the lush, authentic garden receives very little supplemental water.

Reduce Operational Costs

We expect to save operational costs, including:

  1. 100 percent of the annual flower budget
  2. 100 percent of the toxic chemical fertilizer budget
  3. 100 percent of the toxic chemical pesticide budget
  4. 100 percent of soil amendment budget
  5. 81 percent of the time spent on maintenance
  6. 75 percent of the funds used for mower petrol
  7. 60-90 percent of the water previously needed
  8. 63 percent of fees associated with garden waste
  9. 15-50 percent of the energy dedicated to climate control

Protect Our Cool… and More

Choosing authentic foliage, particularly the Bush Mallow, Lemonade Berry, Toyon and Oak Trees cool the air.  This not only makes for a more enjoyable outdoor space, it can actually help keep Sunland-Tujunga cool as a community too.

The removal of invasive and flammable Fountain Grass is expected to improve the resilience of our adjacent wildspaces, particularly post-fire, while the dry river allows water to percolate and escape without destabilizing the slope.

Support You

Public spaces impact home values and business sales. Here’s why:

  • Beautiful park space increases nearby home values
  • Tree canopies reduce neighborhood heat, attract consumers to business areas, and improve the value of nearby homes
  • Young foliage appreciates in value as it grows

Support Wildlife and Biodiversity

Many native birds, bees, butterflies, and fauna will eat and live only on native foliage. The Sunland Welcome Nature Garden offers habitat, a good meal, and joy to our wild friends. The biodiversity of both flora and fauna further support LA’s overall resilience.

Provide an Example

While the drought increased California’s focus on saving water, we have needs and goals beyond simple water savings.  We want to protect our area from fires and slides, cool the air naturally where possible, and continually beautify our community.  We intend these gardens to serve as a model for reaching all of those goals with our garden choices.