A living root bridge in the East Khasi Hills, India.
The living root bridges of Cherrapunji, which are a marvel of sustainable architecture. The bridges are formed by the roots of the Ficus Elastica tree. The War-Khasi, a tribe in Meghalaya, saw the potential in these powerful roots, as a way to cross the area’s many rivers. Now, whenever and wherever the need arises, they simply grow their own bridges!
Some of the root bridges are more than 100 feet long and take 10-15 years to become fully functional. They’re extraordinarily strong, with some able to support the weight of 50 or more people at a time. Because they are alive and still growing, the bridges actually gain strength over time. Some of the ancient root bridges used daily by the people of the villages around Cherrapunji may be well over 500 years old.
Photo: Timothy Allen
“Mother Earth, one of my absolute favorite places……where the sounds, the energy, the beauty and the Life pounds into your every fiber of being, letting you Know that you are alive. I will always respect and honor this gift of creation that we call our home.”
― Peace Gypsy
(Sculpture: Spencer Byles)
14 acres include 20 outdoor sculptures, artworks among themed garden spaces
By Priscilla Lister Special to the U-T 12:01 A.M.OCT. 13, 2013
Alta Vista Gardens
Thomas Bros. Map: Page 1088, A-5.
Before you go: Go to the gardens’ website to download a copy of its trail map, www.altavistagardens.org/html/trail_map.html. It’s a $2 donation per person who visits the garden, payable at its entry under an honor system. Hikers and dogs on leashes are welcome. The gardens are open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Trailhead: From state Route 78, exit at Vista Village Drive and head north. Vista Village Drive turns into East Vista Way. At Vale Terrace Drive, turn right. Continue past the main entrance to Brengle Terrace Park, and turn left at the second entrance to the park on the Jim Porter Parkway. The address is 1270 Vale Terrace Drive, Vista.
Distance/difficulty: I wandered about 1.5 miles along several trails; very easy.
Tucked on a hillside overlooking Vista’s Brengle Terrace Park is Alta Vista Gardens, a 14-acre botanical garden with a couple of miles of trails.
Years in the making, the public “living museum” intends to integrate nature, education and art. Today, it boasts the largest concentration of public art in Vista, with some 20 outdoor sculptures and artworks placed among the themed garden spaces.
Among the specimen trees, shrubs and flowering plants are several that are very rare and many that are simply beautiful.
I began to hike through the garden on a Saturday morning when Bryan Morse, president of the garden’s board and “chief visionary,” was tending to chores. He amiably offered me a guided tour, pointing out several of the garden’s special residents.
“A botanical garden was in the city’s plans in the ’60s,” he said. But it took several decades for this one to emerge.
After the Brengle family donated its 39 acres to Vista for park use in about 1968, the adjacent 14-acre parcel then owned by the Paul Smitgen family was eyed for future acquisition. The city of Vista bought the Smitgen property in about 1990, but it took nearly 10 more years for a botanical garden to come to fruition.
Morse, who is a landscape contractor with his own firm, Expanding Horizons, became involved with the garden in about 2003. “I’ve personally made every trail here with my tractor,” he said. The Boston native has lived in Vista about 30 years, having graduated from UC San Diego.
He has masterminded the shape of Alta Vista Gardens today and even has visions for how it might evolve over the next 50 years. Lots of plans are in the works. But with everything donated and done by volunteers, funds are needed to implement some projects.
About 20 themed garden spaces are in existence or being planned. One of the first I encountered near the entry is the Children’s Garden with its Jeffrey Stein Children’s Music Garden. Here are several musical instruments, including an amadinda (an African xylophone), a Piano Pebble Chime that makes lovely tones when small pebbles are placed in its holes, a whale drum and a chime wall.
Also in the Children’s Garden are a “tube tunnel,” made of several huge cement pipes placed in a meandering pattern, and several colorful sculptures, “Tail Spin” by Melissa Ralston, “Miro Kite” by Mindy Rodman and Paul White, and “The Constellation Tree” by Fritzie Urquhart.
One of the garden’s most recent creations is its Medicine Wheel in the Desert Garden. With help from Native American Craig Kessinger, Morse designed and placed the rocks and plants that define the Medicine Wheel. “The whole circle is 32 feet with 4-foot trails and four quadrants,” Morse said. “Sacred geometry makes a difference, and it respects the four elements: air, water, earth and fire.” In the center is a stacked rock monolith. Each quadrant features plants in a certain color: black, white, yellow and red.
“Craig uses dousing rods to find energy fields and says there is a vortex in the right quadrant,” Morse said.
Another special place is the garden’s Labyrinth. Built around the “Broken Link” granite sculpture by Tony Imatto, the Labyrinth consists of a single path that circles the center five times, with circuits planted from the inside to outside in succulents, Mexican feather grass, sweet pea bushes, lavender and rosemary.
Labyrinths, which date to Celtic times, are said to enhance right-brain activity. You simply walk in the circles to the center and then back out again. I’ve always thought they help to illuminate the joy of the journey as well as the destination.
Just below the Labyrinth is the Cycad Garden, with its Wollemi Pine, a purchase of this rare “living fossil” tree that has lived since dinosaurs roamed the planet. This pine tree was auctioned in 2005 in Australia and brought to Vista, where its dark green, bottlebrush foliage is a treasure of the garden. The neighboring cycads, including sago palms, also date back to the Jurassic era and can each live a very long life.
Work has begun on the Japanese Garden, which Morse envisions will one day include a traditional tea house and a large pond. Today, some conifers are planted that will sit outside the pond, along with several red cherry trees and several types of bamboo.
There are two ponds in the garden, including a large one in the Ceremonial Garden with a new lotus plant, centered by Lia Strell’s “Golden Torsion” sculpture; and the Lower Pond and Patio, filled with water lilies and overlooking a fine view down into the park and across to the horizon.
“On the clearest days in December, you can even see San Clemente and Catalina islands from here,” Morse said.
He has deliberately added plants to attract butterflies, including milkweed, the host plant of the Monarch; and passionflowers, which are favored by Fritillary butterflies.
Head to the gardens anytime to walk its peaceful trails and admire its colorful collections of specimen plants and outdoor sculptures.
Priscilla Lister is a freelance writer from San Diego.
What if the land actually loves humans?
What if it needs us?
As our species evolved with all other species
in an interdependent dance,
a long ceremony of mutuality,
each of us bound by invisible threads
within a vast web of interdependence?
If this is the way of things,
then does it not make sense that the land needs us?
Come to it ready to invite its gifts.
Speak to it; let it know what you need.
Listen; let it whisper its medicine.
Shirin-Yoku, The Medicine of Being in The Forest
Practical Action has developed a technology to allow farmers of Bangladesh to grow food on flooded land. The rafts, 8 metres long and 1 metre wide, are made from hyacinth which is available for free locally. Soil is put on the surface of the raft and then the seeds planted in the soil. Summer and winter vegetables such as gourd, okra and leafy vegetables are grown.
The floating gardens provide vital food for people even during the annual monga (period of food shortages) and they can also provide an alternative source of income through sale of any surplus in the market. The rafts can be moved from place to place so are also suitable for those that have temporarily or permanently lost their homes and land.
Families are trained in pit cultivation – making 30cm x 30cm holes for planting vegetable seed. Every household has ten pits to grow vegetables and is given ten different high yielding varieties of fast growing vegetable and groundnut seeds.
Training is provided in new techniques to cope with the conditions in order to grow more and better crops throughout the year. People are shown how to protect against plant disease and insect attack using organic control methods (e.g. home made botanical insecticide). Advice is also given in making seed-beds, preparing compost and enriching the sandy soil with compost and manure.
1.Decide how large you want to make your Zen garden. Assess your available space. Are you going to make a garden that fills up part of your backyard, or are you going to start with a desk top version? The steps are the same, the scale will just be different.
2. Create a mold to contain the sand and/or gravel. Sand or gravel generally form the matrix of a Zen garden, and to keep it looking sharp, you need it to be contained.
3. Nail, screw, or glue together your form. After you have completed your form, you can decorate the wood by painting, staining, or varnishing it.
4. Place a weed retainer, such as black plastic, down prior to setting your Zen garden mold. Zen gardens receive much of their appeal from their cleanliness. Keeping out weeds is a must for outdoor gardens.
5. Fill the form to the top with sand or gravel. Spread the sand or gravel evenly and as level as possible. For a small desktop garden, you might be able to buy sand in small bags at a local pet shop or aquarium supply store.
6. Select features to add a visually stimulating theme. Ex: old, mossy logs, rocks with interesting colors, shapes or textures. Place them off-center and partially submerged for the best effect. Natural items made of wood, rock and vegetation are best but don’t be afraid to add statues etc. Just don’t clutter it! Think: peaceful and simple.
7. Rake the sand or gravel in long, curving strokes to represent water ripples. You can use a number of patterns to accentuate your garden.