There is a beautiful national park in Southern California that most people have never heard of

Franklin Canyon Park is a hidden gem in plain sight. It’s a national park in our own backyard, but people can live here for years and never hear about it, let alone visit it.

Located at 2600 Franklin Canyon Drive in Beverly Hills, its doors are open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week and admission is free. Easily accessible, it consists of five miles of trails that span 600 acres. From the San Fernando Valley, take Coldwater Canyon Boulevard south to Mulholland Drive. Continue straight through Mulholland and continue on a steep road that leads into a canyon where to your left you will see picnic tables at the foot of a hill, on top of which is a nature center .

As you continue on the road you will find turnouts where you can park and walk along the trails, some of which lead to the water where ducks, turtles and koi are likely to hang out. to assemble. At the end of the road you reach Franklin Canyon Ranch, which consists of a large grassy area behind which is a trail that takes you up a steep slope over hilly terrain with scenic views.

For over 30 years, I have marveled at the fruitful avocado trees that grow on the edge of the grassy expanse of Franklin Canyon Ranch. One tree is half dead, but at present it bears a cluster of over 20 avocados while fruit hangs in the canopy of an adjacent avocado tree.

  • Desert grape Vitis girdiana. (Photo by Joshua Tarin)

  • Red Pimpernel Anagallis arvensis. (Photo by Joshua Tarin)

  • Avocados ripen at Franklin Canyon Ranch. (Photo by Joshua Tarin)

These avocado trees are easily 50 years old, if not much older, and offer proof of the hardiness of their species in urban settings, despite prolonged periods of drought. While the productive life of deciduous fruit trees (peach, plum, apricot, apple) in our region rarely exceeds 30 years, avocado and citrus often eclipse more than half a century of fertility.

At the lower edge of the lawn along Franklin Canyon Drive, there is a magnificent eruption of wild desert grape (Vitis girdiana). It is also known as the Southern California grape because it is where it grows in the wild, as opposed to the California grape (Vitis californica), which is native to the northern part of the state. . The main difference between the two species is geographic, as both bear dark fruits which are edible not only for you and me, but also for wildlife. Berry-loving birds, such as Western Bluebirds and California Mockingbirds, especially appreciate the bountiful harvest of grapes produced each year. The desert grape, however, differs from its northern cousin in a significant way, namely its soft, silvery foliage, which makes it an attractive ornamental plant. Use it for ground cover or for erosion control on a slope. You can also grow it on a chain link fence, trellis, or arbor, where it would provide shade on hot summer days.

Between the parking lot and the ranch, a hedge of Little Ollie dwarf olive trees has been planted. Little Ollie – an unsuccessful olive with barely noticeable blossoms – grows slowly to a height of six feet. Little Ollie features a dense growing habit, and for its early years in the soil, its compact appearance and lush, dark green foliage will remind you of Pittosporum Tobira var. Wheeler’s dwarf. However, unlike Wheeler’s dwarf whose brittle stems snap easily, Little Ollie is a bulletproof specimen. Due to its compactness, Little Ollie also makes a beautiful potted plant. In the garden, it is most often planted as a low to medium hedge and can be kept at any height between 18 inches and six feet.

Speaking of olives, no region of the country (or perhaps the world?) Is more suitable for growing olives than Sylmar in the San Fernando Valley. The proof is that, in the 1920s, the largest olive grove in the world was there. It measured 2,000 acres and produced 50,000 gallons of olive oil per year. Keep in mind that olive trees should be planted several inches above the ground to ensure perfect drainage from their roots. They should not be planted in a lawn because the regular irrigation that lawns need results in the growth of verticillium soil fungus, which is fatal to them. No tree is more drought tolerant than the olive tree once installed in the garden.

Next to the Little Ollies mentioned above is a plantation of bee flowers (Oenothera lindheimeri ‘Siskiyou Pink’). It’s a wise selection as she sips minimal water while blooming a cherry pink for months. It does not have a very long lifespan but, as a clumping plant, lends itself to propagation by division. Additionally, when the surrounding soil is hospitable, meaning it drains well, the bee flower will also self-seed from seeds that fall to the ground near the parent plant. Native to the southwest, the bee flower (also known as Gaura, which rhymes with Laura) grows to four feet tall. Its uninterrupted bloom in warm weather pairs it with its cousins ​​- a tireless ground cover known as the Mexican primrose (Oenothera berlandieri ‘Siskiyou’), as well as the common evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), an exuberant flowering with buttery yellow flowers that spread quickly due to weed tendencies.

Speaking of weeds, the lawn at Franklin Canyon Ranch is adorned with scarlet chickweed (Anagallis arvensis). Some consider it the most beautiful of all weeds, if you dare call it a weed. Its sudden appearance in the garden is greeted with cries of amazement and joy due to its tiny decorative flowers of an unusual salmon orange color. Unfortunately, this is an annual that dies soon after flowering and may or may not reseed the following year. Her name evokes the character of Scarlet Pimpernel, this gentle but deceptive gentleman who is a master of disguise. Instantly, he can transform into a fearless fighter who snatches falsely accused and imprisoned victims from terror, pulls them away from danger and leads them to freedom. In the early 1900s, Baroness Orczy wrote “The Scarlet Pimpernel”, a play and novel whose main character later served as a model for popular masked superheroes in comics, television and film. .

The scarlet chickweed plant also disguises itself, albeit in reverse. It appears to be the most docile and friendly plant, but it contains toxins and its digestion by grazing animals can lead to their death. Likewise, the scarlet chickweed is recommended as safe for human consumption. It appears that the growing conditions influence its toxicity. When it grows in a harsh, uncultivated environment like pasture, its toxins are concentrated to a lethal degree whereas under cultivated garden conditions it is a pungent vegetable that adds spice to your salad.

The sobriquet of scarlet chickweed is misleading since its flowers are not scarlet, but have the color of orange sherbet. Like most potentially poisonous plants, the building blocks of chickweed, in appropriate doses, are highly curative. Its genus name, Anagallis, is derived from Anagelao, Greek for “laughter” because it relieves the sadness that accompanies a variety of illnesses.

Tip of the week: The idea of ​​curing olives may sound like a formidable task, but it’s really not that bad. Just remember that green olives and black olives, although they come from the same tree, are treated differently. Green olives are the unripe fruit. When left on the tree, they turn black as they mature.

To care for green olives, harvest them when they have reached full size in mid to late summer. Soak them in lye or sodium hydroxide solution (1 tablespoon of lye per liter of water) for 12 hours, strain them, then soak them in a cool lye solution. (Note: Yes, lye, so be sure to research how to handle it safely.) At least two, but maybe three soaks will be needed. The softness to the pit is an indication of their preparation. Finally, soak them in cold water for six hours, then change the water every day until the color of the water changes from red to pink.

To prepare black olives for consumption, soak them in a solution containing 4 tablespoons of salt per liter of water. Change the solution once a week for three weeks. Then place the olives in a marinade consisting of 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon of salt dissolved in 2 cups of water, 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano, 3 lemon wedges and two cloves of garlic. Of course, you can change the ingredients of the marinade solution as you like. Put a 1/4 inch layer of olive oil on top and marinate for a few days at most. In all of the above treatments, make sure the olives are completely submerged while they are soaking. To do this, place a thick plate on the surface of the curing or brining solution.

Please send your questions, comments and photos to joshua@perfectplants.com.


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