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Wildflower at Heart

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At the beginning of the last century, before the film industry sparked its economic and cultural evolution, Los Angeles was a very different sort of town. In 1900 the city had 100,000 increasingly Americanizing residents, many originally from Midwestern states. But one newcomer arrived in 1893 from much farther afield and found his life's mission. Theodore Payne was an Englishman who fell in love with native California flora and committed himself to its preservation, creating special mixes designed for front lawns and mini-prairies, from the ocean to the agricultural inland.

“Wildflowering L.A.” Site #44 is a front yard, seen here in full bloom. - ISABEL AVILA
  • Isabel Avila
  • “Wildflowering L.A.” Site #44 is a front yard, seen here in full bloom.

Fast forward a century and you will find another transplant celebrating the diverse wildflowers of the Golden State. Fritz Haeg -- born in Minnesota but firmly rooted in Los Angeles -- is an architect-activist-artist who uses dirt, seeds and high-visibility locations to reimagine the cultivated environment of Los Angeles. His most recent project "Wildflowering L.A." employs 50 empty lots throughout the city as indigenous plant sites, an alternative to the water-hogging lawns that are often the go-to choice for homeowners. Haeg and his implementation partners recruit, train and distribute special seed packets to volunteer landowners. Carved wooden signs that look a lot like what you might find at a semi-rural park mark each site. And, of course, there's a project hashtag, so Twitter and Instagram addicts can follow viewers' reactions to the program.

If Haeg has you feeling inspired to create a small-scale "Wildflowering Indy," check out some of Indiana's greatest native plants or the Indy Redbud Project, which aims to revive vacant Mapleton Fall Creek lots with groves full of the domestic Eastern Redbud tree.

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