Parks for People

An engaging exhibit at Nature Gardens at the LA Natural History Museum. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

An engaging exhibit at Nature Gardens at the LA Natural History Museum. Photo: Lorene Edwards Forkner

Mention the words “public garden” and most people picture swathes of lawn and picnic tables. The best of the lot—and the West Coast is rich with beautiful examples— are known for their finely crafted displays of flowering plants, blossoming trees, or seasonal color.

To reiterate a well-worn but comfortable trope, public parks become our cities’ backyards. They provide open space for land-deprived residents to gather in groups or relax in relative anonymity and insert themselves into the rhythm of the changing seasons. Whether its a prized wedding venue, a lovely setting for an outdoor concert series, or simply the location of a well-loved swing set, parks are social.

In this issue of Pacific Horticulture we’re taking a deeper look at other roles parks and public landscapes play in our lives—including some that don’t fit a traditional public garden framework but nonetheless enrich our communities. Teaching environments provide hands-on learning and a window into natural systems, even—maybe especially—within a dense urban environment. Living collections demonstrate the breadth and variety of a particular genus, or inform visitors about a distant part of the world without their having to leave their home zip code. And testing grounds—whether for trialling plants or devising a system for harvesting rainwater—contribute valuable information for the greater gardening good.

And always, where there are gardens you’ll find gardeners. And so we’re recognizing the people behind these communal landscapes: knowledgeable horticulturists, teachers, hands-in-the-dirt volunteers, and the legacy of those who generously fund gardens for us all.