La Huerta

20 Feb

DSC08466We volunteer at La Huerta Historic Gardens on Wednesday mornings.  La Huerta, the Chumash Indian ethnobotanical garden, is next to Old Mission (sometimes called the Queen of the Missions) in Santa Barbara. The plantings in the garden are documented as existing in the California missions from the late 18th to mid-19th centuries. This mission garden supplies native plants to all of the other missions in California.

DSC08467The plants in La Huerta include banana, prickly pear, grapes, olives, pomegranates, figs, fava beans, sugar cane and Sonoran wheat. Quince, peach and pear trees coexist with other early citrus tree varieties.

DSC08470One of my favorite plants in the garden is Peruvian cotton. The cotton bolls are a beautiful dark brown sugar color on the plant. When dyed with the cochineal infestations of the prickly pear,  the cotton fiber turns delicate shades of pink and rose. These are the same dyes used by the Chumash in their basket weaving.

DSC07732A seasonal garden tended by volunteers provides vegetable crops and ornamental flowers that might have grown at the missions. To a New Mexico gardener these vegetables seem gigantic.DSC08387One of the newest projects in the garden is an interpretive landscape map of the California coastline and Channel Islands, the area of the migration of the Chumash Indians from island to mainland. Dana and I and other volunteers have been moving and placing rocks to create a facsimile map that shows mountain ranges, coastline and man-made features of the mission period and before.


DSC08395The idea for the mapping project was conceived by Jerry Sortomme, project manager for La Huerta. This and other features of the garden are used to teach about gardening in the mission period in California  in special tours for local schoolchildren and other visitors .

DSC07718We look forward every week to work in the garden and to learning about mission history from Jerry, Maria and the other volunteers. It is great to be part of a community effort recreating a piece of Santa Barbara’s past.

5 Responses to “La Huerta”

  1. Dede February 20, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    Great, Jill. And what a splendid picture of Dana!

    • Jill February 20, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

      Thank you. I took it and was very pleased.

    • Jill February 20, 2014 at 10:30 pm #
  2. Obie February 20, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    Looks like you’ll be in full garden mode by the time you get back here!

    • Jill February 20, 2014 at 5:47 pm #

      Yup we’re practicing up. Although the soil here is a leeeetle different than home.

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