■ Halima Haider / Editorial Assistant
Two things spring to mind when thinking about our Valley: its historic beauty and the unmatched generosity of the residents that touches the lives of thousands far and wide. Clusters of charming pocket communities come together to create home…to create the San Jacinto Valley. That’s precisely why it doesn’t come as a surprise that one of the most dynamic local organizations, Valley Beautiful, has been holding down the fort here since 1964. With a penchant to “beautify” our Valley, and conserve water in drought-laden Southern California through state-of-the-art sustainable landscaping services, it deserves an honorary mention here and everywhere …. really!
Members of Valley Beautiful adhere to seven sustainable landscaping principles: Proper planning and design; soil analysis and improvement; practical and limited turf areas; sensible plant selection and grouping; efficient irrigation; mulching; and appropriate maintenance. The team further lends credence to eco-friendly living by promoting “water-wise” plants in their mission to achieve valley-wide “beautification.”
Moreover, proceeds generated over time have gone to fund trees and rose bushes in local cities and schools alongside scholarship programs in horticulture. In their partnership with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, Valley Beautiful has contributed to the establishment of an ordinance requiring landscape developers to plant trees, publish tree planting guides throughout the county, and designate the colorful crape myrtle as the official tree of the City of Hemet. Ground-breaking to say the very least! The San Jacinto Museum and the Santa Fe Depot at State and Florida were recipients of sizable donations by the organization.
Current projects include re-landscaping the gardens of the Estudillo Heritage Park Water Conservation Garden on the grounds of the San Jacinto Museum, and the refurbishing of gardens at the Santa Fe Depot and the Ramona Bowl in Hemet.
In hindsight it’s hard to believe that the same thriving organization the Valley takes ample pride it started out with just a small group of women with a shared dedication to save heritage oaks and other indigenous trees some three decades ago would blossom into what it is today. Safe to say the fruits of the founding mothers’ labor over three decades ago paved the way for others in the community to get involved and create something magnificent. Volunteers are always welcome with open arms, especially since there are not enough gardeners for the expanse of gardens to maintain. While the organization was originally comprised only of women, it is now co-ed and actively seeking volunteer gardeners. Women, men, short, tall, if you’ve got gardening tools, they’ll take you all!
For some time now, garden work meetings are held every Wednesday at 9 a.m. at the Ramona Bowl to water the Terrace Garden and the first Friday of each month to work in seven other gardens. And Valley Beautiful members can be found gardening at the Estudillo Heritage Park Water Conservation Garden on the third Saturday of each month between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Gardening also takes place at the Hemet Santa Fe Depot Museum from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. the last Friday of each month.
Mark your calendar for Saturday, May 20, for the Ramona Bowl Garden Festival which will include hourly workshops, garden tours, vendor and food booths, waterwise plant sales, and more. Valley Beautiful and the Master Gardeners of Riverside County are hosting the event.
Meetings are held on the third Monday of each month at 5:30 p.m. at the Santa Fe Depot and Hemet Museum. Speakers and demonstrations are often featured. Interested in learning more? The club has a Valley Beautiful Facebook page with lots of pictures of the gardens they work at and a list of upcoming events. If interested in becoming a member or to volunteer, call Nancy Austin, (951) 658-7319 or Diane Boss, (951) 634-4952.