At Wattles Farm in LA, 30 years of work bears fruit
The community garden is positioned in what had been the lower fruit orchard of the Wattles estate
By Jeff Spurrier
Los Angeles Times
February 16, 2011
As in most community gardens, Wattles Farm has a rule against trees in personal plots, lest the shade impede crops and raise tensions among neighboring gardeners. One exception here is the lemon tree in the space gardened by Gina Thomas, head of the tree committee. “It was here before I was,” she says. “So it was grandfathered in.”
It’s fitting. Thanks to her decades-long effort, the variety of fruit-bearing shrubs and trees in Wattles’ common areas is staggering: bananas, mangos, papayas, nectarines, apples, guavas (including lemon, strawberry and pineapple guavas), key lime (grafted onto an orange tree by Thomas 30 years ago), dwarf tangerines, olive, figs, Oro Blanco grapefruit, Washington navel oranges, blood oranges, persimmons, pomegranates, Chinese pear, cherimoya, peach, apricot. The list of multicultural delights goes on and on.
Italian by birth — she was born on the isle of Capri — Thomas learned about tropical fruits from David Silber, founder of the Papaya Tree Nursery, a Granada Hills specialist in tropical fruits. Now as head of the tree committee, she and a team of eight are responsible for feeding and pruning the tree and harvesting and distributing the fruit. The last part can be tricky. Harvesting the six coffee plants, for example, is a chore.