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Arboretum, Huntington Gardens heavily hit by wind storm

December 20, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
The L.A. County Arboretum and Huntington Gardens are two of the truly beautiful spots in Southern California. But like much of the San Gabriel Valley, they got hammered by a recent severe windstorm.

Where beauty flourished, the wind battered down.

At the L.A. County Arboretum in Arcadia and the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, nature's majesty is surrounded by nature's mess?never have they been hit so hard.

"The good news is in a lot of these areas, the understory, the underplanting, were not damaged," said Arboretum Superintendent Tim Phillips.

It's a like a whole new world for Phillips. A mountain view didn't used to be visible, the canopy from oaks, acacia and eucalyptus was so dense.

"You had an immersion experience when you walked through here, it was deep and dark," said Phillips.

The Arboretum has been closed for three weeks. Pathways are now mostly clear of debris, but overhead there are hazards: Broken branches the size of telephone poles lodged in trees.

"We thought we were prepared as far as we had our chainsaws ready to go. We just didn't know the magnitude of what was going to happen," said Phillips.

From branches to big logs, there's so much to clean up, and the goal is to have it all cleared out by December 26.

Two-hundred-fifty trees were destroyed. Ultimately they will end up piled and mulched, a massive and expensive job.

A fundraising drive is now under way to seize on the opportunity for renewal.

"We are looking at gardens that focus on water conservation, how we can live in harmony with the Southern California environment and use water wisely," said Richard Schulhof, CEO of the Arboretum.

At the Huntington, the Japanese garden suffered damage to a few paths and some bamboo.

"When these big root balls come up, they also destroy the irrigation system, they destroy the walls. It's a new project," said James Folsom, director of Botanical Gardens.

At the North Vista, the 17th century statuary survived with only minor injuries. But the 80-year-old camellias are now exposed to harsh sunlight. Throughout though, beauty remains.

"Please come. It's a great time of the year to be out in the garden and to be in Southern California," said Folsom.

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