Friday, December 23, 2011

Groovy Zoo Gardens

If you love gardening, want to discover some new plants, and make new friends who understand why you have dirt under your fingernails, how about volunteering at your local zoo? More about tapping this mother lode of horticultural fun in a second, but first, a quick detour...

I was always grateful my former neighbor Janie, the elephant tender at the Santa Barbara Zoo, didn't bring her work home with her. The steps to her second story apartment were not up to her "co-workers" popping in for an after-hours beer.

I was thinking about Janie - who has since moved up the food chain to the San Diego Wild Animal Park - the other day while researching a story on zoo landscaping. I was admiring the Santa Barbara Zoo's Asian elephants as they reached for stalks of bamboo and giant bird of paradise leaves, suspended from a towering umbrella-covered support system. Their meal hadn't traveled far. Called "browse" in zoo parlance, these munchies were harvested from landscaped areas around the grounds, doing double duty not only as a staple in the diets of zoo inhabitants (gorillas and giraffes get second "dibs"), but also as ornamental plants simulating of each animal's native habitat.

Wanna see penguins and palm trees? Follow this link...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I am writing from Big Bear Lake, CA.
The Big Bear Alpine Zoo (formerly Moonridge Animal Park) is building a new zoo, which we all want to be as green as possible. One of the ways we could do this is what you mentioned in the blog: growing a lot of the zoo's food and browse needs on site.

I am trying to do a little research on this for the zoo, and I would love some pointers from the research you are doing/have done on this. My email is