Saint Mary’s New California Native Plant Garden: A Multi-Purpose Eden

GardenOn a quiet morning walk through Saint Mary’s new garden that cradles Brousseau Hall, the senses are overwhelmed as you walk down the winding path. The sound of nature welcomes you with the hum of bees, the breeze of the butterflies, the sight of green flourishing all around, the smell of dirt beneath your feet, and the stillness and beauty of California nature.

As the new California Native Plant Garden blossoms outside Brousseau Hall, excitement about the project is blossoming, too. Once it is fully developed, the garden will be home to 147 species of plant life. “A lot of the plants are even starting to flower, which is a good sign,” Professor Carla Bossard says. “If they've got enough oomph to flower, it means they’re doing well.”

One of the spearheads for this project is Bossard, and her zeal for the garden and plant life is evident from her plant-ridden desk to her fitting forest green attire. Her office looks as if it were rooting into the school’s foundation and blossoming with plants, photos, books and enthusiasm.

Bossard, a biology professor who also teaches in the Environmental and Earth Science Department, hopes that future landscaping around Saint Mary’s campus will mirror the new California Native Plant Garden and that the school will keep riding the “sustainability wagon” and incorporate native plant life all around campus.

Along with Bossard, many peoples’ ideas factored into the construction of this garden, including landscape architect Chris Ford, and Biology and Environmental and Earth Science Professors Michael Marchetti and Alice Baldridge.

Students planting in the gardenThe garden contributes to the Saint Mary’s drive for sustainability because it conserves water, shuns chemical herbicides and pesticides that pollute the environment and harm animals, and provides on-campus resources for classes. In Bossard's words, it’s a “win, win, win.”

Various classes are already using the garden for its multitude of resources, including Botany, California Flora and Communities, Ecology, Environmental Earth Science, Environmental Chemistry, Geology, and Education classes. Students are no longer limited to the confines of their textbooks and are now studying species that are readily accessible. Students are studying the plants, soil, rocks, bugs and pollinators within the garden’s expanding environment.

This blossoming Eden has even provided inspiration for students’ senior projects.  Some students have been able to experiment with non-chemical repellant to ward off any unwanted deer chomping on the plants, now that there’s a garden in our own backyard. The garden is also designed to give students and faculty an aesthetically pleasing place to rest and commune with nature between busy class and work schedules.

The garden could take up to a year and a half to be fully established but when it does “everything will be quite green and blossoming,” Bossard says. The garden will have a mixture of different plants from different microhabitats in order to have “a wide variety of families and species represented,” she says. 

The new California Native Plant Garden has already contributed to the school’s curriculum, but it is also a tangible display of the ecologically friendly mentality that’s taking root on Saint Mary’s campus.

By Josephine Kirk '14

Note: Native plant species will be incorporated into the garden, and the School of Science welcomes donations of native plant species as seeds, bulbs and/or cuttings from anyone who wishes to contribute them. To donate, contact Carla Bossard at