It took her a year, but a Rosemont Middle School eighth-grader has dramatically transformed a plot of land on the school's campus into a garden, with plants native to the Verdugos and narrow-leaf milkweed to attract monarch butterflies.
With help from friends and support from her mom, 14-year old Ella Tamny uprooted weeds and replanted several non-native succulents elsewhere on campus to make room for native plants in an area she walked by every day on her way to class that was mostly a patch of dirt.
"It was kind of an obvious empty space that didn't look good in the first place," Ella said. "There used to be something there until they stopped taking care of it."
The Girl Scout planted the garden to earn her Silver Award, and surprised herself with how much she learned in the process.
She's worked in the rain, wind and summer heat.
She's also learned to delicately removed aphids, one by one, from the milkweed plants.
"Becoming too attached to plants is a problem I'd never thought I'd have," Ella said.
About a year ago, when she first embarked on the project, she planted seeds at home that she got through the Theodore Payne Foundation. Its advisors provided Ella with seeds and plants native to the foothills, including black sage, deerweed, golden yarrow and California buckwheat.
At home, Ella grew narrow-leaf milkweed and black sage from seeds before planting them at Rosemont in the garden, which also features silver bush lupine, coyote mint, verbena and Indian mallow.
The winter rains helped the plants to take root, and Ella has noticed many plants have doubled in size.
She designed the garden so that no matter what time of year, at least one plant will be in bloom.
Small creatures of all kinds have been spotted there — honeybees, bumblebees, beetles, ladybugs, hummingbirds, monarch caterpillars, butterflies, dragonflies, moths and crickets.
"It's been really interesting to see how quickly they found this place," Ella said.
Ella's botanical creation is now a part of the school. Students have paused to look at it, teachers have graded papers while seated by it and a Spanish class visited to practice their color vocabulary. Also, some students help water the garden every Thursday.
Ella plans to train several current Rosemont students to continue to nurture the garden next year when she will attend Crescenta Valley High School.