-- Story by Mary A. Castillo, photo by TKTK
HE IS: Keeping the parks of Laguna Beach in bloom.
TOP OF THE WORLD
While the neighborhood children play in the sand box and residents
walk their dogs through Alta Laguna Park, city gardener Andrew Kliss is
busy making sure the plants are healthy.
“I make sure everything looks good,” he said. “But for the most part,
we allow nature to take care of itself.”
Since June 1985, Kliss has commuted from Escondido to beautify the
city of Laguna Beach. At the beginning he was in charge of City Hall, the
planters in downtown and the employee parking lot. His last assignment
before coming to Alta Laguna in 1993 was Main Beach.
“I guess you could say it’s in the genes,” he said. “My mom loved
gardening and always talked about how her grandmother had one of the most
beautiful flower gardens.”
A FAMILIAR FACE
Along with his rakes and shovels, Kliss always comes to “his office”
with biscuits for the dogs who regularly walk their owners through the
park. As proof, one miniature Doberman named Junior bounded across the
lawn the minute he spotted Kliss.
“I’ve made some really good friends up here,” he said.
From the way he greets the people who power walk, stroll or play
tennis, Kliss has gotten to know not only their names but also what’s
happening in their lives.
As a resident of Escondido, he appreciates the contrast between the
two cities. “Escondido is a real down home place,” he said. “But Laguna
has a lot of great, interesting people.”
A NATURAL CHALLENGE
Although Alta Laguna Park commands an impressive view of the West
Ridge Trail, it presented a challenge to Kliss.
“The soil is sandstone and its like putting a plant into a cement
container,” he explained. After several plants perished, Kliss eventually
found the right plants and trees that didn’t mind poor drainage.
He pointed out Mexican bush sage, Mexican lobelia, rock rose,
butterfly bush and pride of Madera that fill the park with year-round
color. But the one that he is most proud of is the bald cypress that sits
next to the baseball field.
“It doesn’t mind sitting in muck,” he said with a smile.
Kliss’ typical work day starts with an inspection of the playground.
In addition to Alta Laguna he is also responsible for some of the
lookouts throughout the city. He makes sure the park is clean of litter
and graffiti. However, what has kept him in the job for so many years is
the opportunity for creativity.
“I can express myself in the work that I do,” he said. “Color schemes,
compositions and textures are my palette.”
Moreover, he credits the city for giving its gardeners quite a bit of
flexibility about what they plant and how its planted.
“Every park has a unique flavor because of the gardener who works it,”