Los Angeles

Wildflowering L.A.

Fritz Haeg transforms urban lots into natural beauty

Of all the places I’ve visited, California has become a second home to me. It has a special place in my heart, with its lush blend of timelessness and cultivation, and its vast and varying landscapes, which leave little to the imagination. So when someone makes that into sustainable art? Simply magical!

Artist Fritz Haeg is renowned for creative works that empower people and their environments. That was the case in his Edible Estates project, where he encouraged homeowners to rip out their front lawns, in favor of planting fruit and vegetable gardens. With that tradition in mind, he pursued another initiative called Wildflowering L.A.

Residential hillside site #38.

In urban planning, decisions are commonly made by a committee of experts with their own vision, usually lacking the input of the locals. But Fritz’s project involved the community, soliciting them to transform pieces of L.A. land into wildflower meadows. Based on an open call, locations were considered for “public visibility and distribution,” then narrowed down to fifty selections. In the fall of 2013, each piece of land was sown with a custom wildflower mixture—for either the breezy coasts, the boundless flatlands, the sloping hillsides, or the roadside stretches, inspired by Reyner Banham’s 1971 book, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies.

In the spring of 2014, the wildflowers blossomed, enhancing the county’s native charms. To herald the project, a public exhibition was held that summer, along with an accompanying book.

Tom McKenzie with his cat, Raffaello, at hillside site #46, which he helped to spearhead.

This was Fritz’s last venture in Los Angeles before fully committing to his new long-term art project at Salmon Creek Farm in Northern California, which I hope to visit (in addition to his former Sundown Residence/L.A. Domestead).

Because Fritz would be moving on soon, it made the experience even more meaningful for Roman Jaster and Nicole Jaffe, also known as Yay Brigade, the designers of Wildflowering L.A. Roman came up with the initiative’s graphical identity, its wooden signs, and its posters. After that, Nicole joined the team to design the book.

Nicole explains, “There is an ease and joy to the design, which goes along with the Southern California vibe. Sunny yellow feels like a very Southern California color.”

Roman adds, “The color for the signs (a grey/brown) was achieved by burning the wood with a blowtorch. This conceptually relates to wild fires, which are an important part in the story of wildflowers.”

Although the book tells the project’s story from start to finish, it isn’t meant to be a glossy art book, destined to collect dust on a coffee table. It’s functional and uplifting as well as lovely, a manual on how to grow your own wildflowering meadow—with helpful instructions from the Theodore Payne Foundation—and a showcase of before/after photos of the prettiest plots.

It’s a particular delight of mine to see initiatives like this. Much more than scenic aesthetics, it’s the natural artistry of contemporary times working to enhance our old world soil—a combination that has always drawn me in. Even today, we can still bring out the land’s true purpose.

This past year, some of the locations enjoyed a flourishing re-bloom. In fact, Westridge School, one of the Wildflowering L.A. sites, has developed a curriculum to involve seventh graders in the initiative, with the hope of using harvested seeds from their plot to plant a habitat garden on campus. And so the project lives on, just like my appreciation for it.


Buy the book here!


Photos by Yay Brigade.