Orinda Garden Club Welcomes “A Tale of Four Medians”

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(Sally Hogarty, Photographer)
New drought-resistant shrubs and trees adorn the medians along Camino Sobrante thanks to funding from the Orinda Garden Club, Orinda Park and Rec and Orinda residents Sylvia and Tim Carter.

    Dickens’ famous opening sentence of A Tale of Two Cities begins, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ….” So goes the tale of the Camino Pablo Median Renovation Plan Phase I (Plan). The old medians were filled with scrubby, half dead plants and detritus – that’s the “worst of times” from the Dickens quote. They now boast healthy plants chosen for their exact site – that’s “the best of times.” Medians A, B, C and D meander down the middle of Camino Pablo from south of Miner Road to North of Santa Maria Way. Median A is near El Toyonal, B is near Orinda Way, C is near Camino Sobrante and D is near Santa Maria Way.
    The project began in 2015 with the Orinda Garden Club’s (OGC) Orinda in Bloom Garden Tour fundraiser and a generous contribution from Sylvia and Tim Carter. Those funds were earmarked for renovation of the disused medians. Over time it grew to include funds from Orinda Parks and Rec plus expertise from the Orinda Public Works Dept. and CalTrans. The Plan required demolishing existing scrub landscape and [non-functional] irrigation, adding soil amendments and doing fine grading, excavating and installing a new irrigation system, planting trees, shrubs and ground cover and placing mulch and 66 boulders of different sizes.
    The OGC has persevered through three presidents since the inception of the project. Current President Cathleen Sodos was the chair of the 2015 fundraiser and had a commitment to see the project through to ensure the $50K raised was properly allocated. She is very pleased that the Orinda Public Works Dept. and the Parks and Rec Dept. are open to working with groups such as the OGC in a collaborative fashion.
    Several agencies had to sign off because of compliance requirements and $120,000 later, Phase I is now complete. Sodos goes on to say, “We appreciate the time and effort of Director of Public Works Larry Theis, who carefully guided the project to completion and kept us informed.  Our members Margie Murphy (recent past president), Shari Bashin-Sullivan, Sylvia Carter and Janet Riley have been steadfast in their concern and generous with their time as well.  We look forward to working with the City of Orinda on future beautification projects.”  To learn more about OGC activities go to www.orindagc.org.
    All of the plants are drought tolerant, require low maintenance and are buttoned up with three inches of mulch. The plan includes 13 Quercus agrifolia or Coast Live Oak trees and 15 Arbutus ‘marina’ or Marina Strawberry trees. Shrubs listed on the Plan include 37 Arctostaphylos ‘Pacific Mist’ or Manzanita, 79 Nerium oleander ‘Dwarf White Sands Oleander’ and 119 Lomandra longifolia or Dwarf Mat Rush. The plan required dismantling and removal of the existing non-functional watering system and installing an up-to-date system. This was the most expensive and time consuming part of the renovation, requiring extensive trenching and work-arounds to avoid existing utilities and CalTrans signage.
    Despite various obstacles, the OGC has now created over 260 beautiful, drought tolerant, low maintenance plants for community members to enjoy while driving, biking or walking past these much more attractive medians. OGC members gratefully acknowledge the contributions of the Orinda Public Works Department and the Cal trans crew who contributed to the planting, watering and mulching necessary for the new plants.

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