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This flower 'bed' is now in bloom

Sojourner Truth Park home to wildflower art installation

Red poppies
These red poppies are now the stars of the flower "bed"
at Sojourner Truth Park. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Nature doesn’t color inside the lines. What once looked like carefully crafted blocks of seed squares has yielded a crazy quilt of calico colors.

Spring (and a little irrigation) brought out the wildflowers planted in a “bed” at Sojourner Truth Park in Sacramento’s Greenhaven neighborhood. The seeds were sown in handmade paper quilt squares fastened in place last November by internationally known artist Jane Ingram Allen with the help of Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilman Rick Jennings.

Allen has made such flower beds blanketed with seed quilts around the globe. As she noted during its pre-Thanksgiving installation, nature makes the magic happen.

“I’m putting a quilt down to cover the Earth,” she said during the planting ceremony. “It will change over time. Nature will control it.”

Allen used the North Star quilt design, as a nod to the park’s namesake Sojourner Truth, a former slave, abolitionist and suffragist.

“The North Star was part of the secret code for escaping slaves,” Allen explained. “If they saw this quilt hanging outdoors, they knew which way was north—the way to freedom.”

But when the flowers bloomed this spring, it was difficult to tell any design. Instead, the bed bloomed in waves.

In late March, white sweet alyssum flowers popped out on the white bands that bordered each quilt square. Next, yellow tidytips bloomed in their little triangles, edging politely into the neighboring spaces. Then, the golden California poppies filled in the quilt’s center with a sprinkling of bright bluebonnets and lupines.

Quilt pattern of seed papers
Here's the planting design for the flower bed last November.
Below: What it looks like now.
Now, the quilt is a mass of red poppies, buzzing with bees. Purple sweet peas wind up the woven mulberry canes and grapevines that form the bed’s head and footboards. Those trellises were made by members of the Sacramento Weavers and Spinners Guild.

The neat outlines of the quilt blocks are only a memory as nature paints with a broader brush.

“With time, the color pattern will become very abstract,” Allen predicted. “That’s nature’s way.”

See for yourself. Located on Gloria Drive, the park is open daily dawn to dusk.

On Earth Day, Allen sent us a reminder about the display and to urge others to check it out, too. “I thought people might enjoy going to see the spectacular wildflowers blooming now in Spring 2021!” she said.

For more on Allen’s living art, check out her website, too:


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Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

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