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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 Jan. 29

Bundle up and get work done!

* Prune, prune, prune. Now is the time to cut back most deciduous trees and shrubs. The exceptions are spring-flowering shrubs such as lilacs.

* Now is the time to prune fruit trees, except apricot and cherry trees. Clean up leaves and debris around the trees to prevent the spread of disease.

* Prune roses, even if they’re still trying to bloom or sprouting new growth. Strip off any remaining leaves, so the bush will be able to put out new growth in early spring.

* Prune Christmas camellias (Camellia sasanqua), the early-flowering varieties, after their bloom. They don’t need much, but selective pruning can promote bushiness, upright growth and more bloom next winter. Feed with an acid-type fertilizer. But don’t feed your Japonica camellias until after they finish blooming next month. Feeding while camellias are in bloom may cause them to drop unopened buds.

* Clean up leaves and debris around your newly pruned roses and shrubs. Put down fresh mulch or bark to keep roots cozy.

* Apply horticultural oil to fruit trees to control scale, mites and aphids. Oils need 24 hours of dry weather after application to be effective.

* This is also the time to spray a copper-based oil to peach and nectarine trees to fight leaf curl. Avoid spraying on windy days.

* Divide daylilies, Shasta daisies and other perennials.

* Cut back and divide chrysanthemums.

* Plant bare-root roses, trees and shrubs.

* Transplant pansies, violas, calendulas, English daisies, snapdragons and fairy primroses.

* In the vegetable garden, plant fava beans, head lettuce, mustard, onion sets, radicchio and radishes.

* Plant bare-root asparagus and root divisions of rhubarb.

* In the bulb department, plant callas, anemones, ranunculus and gladiolus for bloom from late spring into summer.

* Plant blooming azaleas, camellias and rhododendrons. If you’re shopping for these beautiful landscape plants, you can now find them in full flower at local nurseries.

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