To make the Orange Line busway bloom, landscapers undertook one of the largest plantings ever in Southern California, with 850,000 plants and 5,000 trees now growing along the 14-mile route. The $20 million project was so large, designers couldn’t find enough mature plants for the job and had to have nurseries grow the shrubs from cuttings. The effort transformed the former railroad right-of-way from a dirt stretch covered with weeds and trash into a ribbon of green foliage from North Hollywood to Woodland Hills. “It’s turned out better than I expected. It’s a tremendous boost to the community,” said Peer Ghent, president of the Valley Glen Neighborhood Association, who helped oversee the Orange Line landscape design. Native plants such as the coast live oak, the sycamore and the tiny apricot-petal sticky monkey flower will attract native birds and wildlife and help give the Orange Line a sense of place, so riders know they’re in Southern California. Ghent and other community activists pushed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to beautify the busway, calling it a one-time opportunity to break up the asphalt environment and add thousands of plants and trees to the urban landscape. Initially the MTA planned to irrigate only the 14 stations and along soundwalls where vines were being grown as a deterrent to graffiti. But after community activists complained that the plants would wilt without water, the MTA agreed to spend $2 million more to irrigate the entire route. The agency stuck with drought-tolerant plants, however, in hope of limiting water usage, Transportation Planning Manager Kathleen Sanchez said. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week And the MTA installed special purple pipe along the route to use recycled water from the Tillman Wastewater Treatment Plant in the future. Today, even Sanchez is pleasantly surprised by the result. “I thought it was going to look more sparse than it does. It looks great.” Landscape designers chose native plants that reflect the San Fernando Valley’s heritage and other hardy, drought-tolerant plants to withstand the scorching summers with little water. In the Sepulveda Basin, activists persuaded MTA officials to use only California native plants, including some shrubs and trees of types found in the Valley before it was developed. “It brings a little more naturalness to the Valley. If you have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create wildlife habitat, then that’s something you shouldn’t ignore,” said Steve Hartman, treasurer of the California Native Plant Society and a Valley resident. The hardy, drought-tolerant and native plants need little water, fertilizer or maintenance. No mowing is required, which means less use of gasoline and less air pollution. Mowing an acre of grass costs roughly $250 a year in gasoline. Landscape architect and urban forester Guy Stivers helped choose the Orange Line palette, and he hopes the busway landscaping will attract folks to drought-tolerant and native plants. “As they cruise by at 50 mph, they are going to see a mosaic of grays, browns, rust colors and light greens. It should be a lot more dynamic than your run-of-the-mill landscape,” he said. There will be some other surprises for bus riders, said Bill Ropp of Valley Crest Landscape Development, which did the planting. “Very observant people will notice very deliberate placement of trees,” Ropp said, refusing to divulge the secret of the design. “Ride the bus and see.” Kerry Cavanaugh, (818) 713-3746 [email protected] STICKY SITUATION The sticky monkey flower is a California native plant that sprouts tiny apricot-color flowers at the end of the year. It’s one of nearly 850,000 native and drought-tolerant plants set along the Orange Line. The MTA also planted more than 5,000 trees, including California natives, such as the bushy yellow-flowered palo verde, the coast live oak and the cottonwood, whose leaves turn bright yellow in the fall. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!