This is how the seating outside Galileo's Cafe used to look. All photos by Bob Hyland.
This past August 21st on my daily walk in Balboa Park I discovered an amazing sight outside Galileo’s, the cafe at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center.
What had been a rather mundane seating area was now a flower garden complete with new umbrella tables and snazzy trash receptacles. I learned that it had all been installed just a couple of hours before I stopped by. There was no construction required. It is entirely portable.
I nicknamed it Galileo’s Garden of Discovery. How appropriate that it was created by a science museum.
See this Flickr album for many more photos of the garden taken over the past 3 months. I have not had time to edit them.
Having been in the plant business for over forty years, I am not easily impressed. I was with what I saw that day. I have not seen a flowering container garden of this quality anywhere in San Diego and wondered who installed such a professional looking project.
The big surprise was the answer I got from an email query to the Fleet Science Center. To my absolute amazement I discovered that a Fleet Science Center manager did the job with help from the Galileo staff. This is a D.I.Y project that used readily available components in the hands of highly motivated people.
The even bigger surprise is that the rolling planters boxes are sub-irrigated planters (SIPs). Though there should be, there are no other SIPs in Balboa Park. There are none that I know of in the entire city. Further, this fabulous garden is a SIP roll-on, roll off (RORO) garden.
Galileo's staff rolls it out in the morning and then rolls it back inside the museum in the evening. How creative! San Diego has an annual Orchids and Onions award program. It just passed in October. I would not hesitate to give this project an Orchid Award.
The Fleet Science Center staff manager responsible for the project should be recognized. The Balboa Park Conservancy would be an appropriate organization to do this.
Here we are 81 days later and this garden still has flowers though understandably diminished. All the while it has been conserving water as compared to traditional "drench and drain" planters that are the norm throughout the park. SIPs are a passive form of hydroponics that typically saves in the range of 70% of the water wasted by drench and drain irrigation.
Why is it that SIPs are not the standard for use with any watertight planter throughout Balboa Park and the entire State of California during a drought crisis? The SIP plumbing costs little and works in a wide range of watertight planters from small pots to large raised beds. Who knows how many millions of gallons of precious water are wasted by inefficient drench and drain irrigation?
Even the large concrete in situ planters in the park could be converted to SIPs. All it takes is some sweat equity and know-how.
It is appropriate to compare the Galileo’s garden to the 50 urn type planters with succulents in Plaza de Panama that are top watered with a hose. These low water usage plants are in sorry shape. Many have died and many others are half dead.
What if all of the planters in Balboa Park were SIPs? Compare them to this succulent test garden that I installed nearby to the park last year. Unfortunately, neither the San Diego Park and Recreation Department or the myriads of gardening volunteers who flood the park have professional sub-irrigation experience.