Our Land of OZ at the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park

by on June 1, 2023 · 1 comment

in Ocean Beach

By Kathy Blavatt

All photos by Kathy Blavatt

Did you know Sunset Cliffs Natural Park has its version of a Yellow Brick Road? It is a sight to behold.

Instead of the land of Oz’s Yellow Brick Road, the park’s walkways are dirt pathways that meander the cliffs and the hillsides.

The Sunset Cliffs Natural Park paths are devoid of fields of OZ’s poppies, but instead paths are lined with countless yellow daisies that blanket the landscape. The cliffside pathways lead to magical views.

The Land of OZ and Emerald City were creations by the mind of author Frank Baum. Baum was a Theosophist with ties to Point Loma’s White City, also known as Lomaland. The White City sat on the top of the hill overlooking what is now Sunset Cliffs Natural Park. Its buildings started going up shortly before the 1900s.
Just like OZ’s Wizard, the magical White City was built by a person with a fanciful vision and a dream of a special place of enlightenment.

The person that created this utopia was Theosophist Madame Katheryn Tingley, also known as the Purple Mother.

Tingley’s vision included the arts, education, world peace, the teaching of Theosophy, and many other lofty goals. Beyond these, she wanted to create a paradise. Her vision for property (above historic postcard) included building purple glass dome buildings that lit up at night, the first Greek-style amphitheater built in the USA, a school with housing, and much more.

Tingley’s home (above) was built 1909, in Lomaland (now PLNU) was the first home in Point Loma to have electricity.

Beyond the Lomaland buildings it was covered by a large canopy of diverse trees. Tingley and top horticulturists, botanists and many others created a garden paradise. Tingley and prominent peninsula residents lined streets with trees, small farms, beautifully landscaped yards, and landscaped open spaces. The surrounding community inspired many wealthy and enterprising people to build extraordinary homes and gardens. Kate Sessions and the Robinsons (who created Rosecroft Gardens) were some of the many who transformed the Point Loma peninsula into a wonderland of plants from around the world. They also brought fruit trees, edible plants, and exotics which they propagated.

Lomaland declined, suffered financial strains, and moved after the death of Tingley in 1929. Sadly, many of the lovely pines, cypress, avocado trees, palms, and other mature trees on the peninsula have died or cut down in recent decades.

Sunset Cliffs Park volunteers have struggled to replant the park with native plants, but the daisies still fill the hillsides with carpets of yellow blossoms. This wet year the daisies made a grand showing, and their seed will come to life in following years.

Mixed in with these daisies are some native varieties and native sunflowers.

The park also has native plants that blossom in purple, white, and shades of red.

This rainy Spring in 2023 was a glorious time to visit the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park and see its views with the ocean backdrop, including seeing Coronado Island on a very clear day. The lone tree below the parking lot sprang forth with new growth as it hangs onto life.

This is not the Cowardly Lion or Toto, but he is one of the happiest dog to play among the daisies. This handsome lad loved having me take over a dozen photo of him. He was quite the smiler!

After this year of rain, Sunset Cliffs was not the only area to benefit from the extra water. My garden looks like a Monet painting with a full pallet of colors. I couldn’t help being inspired to use Photoshops Stylize Filter – Oil Brush on my photos.

Naturisms, Peruvian Lilies, succulents, fruit trees and many variety of plants delight passers-by as they look at the garden in full bloom.
The most striking plant is my Puya Alpestris Bromeliad in the Puya family.

My Puya Alpestris plant is the most precious plant gift given to me by a neighbor and former garden mentor Louise Pierson who passed away years back at other age of 96. She had gifted me one of her lovely bromeliad plants for my 50th birthday.

This bromeliad’s flower is a unique dark turquoise color with a contrasting orange center. This unusual flower sometimes takes decades to bloom, yet its offspring decided to bloom its exotic stem of flowers this Spring, 14 years from the plant's last bloom!

The Puya family genus is an abundant species, but few are grown for cultivation in the United States, though there are seeds and starts available from specialty retailers. You can see Puya Alpestris at some botanical gardens, including San Diego County Botanical Garden (formally Quail’s Garden).

2019 photo view from the east of trees which were planted on the former Lomaland property at the to of the hill.

Recently I read a New York Times article, “Diana Beresford-Kroeger on What Can We Learn from Nature’s Technology.” It stresses the importance of trees.

Madame Tingley and her associates were an example of the importance of forestry as they headed down the green path over a century ago when they planted 50,000 trees on the peninsula.

It’s time to learn, listen, plant, and protect the trees and their needs.

The following link goes to a fascinating and educational video interview linking past and present ideas relating to nature and trees by Diana Beresford-Kroeger on What Can We Learn from Nature’s Technology.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Laura Dennison June 3, 2023 at 1:04 pm

Thank you Kathy, for sharing with us OBceans the long-ago days of our beloved and eclectic peninsula!


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