Next time you're stuck in L.A. traffic, take a look around. You might see bright, colorful wildflower fields covering the front yards of schools and houses.
Haeg chose 50 people to plant wildflower gardens throughout L.A. County. As the flowers are reaching peak bloom right about now, he hopes people will think about California's lost wildflower legacy and names like Theodore Payne — the legendary plant landscape architect and native plant advocate.
Haeg caught the gardening bug after moving to L.A. 15 years ago. He found an outlet in the Theodore Payne Foundation, a nonprofit nursery that sustains and sells California native plants.
"Theodore Payne did a very similar project over a hundred years ago, if you can believe it. He was already concerned about urbanization and a loss of native wildlife and landscape here," said Haeg. "He would do these walks and he would gather wildflower seeds in the hills around Los Angeles and create these mixes and try to sell them to urban residents to get them to plant them in the city."
Using these simple plants, Haeg said he can talk about the ecological implications of how we're living today.
"These sites have a future that each person, individually, can decide what they want to do on this land," said Haeg. "The seed bank of all these sites has been enriched with this wide diversity of wildflower seeds."
The flowers have already attracted native wildlife, too, including the exotic moth caterpillar.
"I think when you see that, you understand that there's a much more complex ecology at work here than just simple flowers," said Haeg. "They're part of a much bigger, interconnected story of our unique ecology in Southern California."
Haeg marked each Wildflowering site with large, rustic and wooden with big yellow lettering — very similar to the kind you'd see in State Parks around California.
"We, as Americans, have this internal trigger," said Haeg. "When we see a wood sign that's carved with yellow lettering, we pay attention. It's like something special is happening in the landscape. And I think part of the idea of the project was to bring that way of looking at things that we typically reserve for a state park into the city."