Compton native Brandy Williams’ discovered her passion for landscape design while creating a project for her master’s degree —a pollinator garden at Augustus F. Hawkins High School in the Vermont-Slauson neighborhood of South L.A.
The project immediately ignited her inner passion for garden design, and now William’s designs feature “California friendly” (those native to the state) plants. Williams also creates small garden plots, container gardens, raised garden beds and hydroponic systems as alternative options to the full-scale backyard garden— helping California residents to grow their own food.
“I had been working with plants with my grandmother ever since I was young,” Williams told Jeanette Marantos of the Los Angeles Times. “She taught me how to keep a garden clean and be resourceful. But I had no idea I would make it my work until this project in 2014. That’s when I learned who I was. Plants gave me the freedom to create.”
A pollinator garden is designed to attract bees, butterflies, moths, hummingbirds or other valuable beasts that transfer pollen from flower to flower.
And they are critical.
Pollinators have suffered from a significant loss of habitat, misuse of chemicals and integration of invasive plant and animal species.
Williams cites her grandmother as her most significant influence:
“I always say there were many paths that led me here. I have always been interested in and appreciated plants, but growing up in Compton with my grandmother, I was really influenced by her life in general,” she explained. “She grew up on a farm in Arkansas, and she and my grandfather were part of the great migration of Blacks who left the segregated South to move north and west, looking for better opportunities and education. They came west and settled in Compton.”
The Theodore Payne Foundation has made William’s garden part of its 2022 Native Plant Garden Tour on April 23-24. The tour features “extraordinary” landscapes where at least 50% of the plants are natives of California.
“I have a love for flowers and I always knew you needed pollinators [to get fruit], and growing up, whenever I saw a butterfly, I would stop in my tracks and be mesmerized. So I started researching. I learned about native plants through the Theodore Payne Foundation website — I took their certification program — and Las Pilitas Nursery in Santa Margarita. But I also did a lot of reading at the library. It’s like a field trip for me — some people go shopping, and I go to the Los Angeles Central Library downtown. I love the library.”