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UCLA Clark Library’s Seed Library

William Andrew Clark Library in West Adams. The beautiful library grounds are open to the public.

We’ve written before about UCLA’s wonderful William Andrews Clark Library, at 2520 Cimarron St. in West Adams, but when we got a newsletter from the Clark’s Seed Library recently, we thought it was worth mentioning this particular resource again.

Overall, the Clark Library holds its namesake’s large collection of 17th and 18th century books, in a specially-built 1926 building designed by architect Robert D. Farquhar, which was deeded to what was at the time the University of California Southern Branch (before the the founding of UCLA in 1927). The historic facility is now maintained by UCLA as the nation’s first research center for early modern studies, and hosts a variety of special events (conferences, exhibits, lectures, concerts, etc.) related to its core interests.

But one of the library’s smaller and very distinct collections is an heirloom seed library, from which visitors can borrow seeds and grow their own plants that correspond to the library’s period of interest.

According to the recent newsletter, which highlights some of the library’s seasonal seed choices: “The Seed Library is well stocked with over 30 fruit, vegetable and legumes; and over 20 herbs, flowers, and California native plant varieties.

Clark Library’s Seed Catalogue

The full inventory includes:

Herbs: basil, chamomile, chives, coriander, dill, fennel, lemon bee balm

Fruits, veggies, and legumes: beans, Brussels sprouts, carrots (multiple varieties), citrus (multiple varieties), cucumbers (multiple varieties), cabbage, mustard greens, lettuce (multiple varieties), onion, peas (multiple varieties), sorrel, squash (multiple varieties), strawberries, tomatoes (multiple varieties)

Flowers: nasturtium (multiple varieties), sunflowers (multiple varieties), yarrow, zinnias

California Native Plants: clarkia, gilia, lupine, mugwort, sage

Some of these, especially the native plants, the Library cautions are better planted at other times of the year, when temperatures are cooler, but some – such as carrots, beets, Brussels sprouts, and onions, could be started indoors now, and transferred outside when the weather cools down.

This month’s newsletter also includes a lot of information about one particular early summer bloomer, the nasturtium, or Tropaeolum minus, which grows almost anywhere and – in addition to providing “riotous bursts of color” in “an array of colors from light cream, yellow, orange, deep reddish purple, and combinations” – is also fully edible (both flowers and leaves). The Clark offers packets of both Alaska Red Shades nasturtiums or Tom Thumb Black Velvet seeds in the Seed Library.

Blooming nasturtiums. Photo from the Clark Seed Library newsletter.

Also, in keeping with the overall theme of the Library, the Clark offers instructions from the  London and Country Cook recipe book, published in 1789, on pickling nasturtium buds, which can be used like capers:

Photo from the Clark Seed Library newsletter.

The librarian who recently tested the recipe reported in the newsletter that she “kept the spices simple with just salt and pepper, and sprinkled them on top of a bagel with cream cheese and smoked salmon. Each bite provided a little burst of acid to cut the other flavors – delicious!”

The Clark Library itself is open to visitors and researchers by appointment only, or during special events, but the large, beautiful library grounds are open to the public  Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer (closed Fridays and on UCLA holidays).

The lush location, which includes several stunning Rusty Leaf Fig trees, and one huge Moreton Bay Fig, is perfect for a peaceful stroll, and the Library notes that during the summer, you can also see many resident breeding birds, including “Dark-eyed Juncos, Western Bluebirds, and Lesser Goldfinches. Hooded Orioles can also be seen in the summer, building woven nests and raising their young in palm trees all across the city, including here!”

Also, “On breezy days the wind chimes can be heard, and even on the hottest days our many trees provide shade for your visit, whether it be bird watching, bringing a picnic, or just taking a stroll around the perimeter of the grounds.”

The Clark’s Moreton Bay fig tree has inspired many photographers.

If you’d like to pick up seeds from the library, or just peruse this highly specialized collection and its beautiful home, librarian Rebecca Fenning Marschall told the Buzz that a “satellite seed library basket” is available in the library’s entrance area the bottom floor of the glass-and-brick entry pavilion, near the door to the library reading room, during the weekday hours the grounds are open to the public. The full seed library is also available in the library vestibule during special events that are open to the public (though you’ll probably have to wait until late September for more of those).

Also, says Marschall, “anyone interested in scheduling a tour of the historic parts of the library building (where the seed library cabinet lives!) is welcome to contact our main library email address for a visit: [email protected].”

Finally, it’s worth noting that “while we always accept seed donations if you’re so inclined, saving and returning seeds is not a requirement for using the seed library!”

For more information about the Clark Library and its Seed Library, see Questions and suggestions for seeds to add to the library are also always welcome at [email protected].

Photo from the Clark Seed Library newsletter.


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Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller
Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and has been writing for the Buzz since 2015.

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