In a nod to Sojourner Truth, a work of gardening art blooms in Sacramento

Nature doesn’t color inside the lines. What once looked like carefully crafted blocks yielded a crazy quilt of calico colors.

Spring (and a little irrigation) brought out the wildflowers planted in a “bed” at Sojourner Truth Park in Sacramento’s Greenhaven neighborhood. The seeds were sown in handmade paper quilt squares fastened in place last November by internationally known artist Jane Ingram Allen with the help of Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Councilman Rick Jennings.

Allen has made such flower beds blanketed with seed quilts around the globe. As she noted during its pre-Thanksgiving installation, nature makes the magic happen. 

“I’m putting a quilt down to cover the Earth,” she said during the planting ceremony. “It will change over time. Nature will control it.”

Allen used the North Star quilt design, as a nod to the park’s namesake Sojourner Truth, a former slave, abolitionist and suffragist. 

“The North Star was part of the secret code for escaping slaves,” Allen explained. “If they saw this quilt hanging outdoors, they knew which way was north—the way to freedom.”

But when the flowers bloomed this spring, it was difficult to tell any design. Instead, the bed bloomed in waves.

In late March, white sweet alyssum flowers popped out on the white bands that bordered each quilt square. Next, yellow tidytips bloomed in their little triangles, edging politely into the neighboring spaces. Then, the golden California poppies filled in the quilt’s center with a sprinkling of bright bluebonnets and lupines.

Now, the quilt is a mass of red poppies, buzzing with bees. Purple sweet peas wind up the woven mulberry canes and grapevines that form the bed’s head and footboards. Those trellises were made by members of the Sacramento Weavers and Spinners Guild. 

The neat outlines of the quilt blocks are only a memory as nature paints with a broader brush. 

“With time, the color pattern will become very abstract,” Allen predicted. “That’s nature’s way.”

See for yourself. Located on Gloria Drive, the park is open daily dawn to dusk.

On Earth Day, Allen sent us a reminder about the display and urge others to check it out, too. “I thought people might enjoy going to see the spectacular wildflowers blooming now in Spring 2021!” she said.

For more on Allen’s living art, check out her website, too:

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