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The Swimmer Medicinal Garden was originally planted in 2011 under the direction of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands. It was completely restored in 2017 with a donation from the Swimmer Family. 

Since many of the original plants had died off, and many had become weedy, we had to remove most of the vegetation and then renew the soil..  New plants were selected and installed in October, and a deep layer of ‘gorilla hair’ redwood mulch was applied.

A specially designed irrigation system was installed, using micro spray heads and a smart controller.  The signage was professionally designed (by Holly Hampton of Sussman Prejza) and manufactured.  On completion of the restoration a ‘Grand Opening’ ceremony was enjoyed by all the parties and many members of the Swimmer family in June of 2018.

About The Swimmer Medicinal Garden

Text of the Introductory Sign at the Garden

The plants displayed here are representative of the hundreds of plants used by local Native American tribes for medicinal purposes.  These plants were discovered and identified over thousands of years of experimentation and were deemed by tribal healers to be effective in treating various ailments. The main tribes considered here are the Tongva, in the Los Angeles area, the Chumash along the coast, and the Cahuilla in the desert areas.  Many of these plants are still used by tribal members to treat numerous ailments.


Various parts of the plants were harvested and processed into teas, or poultices, or salves.  A tribal healer-called a 'shaman'- administered the treatments, which often included sacred rituals, dreams, and healing songs.  Many of these rituals have been lost to our modern way of life.


But fortunately, not all has been lost, and some physicians today are conducting research and treating patients with these same native remedies.  Indeed, much of modern medicine was developed by research into native medicinal plants used all over the world. And to this day, a great deal of modern medical research is focused on finding and identifying useful plants that could become the cures for some of our most difficult medical challenges.


We hope you enjoy your visit to this beautiful and educational garden.


This garden is dedicated to the memory of Dr. David Swimmer, a physician in Santa Barbara, who was a pioneer in the use of native medicinal plants in his medical clinic.


The garden was constructed in 2017 with the loving hands of these expert craftspeople:


  • Michael Swimmer - Landscape Architect (retired)

  • Lisa Fimiani - Master Gardener and Naturalist

  • Lanny Kaufer - Nature Guide and Native Plant Expert

  • Exiquio de Leon - Landscape Contractor and Irrigation Expert

  • Everardo Berumen - Landscaper and Arborist


Funds were provided by the Swimmer Family Trust



Healing with Medicinal Plants of the West

by Cecilia Garcia - Chumash Healer, and James D. Adams, Jr. - Associate Professor of Pharmacology at USC


Temalpakh  Cahuilla Indian knowledge and usage of plants

by Lowell Bean – Professor of Anthropology at CSU Hayward, and Katherine Siva Saubel – Cahuilla tribal authority


Chumash Ethnobotany: Plant Knowledge Among the Chumash People of Southern California

by Jan Timbrook - Curator of Ethnography at Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History


The Drought Defying California Garden

by Greg Rubin and Lucy Warren - Native plant landscaping professionals


Tongva Medicinal Plants

by Mario Incayawar, M.D., M.Sc., Principal Investigator

Wildflowers of the Santa Monica Mountains

by Milt McAuley

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