by LIZ ONUFER | photos by Alicia Jeanne Photography

The Power of Plants

volunteer_stein2For Naomi Stein, what grows at Alta Vista Botanical Gardens (AVBG) is a work of her creative expertise, profound loss, and a deep connection to nature. Naomi and her husband Bill have been involved with AVBG for close to a decade and were instrumental in the creation of the Children’s Music Garden and the Children’s Discovery Trail.

Naomi’s experience with gardening began when she and Bill and their two young children relocated from New Jersey to Vista in 1977. Shortly after, the couple started an outdoor design and construction company, Eco-Greenscape. This was only the beginning for Naomi’s work. “Working with plants got me interested in herbs and healing, so I took classes and received an herbalist certification,” Naomi shared. “I did many walks to teach students about the local herbs growing in Southern California, their identification, and uses for food, medicine, and survival.”


Name: Naomi Stein
Community: Vista
Volunteer Affiliation: Alta Vista Botanical Gardens
Hobbies: Volunteering, traveling, dancing

volunteer_stein7 volunteer_stein6 volunteer_stein5In 2008, Naomi and Bill lost their son Jeffrey, who suffered from a severe sleep disorder. As a self-taught musician, he would compose music on his sleepless nights, Naomi shared. “What kept him going was his music,” she said. Seeking a way to honor his life and love for music, Naomi and Bill designed and built the Children’s Music Garden at AVBG in their son’s name. The garden is outfitted with outdoor instruments and an unusual pebble chime. “The music garden turned out to be quite a hit with local families and brought many more people to the gardens,” Naomi said. “It’s so beautiful to see young children enjoy playing all the instruments.”

volunteer_stein4Soon after, Naomi and Bill joined the AVBG Board of Directors and have been involved ever since with volunteering and fundraising. “I enjoy giving back to the community, working with dedicated members, creating beauty, and seeing people enjoy and respect nature,” Naomi said. “I also feel that my knowledge in plants and landscape technology is needed and still put to good use.” Today, they are working on finishing the Children’s Discovery Trail, a trail with 18 quiz boxes with riddles related to nearby plants.

The gardens for Naomi provide a little respite from the world and a place to reconnect with nature. “It is relaxing, refreshing, good exercise, and important for one’s health and peace of mind to spend time in nature,” Naomi acknowledged. “With cell phones, computers, TV, and our fast-paced American life, we all need to get out and enjoy nature more.”