LETTERS FROM THE GARDEN

Nature Relations w/ Evellyn Rosas

Nature Relations w/ Evellyn Rosas

Evellyn Rosas and Krystle Yu are members of the LA Nature for All Leadership Academy 2020 cohort. As part of their final project for LA Nature for All, they designed and implemented a digital audio tour for Arlington Garden that you can access here. In this interview, we talk with Evellyn Rosas about the tour, her inspirations, her relationship with nature, and how she is working to promote inclusion in outdoor and conservation circles. 

AG: Evellyn, can you tell us a little bit about your background and how it might have led you to LA Nature for All? 

Hello, my name is Evellyn Rosas, and I was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. Since I started living in the San Gabriel Valley about three years ago, the natural surroundings provide a balance in my life. I enjoy finding ways to advocate for people or places that I love by searching for resources online or hearing from friends. 

I happened to see the Fall 2020 Leadership Academy application through an Instagram story, so I thought, “If this training is specifically for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of color) interested in environmental protection, I should try it since I identify as a person of color. “If not me, then who? If not now, when?”

The opportunity appeared at the right time when I needed a connection to people and nature during the Covid-19 pandemic.

AG: You and your partner Krystle Yu were both part of the 18th Cohort of LA Nature for All Leadership Academy. What is the Leadership Academy? What is its overarching goal or purpose? 

The Nature for All Leadership Academy is a leadership training program where Los Angeles community members learn to organize for the environmental protection and enhancement of our mountains, forests, rivers, parks, and urban open spaces. For more information about Nature for All’s mission and programs, you can also visit lanatureforall.org

To combine what we learned in the Academy, we were asked to organize a community engagement project. Krystle and I combined our ideas to develop a project that advocated for protecting urban green space(s) in Pasadena. Based on the 2016 Los Angeles Countywide Parks and Recreation Needs Assessment, we learned how much of the Pasadena population has accessibility to parks, recreation, and open spaces. Arlington Garden happened to be the ONLY public garden in Pasadena that was still community-supported and open during the pandemic.  read more…

Meet Our New Board Members!

Meet Our New Board Members!

Arlington Garden is happy to welcome three new members to our Board of Directors! In this interview, we talk about how their backgrounds will inform their work with Arlington Garden and what they envision for the future of the garden.

Vishaal Khanna is a project Manager, landscape designer, plant installation layout supervision, plant sourcing, and repository of botanical information at Elysian Landscapes. Melissa Weinberger is co-founder and partner at Touchton & Weinberger LLP. She is a supporter of criminal justice reform and a member of the federal indigent defense panel. Sybil Grant works for PolicyLink, a national research and action institute, advancing racial equity and community-driven public policies.

Arlington Garden: What is your background, and how do you think it will inform your work as a new board member? What are you most excited about working on?

Melissa Weinberger: I am a criminal defense attorney and for the past 15+ years have handled a wide variety of cases in both state and federal court. As one of the few lawyers on the board, I expect to use my legal skills from time to time, and I think my background and experience working in criminal justice will bring a unique and useful perspective. I am excited to work on Arlington Garden events where we bring diverse stakeholders together in a beautiful setting.

Vishaal Khanna: My passion for plants goes back to my early childhood.  My Grandmother Sybil was an avid gardener and instilled in me the love and patience of gardening. I studied Botany & Soil Science in school but realized I loved working with people and plants more than labs and wanted to do something that merged the two. My background in Landscape Design informs my perspective on how people interact with outdoor spaces. Thinking how present and future generations will use the gardens is incredibly inspiring! I’m looking forward to bringing more plant education and signage into the gardens and also working on a Master Plan for Arlington Gardens.

Sybil Grant: For the past five years, I have planned, planted, and maintained a native plant garden at my home. My professional background is in political advocacy, working to advance racial equity and pass community-led public policies. I’m excited about our initiatives to bring more outdoor learning opportunities to Pasadena students. read more…

Year-Round Birds of Southern California: Bob Gorcik

Year-Round Birds of Southern California: Bob Gorcik

Image credit VJAnderson, adult male Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus)

Bob Gorcik volunteers in Arlington Garden when his work schedule allows him to do so and has been a birder since he was in middle school.  As an undergraduate, he had multiple opportunities to as a wildlife research assistant, where he got to study birds up close.

In this month’s column, I will be talking about some of the bird that can be seen in and around Arlington Garden that can be commonly found in parks, gardens, and large residential properties that contain some native landscaping and small habitat fragments but are not likely to be seen right outside your window in your apartment complex’s courtyard.

These birds discussed this month lie somewhere between Wrentits, California Thrashers, and California Quail that are typically only heard and encountered on hiking trails that run through larger tracts of chapparal and coastal sage scrub and those that can easily be found in small city parks in the heart of urban centers, such as mockingbirds, house finches, black phoebes, and hummingbirds. Unlike the birds discussed in my previous segment, these birds discussed below are year-round residents.

One bird that many find to be cute due to their tiny size and their tendency to form large flocks that flit from tree to tree is the Bushtit (Psaltriparus minimus) which can be found nearly anywhere where you have large, branching trees, especially our native Coast Live Oaks. Wherever seed heads of many kinds of trees and wildflowers are allowed to be left on branches, grasses, and wildflowers, you will certainly see pairs of Lesser Goldfinches (Spinus psaltria) in many parks, gardens, and fields. read more…

Arlington Garden IDEA Statement

Arlington Garden IDEA Statement

Arlington Garden’s Commitment

When 275 Arlington Drive was nothing but a barren lot, our founders Betty and Charles McKenney envisioned Arlington Garden to be a place where everyone, no matter their background or circumstance, could find joy and inspiration amongst nature.

Over the years, the Garden’s leadership has sought to carry forward this vision by keeping the garden free and open to the public, as well as by engaging with our stakeholders and in our own governance. But we know we cannot be complacent. As a community-built habitat garden, we want to represent our community’s cultural and ecological diversity, advance gardening practices that regenerate and heal the planet, and be an advocate for the right of all to equitably access nature and public space. And so, after a year-long journey of self-reflection, honest conversations, and learning, we are humbled to share with you our first Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access (IDEA) statement. It seeks to underscore our organization’s commitment to these fundamental values, lay the groundwork for how they will affect our priorities moving forward, and hold us accountable.

Our path certainly does not stop here. As a society, we are facing monumental challenges posed by climate change, racial inequity, and environmental injustice. But we truly believe that Arlington Garden has a role to play in driving local solutions to such global problems. Indeed, the Garden’s very existence is an embodiment of the positive change that is possible when we come together with an open heart. We invite you to join us in exploring how the Arlington Garden community can contribute to this historic moment and uplift voices working for a better, more just world. We hope to hear from you.

As always, with immense gratitude,

The Board and Staff of Arlington Garden in Pasadena

Please read Arlington Garden’s IDEA Statement below. read more…

Birds of Arlington: Bob Gorcik

Birds of Arlington: Bob Gorcik

image from Michelle Matthews

Bob Gorcik volunteers in Arlington Garden when his work schedule allows him to do so and has been a birder since he was in middle school.  As an undergraduate, he had multiple opportunities to as a wildlife research assistant, where he got to study birds up close.

Arlington Garden in Pasadena is a local birding hotspot.  The native California and Mediterranean flora found throughout the garden provide food sources for a great diversity of bird species. The fact that the garden is made up of smaller sections representing the many ecosystems that can be found in our region also contributes to the diversity of birds that can be found in it. Throughout 2021, I will be sharing a short segment on different subgroups of birds that can be found throughout Garden and in backyards around Pasadena.

The Garden can be a great spot for birdwatching anytime of the year, but the winter months from December through March are particularly productive. In order to escape the cold weather, many birds who spend their summers and breeding seasons in the mountains and northern conifer forests overwinter here in coastal California. Below is a summary of some of the winter residents one may find in Arlington Garden and surrounding areas of Pasadena.

Birds that can be frequently seen in the garden include Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus), Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa), and Western Tanagers (Piranga ludoviciana). The Hermit Thrush has one of the most beautiful flute-like songs of any bird, evoking forested wilderness, however they do not sing this song in the winter. The oak grove and conifer grove on the northwest side of the garden are perhaps the best places to spot these birds. Another bird that is commonly found here in the winter is the Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), a bird with a great slick-back crest with dark marks around the eye and a spot of red and yellow on the tail. These birds are major fruit and berry eaters. They fly around in flocks and can be quite common, although they tend to stay high up in the canopy of trees, so that it can be difficult to observe them. read more…

Friends of Arlington: Roberto Gabriel, Raptor Photographer

Friends of Arlington: Roberto Gabriel, Raptor Photographer

Michelle Matthews: In a new occasional interview feature, we talk with friends of Arlington Garden about their passions. I first met Roberto Gabriel in July of 2017 when I started as Executive Director of Arlington Garden. I spoke with him on his way to work, and this is an edited version of our conversation. All images courtesy of Gabriel Roberto. 

MM: Can you give us a little background about yourself? What drew you to photography? And how do you think it relates to the rest of your daily life?

RG: I’ve been taking photos for about three and a half years now: a friend at my Muay Thai gym lent me his camera and encouraged me to take photos.

I was born in El Salvador and my grandmother is Palestinian. I was raised in Belize and came to the US when I was 14. It was a shock to me how developed LA was, and I didn’t find natural spots until I was in my 20s while running and training in Eaton Canyon and Ascot Hills. I’ve been an EMT for five years, and typically work 12-14 hours each shift.

MM: You are clearly a raptor enthusiast: what is it about raptors that interests you?

I love all birds of prey – love owls and their big eyes, and try to catch them before sunrise – you have to be patient and wait, because they are really good at blending into the environment. I love when their eyes are all dilated first thing in the morning and the way they hunt. read more…

Chaos and Diversity, Designing With Emotion: Bob Perry

Chaos and Diversity, Designing With Emotion: Bob Perry

Robert (Bob) Perry, FASLA is Professor Emeritus of Landscape Architecture at Cal Poly Pomona. He has been a landscape architect since 1972 and has written three award-winning books on Californian and Western landscape plants. His most recent book is Landscape Plants for California Gardens, which received an ASLA Southern California Chapter Honor Award in 2011. He is currently working on a website reference tool for gardeners and designers. The interview included Michelle Matthews, Executive Director of Arlington Garden, and it has been edited for both clarity and length. 

All website and landscape images provided courtesy of Bob Perry.

AG: There are clearly aspects of the landscape, climate, and plant life in Southern California that fascinate you. Are you originally from Southern California?

Robert Perry (RP): I am a California native. I was born less than five miles from Arlington Garden at Huntington Hospital, and I grew up in both Pasadena and Eagle Rock. I have a deep connection to much of the city of Pasadena, although it’s changed enormously in recent years, and to the San Gabriel Mountains and the Arroyo Seco. I went to college at Cal Poly Pomona and eventually moved as far away as Berkeley for graduate school. Following graduate school, I had the opportunity to return to Cal Poly Pomona where my interest in plants, and my focus on writing and teaching, really began.

Without a doubt, I can speak most confidently about plant ecology and architecture in Southern California. Right now, I am working on a website that is focused on plants in the state of California as a whole. Hence, I have an endless checklist of places to visit in Central and Northern California to strengthen my understanding and descriptions.

AG: You are a landscape architect with a long history in Southern California. As well as a designer, you are also an educator, author, and academic. Could you briefly describe these different aspects of your professional career?

RP: At the end of graduate school, I took the license exam [for landscape architecture] and began teaching at Cal Poly Pomona in 1972. Cal Poly Pomona was not a research institution when I was hired, so faculty were expected to be engaged in practice. I have enjoyed teaching and practicing architecture in parallel all these years.

I would say my design work started out on a fairly limited scale. I worked in small landscape offices concurrently with teaching, nothing of great note or distinction, but as with any landscape project, I gained experience by being exposed to a wide variety of things. My design practice was the lesser of my two areas of development until I wrote my first book in 1981. That book provided me with a lot of visibility and increased my opportunities. read more…

Sweet Sixteen

Sweet Sixteen

pictured above: Mayita Dinos, designer of Arlington Garden, and community members soon after breaking ground on construction of the garden.

Dear Garden Supporters,

2020 will be remembered as the year everything changed, and I hope that 2021 will be the year that everything started to change for the better, but that will be up to us.

This year marks our 16th Anniversary, our “Sweet 16,” because the garden was founded from togetherness and community and brings joy and respite to so many. We will continue to celebrate safely from a distance, until we can gather in person, with more virtual programs organized by our Programs and Development Manager, Paloma Avila and interviews in Letters from the Garden, by Communications and Volunteer Manager, Andrew Jewell.  We also have a new Garden Representative, Maggie Smart McCabe, to enforce photo permits and sell marmalade, and a new board president Kimberly Fung Jacobsen. We are kicking off the year with our annual Board retreat, and we will share the results of last year’s work in our upcoming annual report as well as in our updated strategic plan and diversity, equity and inclusion statement.  read more…

The Little Garden That Could

The Little Garden That Could

It has been exactly eight months since we went on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that time, we have seen a significant reduction in earned income, but more people are coming to the garden, since we have remained open while beaches, playgrounds, paid access gardens and national parks closed. Many of our regular volunteers stopped coming as many of them are high-risk, including some of our staff.

This is why we took the precaution of temporarily closing the garden on Tuesdays while we conduct maintenance. With the all time record breaking heat, ongoing 100+ degree days (now a month into fall) smoke from devastating wildfires since August, we haven’t been able to garden as much, yet Arlington remains healthy, albeit a little more wild than usual. read more…

Landscape Pedagogy: Tahereh Sheerazie

Landscape Pedagogy: Tahereh Sheerazie

Tahereh Sheerazie is a fabric artist, landscape designer, educator, and avid hiker. In this conversation, she discusses her artistic and design inspirations, her views on education, and her work establishing a school garden in Shigar, Pakistan. You can learn more about her on Instagram and the world wide web. The image above depicts a screen-printed and embroidered fabric panel by Tahereh Sheerazie.

All images provided courtesy of Tahereh Sheerazie.

 

AG: You are an artist and a garden designer (obviously, those need not be separate things). Could you describe your art practice?

Tahereh Sheerazie (TS): They call my work “Fabric Art” in today’s parlance. I call it “reusing fabric scraps of any color, shape, size and texture.” Mostly, the resulting ‘art’ that I produce is a quilt. From time to time, I use the fabric to simply collage together abstract depictions (unintentionally) of the garden and all that encompasses its life.

I used to be a co-owner of a clothing company, so I have had access to infinite supplies of fabric. I also come from a culture where our clothing uses lots of fabric: there is never a shortage of cutting up a shalwar, a kamiz, a gharara, a sari or a duppatta that have seen their day.

AG: What motivates your work as an artist?

TS: The simplest way I can describe what informs my art is that it is an expression of being me.

The seasons, the mood, the conversations, personal and/or political, the time of life, are all aspects [of me] that drive the compositions. Fabric pieces are the ink that write the words, which are sometimes really simple to express but are often complex ideas that I have no other way to describe eloquently except by putting all the pieces together. read more…

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