LETTERS FROM THE GARDEN
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…
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…
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…
For the next month, Letters from the Garden will be focusing on art related to gardening and the natural world. The artist and naturalist Margaret Gallagher created Arlington Garden’s 15th Anniversary poster (see detail from the poster above) which is available as a black-and-white digital coloring page and a special edition color print for the garden’s crowdfunding campaign. She is currently an artist in residence at California Botanical Garden and is studying to become a botanist. All images provided courtesy of Margaret Gallagher.
AG: In August, Arlington Garden is celebrating art in (and about) gardens and wildlife. Your work is predominantly about wildlife and the natural (viz. non-human) environment. Can you talk a little about how you came to focus on these topics in your art?
MG: I’ve always been in love with nature. I had a really special childhood – I grew up surrounded by nature on a farm in rural Oregon with a river running through it and a woodland nearby. My mother is an avid gardener and my dad is a birder, and they imparted their appreciation for the natural world to their kids. I could walk out the door by myself or with my siblings and spend all day in the gardens and fields looking at bugs. For a long time, that was enough for me – I just liked to be outdoors, to soak up the feeling of it. When I moved to Los Angeles for college (I studied art at Occidental) that changed. Los Angeles was such a different world, and I was completely fascinated by the complex intermixing of wildlife and people here.
You live in this vast urban landscape, yet coyotes stroll down the middle of the street at night, raucous flocks of parrots rule the neighborhood trees, and you round a corner onto an undeveloped hillside covered with native plants and butterflies. I didn’t have a car for a long time – I got around by bike – so I saw a lot more of the city wildlife than you do when you drive. The mystery of the urban ecosystem just totally fired up my imagination, and I felt compelled to tell this story through my artwork. read more…
Melissodes sp. on the photographer’s finger, photo courtesy of Krystle Hickman
In partnership with LA Nature for All, Earth Share is a series of conversations on IGTV with the goal of sharing knowledge and inspiration with organizations and individuals caring for the Earth. The following is a partial transcript of our conversation with Krystle Hickman, native bee photographer and community scientist. It has been edited for length and clarity. All images courtesy of Krystle Hickman.
Krystle: I guess that’s kind of a complicated question to answer because it changes and evolves with me. Whatever I say right now may change in the future. As a child, nature was something where I went outside and just enjoyed it. There wasn’t a lot of thought that went into it. As I got older it became a place where I could escape and meditate. Since I have gotten into photography lately and specifically bee photography, I started to see how complex nature actually is and how there are different interlocking features. It is something I am really starting to admire, appreciate and really value.
PA: What are your earliest memories of being in nature?
KH: I would say the first memories I have of being in nature are of when I lived in Omaha, Nebraska… I remember my mom had these rose bushes on the side of the house and there were ladybugs just all over it. So I would spend hours with the ladybugs. In certain times of the year, box elder bugs would show up, and then it changed to spiders, so I would have spiders in cups that I would bring inside that no one liked except for me … I went camping a lot too. Specifically with the Girl Scouts: they would call me the “Bug Inspector” because I would just pick up anything! read more…
Some gardens look the same year-round. Lawns are mowed and treated; hedges are trimmed; weeds are cut-back; and leaves are blown away. In contrast, Arlington Garden wears its changes on its sleeve. The garden appears quite different in August than it does in March.
These changes are rooted in Arlington Garden’s vision of gardening: we are a climate-appropriate, habitat garden using regenerative gardening techniques.
We are a climate-appropriate habitat garden
Arlington Garden is a climate-appropriate, habitat garden, which means we grow plants that evolved in mediterranean climates with wet winters and dry summers. In the summer, these plants go dormant (not dead) and adorn the garden with the subtle colors of dormancy: gold, amber, and sienna predominate, interspersed with white from the native White Sage (Salvia apiana), sage green from Artemisia californica, and punctuated by contrasting rust-toned buckwheat (Eriogonum) seed-heads.
Many so-called “weeds” provide food and shelter to native birds and insects, so we leave some in the garden. If you have visited recently, you may have noticed tall sow thistles (plants in the genus Sonchus), which attract ladybugs and provide ample food for goldfinches. And you will have seen some weedy, non-native grasses, which provide shelter for native bees. read more…
Resilience Gardening is a monthly feature during the pandemic in which our Director of Horticulture gives advice to gardeners interested in regenerative gardening. This month, we discuss gardening for wildlife.
(1) You use regenerative gardening practices at Arlington Garden — how would you characterize regenerative gardening and how does it help create habitat for our local species?
My gardening philosophy, even before I knew the expression “regenerative gardening,” has always been to imitate the natural processes that occur in forests. The most important among these are rebuilding the soil by avoiding soil disturbance (to encourage the network of beneficial fungi), capturing rainwater, and putting carbon (in the form of brown plant matter) back into the soil to sequester it.
By using these practices, your garden is going to be well-balanced, and it will not require the use of pesticides or other chemical agents such as fertilizers. This balance allows the garden to support a great diversity of plants and associated insects, which are all part of this system, and provide food and shelter for native birds and other animals. read more…
In partnership with LA Nature for All, Earth Share is a series of conversations on IGTV with the goal of sharing knowledge and inspiration with organizations and individuals caring for the Earth. The following is a partial transcript of our conversation with Tim Martinez, Land and Program Administrator at the Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Paloma Avila: We would like to start by asking you, what does nature mean to you?
Tim Martinez: What a question, you know? I think about nature all of the time, but what does nature itself mean? Really, I see nature as our underlying reality.
We do separate ourselves from it a lot in our civilization, where a lot of things can be artificial. We can be abstracted away from nature. But when I think “what does nature mean to me?” it seems hard to be truly separate from nature. It’s not just the trees and ecosystem. It’s all of reality. Ultimately, I think it’s hard not to be in nature.
When I’m out in a more-or-less intact ecosystem or native habitat, that’s the highest representation of reality and natural order. This is the environment that all life evolved into and so, for me, this is the highest manifestation of reality. There’s so much to be learned from that. read more…
Image credit Jane Glicksman, photo of Lois Brunet at Arlington Garden
106 years have passed since the extinction of the Passenger Pigeon, which went from flocks of hundreds of millions crossing the landscape like storms to a single bird “Martha” — the last of her species — who died in captivity in 1914. Unrestricted commercial hunting and trapping, among other causes, were responsible for the sudden and terrible disappearance.
Pasadena Audubon was founded in 1904, near the end of this extended disappearance, in order to protect another native pigeon (the Mourning Dove) from the same indiscriminate slaughter. One of its founding members, Scott Way, called the first meeting of the Society after responding to gunshots only to discover a wagon stacked full of dead doves.
Frank Leslie’s Illustrated News (vol. XXV, no. 625, p. 8), 1867, “Shooting wild pigeons in Iowa”
The Society was originally named the “California Audubon Society,” and it was the first such organization in California. In fact, at 116 years old, it is older than the national Audubon organization, which was founded one year after Pasadena Audubon. read more…
In partnership with LA Nature for All, Earth Share is a series of conversations on IGTV with the goal of sharing knowledge and inspiration with local organizations and individuals caring for the Earth. The following is a partial transcript of our conversation with Rishi Kumar, founder of the Sarvodaya Institute and Healing Gardens Co. It has been edited for length.
Paloma Avila: What does nature mean to you?
Rishi Kumar: I have come to realize that nature means everything. In some sense, to me, it has become a word that … we have chosen to limit the meaning of. And a lot of times, in my view, we have used inappropriately. Nature is everything: nature is everywhere. What we are doing as urban gardeners is really realizing that you don’t need to go anywhere to find nature, it’s in front of you, or it’s with you because she is you.
Healing Gardens Co(mmunity) is all about connecting people with the healing power of gardens, especially people who do not have access to gardens in urban areas. read more…