LETTERS FROM THE GARDEN
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 Michael Martinez, founder and Executive Director of LA COMPOST. It has been edited for length.
Paloma Avila: What does nature mean to you?
Michael Martinez: Nature to me, really is just life. I feel like, growing up, I would often box that term to mean only things that were really distant from me or things we would have to go visit. I grew up here in the San Gabriel Valley: when we go to the mountains, we’re in nature; go to a lake, we’re in nature; river, ocean. Little by little as I grew up, I realized that nature isn’t what’s around us, it is us. We are nature, we are a part of it and how our effort and role is connected to it, it is one and the same.
I also feel that, for us at LA Compost, when I say “connecting the people of L.A. to the soil,” it’s essentially connecting people to life, what brings life. And reminding people of our humanity and recognizing that when the Earth is in pain that is also because we are in pain. The intersection between it all, I feel, is important to recognize. It is not some distant thing. Even if you are in Los Angeles, with an apartment, the alleyways, your backyard, and your window view is a cement brick wall, you are a representation of nature in and wherever you are. read more…
Tim Becker, Director of Horticulture at the Theodore Payne Foundation, shares his thoughts about native plant gardening, the relationship between natural landscapes and gardens, and the history of the California Native Plant Walk at Arlington Garden. This interview has been edited for length.
AG: How did the California Native Plant Walk / demonstration garden come to be?
TB: Making beautiful native plant gardens accessible to the public is a core part of our strategy [at Theodore Payne Foundation] to bringing about a greater awareness of native plants and their use in home and commercial landscapes. Kyra Saegusa, who was working as a special projects coordinator at the time, reached out to us in mid-2017 to see if we were interested in pursuing a project in an area of the garden that had been formally designated as a wildflower meadow. We had actually been in touch previously through our Garden Share Network program which links free plants with gardeners/gardens in exchange for stock material of uncommon natives so as to preserve them horticulturally.
This new project was really about creating a solid stand of native plants to inspire people about how they add value to their garden, but also to promote butterfly habitat in the garden, which I believe was part of the objectives of AG at the time. AG Director Michelle Mathews also came on board right around the time this project started so it was also a great way for our organizations to connect and evaluate how we could enhance each other’s mission and co-promote natives through AG. 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 Brenda Kyle, Volunteer Coordinator at the Theodore Payne Foundation. It has been edited for length.
Paloma Avila: I wanted you to talk about your experience with Nature for All and your connection with them.
Brenda Kyle: It was a very positive experience learning organizing. I think we all know how to organize, we just need to brush up on those skills. And art as activism. That blew my mind. And activism is storytelling, that’s the one that really stuck with me personally: Storytelling is activism. That oral tradition, getting someone to empathize with what you’re saying, maybe not to convince, but maybe to have them see things a little differently.
PA: Can you tell us about some of the work, and I know you do a lot of work all over the place, but some of the work you’re doing now?
BK: Right now, I have been quietly organizing to get binoculars so that we can get more people of color out birding. It hasn’t been easy, it has been very difficult on a very personal level. But the only way we can normalize seeing people of color out in nature is by being the people of color out in nature. read more…
Dear Supporter of Arlington Garden,
We must come together as a community to build healthy communities, dismantle structural racism and inequality, and defeat White Supremacy. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and many other Black people has led to peaceful protests and gatherings to mourn. Protests like these are the foundation of democracy, and I hope that they lead to real, positive, and equitable change within our communities and in our relationships to nature. I encourage you to take action, make your voices heard, and support the survivors, leaders, and organizers leading the protests.
The task to combat racism and build a healthier community must be multifaceted, holistic, and personal. One of the ways is advocating for access to public outdoor space. read more…
Resilience Gardening is a monthly feature during the pandemic in which our Director of Horticulture Leigh Talmo gives advice to new gardeners interested in regenerative gardening. This month, we discuss gardening with native plants.
AG: Summer is approaching! Are pandemic gardeners in Southern California still able to plant native species in their garden?
LT: I do not recommend it. The time to plant in Southern California is in the cooler Fall through Spring (basically the so-called “rainy season”). Even in the Fall and Spring, you will want to plant on a day that is cool and not (for example) during one of our inevitable Fall heatwaves.
Most of what you can do now is plan for the planting season: figure out what species you would like to plant and make some sketches. Be sure to research the mature size of the species you are interested in! When you buy native plants, you often find them in smaller-sized pots, but your little purchase might grow to be a 20 feet high shrub!
Waiting until the Fall is difficult, but you can water the area that you intend to plant occasionally to help activate the microorganisms in the soil. And you can build swales and basins (if appropriate) to redirect and utilize rainwater on the site. 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.
ES: What does nature mean to you?
MM: Nature is everywhere!
When I was younger, I thought I had to escape LA to find nature. I moved to the Midwest because I thought I would be closer to nature in Chicago. Although I hated LA when I left, I loved it when I returned! And it took my leaving Los Angeles to understand that nature is everywhere: it’s just been covered up, built over, blown up, or destroyed. And because we are a part of nature, it is our job to help it regenerate, be renewed, and be restored. read more…
In part two of our two-part interview, Mayita Dinos (the designer of Arlington Garden) discusses what drew to her garden design, her journey from Puerto Rico to Europe and then back to the US, and shares some reading recommendations.
AG: Can you remember the moment you decided to become a garden designer?
MD: I remember that moment very, very well!!
It was 1971. I was floundering in college, not being able to decide on a major. For Mother’s Day, my grandmother gave my mother three bare-root fruit trees for the backyard. My mother asked me not to get her anything, but instead, to plant the trees for her. I agreed to do that; I was skeptical about their survival, because they seemed quite dead to me — brown twigs with no leaves!
Time passed…I wasn’t spending much time at home, so it came as quite a surprise when one day I walked into the backyard, and saw the trees were covered in green leaves and flowers. It seemed like a miracle. I just kept thinking, “I made that happen”! It was as powerful a feeling as a spiritual epiphany. In fact, I like to think of it that way! It was very spiritual, and I wanted IN. So I decided to become a landscape architect, and applied to the University of Wisconsin, Madison. read more…
Photo credit Markus Spiske.
Resilience Gardening is a new feature during the pandemic in which Director of Horticulture Leigh Talmo gives tips to new gardeners interested in regenerative gardening. This month, we discuss starting a new balcony container garden.
AG: What is the first thing to do to get started with a food garden? What if you only have a sunny balcony?
LT: If you are gardening on a sunny balcony, you will need some kind of container. Get creative with this! You can build a box, reuse a shipping crate, or repurpose old nursery pots. I have even planted in a recycled French Horn! Almost anything will work, so long as you put good soil in it. The most important thing is to grow your food in healthy soil.
Michelle Matthew, Executive Director of Arlington Garden, reflects on Earth Day, and what we can learn from Arlington Garden during the pandemic.
This year marks the 15th Anniversary of Arlington Garden and the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. But this Earth Day, April 22nd, we were closed. Our events have been canceled, and our efforts to celebrate have been postponed.
I know that there are many other anniversaries and celebrations being recognized in isolation, including congregations of ritual and gatherings to grieve and mourn. If anything, this pandemic is forcing us to acknowledge the importance of community and open space. Many of you may be walking more, driving less, meeting your neighbors, reaching out to your friends and family, and figuring out ways you can still connect. read more…
The pandemic has limited access to the garden for many members of our community. In response, we have put together this guided — and a little opinionated — photo-tour with some insights into the garden from its designer Mayita Dinos.
Arlington Garden was designed as a series of interconnected garden “rooms” showcasing mediterranean-climate plants and sustainable gardening techniques.
Its layout is intentionally labyrinthine. Secret chambers of flowers flicker into view between agaves, appearing unexpectedly behind switchbacks in garden trails. This layout makes it possible, says the garden’s designer Mayita Dinos, to wander and “imagine you are not even in a garden but rather … in a field or a nook in a forest.”