LETTERS FROM THE GARDEN
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…
When people ask me what I do for a living, I struggle to find an answer. If I say I’m a gardener, I get one of two responses: “Oh that’s cute” or I watch in terror as a I shrink in their eyes into the “menial” class.
Sometimes I say I work on climate change and agriculture, other times I just say “sustainability consultant.” These sounds appropriately official, though neither feels good on me. 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 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…