LETTERS FROM THE GARDEN

Health Benefits of the Urban Tree Canopy: Paloma Avila

Health Benefits of the Urban Tree Canopy: Paloma Avila

Paloma Avila is a birder, gardener, tiny-owl-enthusiast, and certified CA naturalist. As Arlington Garden’s former Program and Development Manager, she piloted the Roots and Regeneration public program series. She is presently Grants Writer at the Trust for Public Land.

Faced with climate change, ordinary life in Southern California will become more difficult. Surface temperatures will increase in urban areas, creating hotter urban microclimates; heat waves will cause numerous health problems; and dust domes will concentrate unhealthy heat and pollution over cities.

Los Angeles and its surrounding cities can expect more extreme heat events in the years to come. Cities have a many impermeable surfaces – such as buildings, sidewalks and roads – that tend to trap and retain heat, causing an “urban heat island” effect. Not only will people be affected by the high temperatures, air quality will worsen as well. According to a study on climate change and the Mediterranean climate by Paz et al., high temperatures in cities tend to raise the levels of ozone and pollutants (1).

Our region can mitigate some of these negative health effects by focusing on our tree canopy. read more…

Exploring the Mycoverse: Aaron Tupac-Thompson

Exploring the Mycoverse: Aaron Tupac-Thompson

Pictured: Oak-loving Trich (Tricholoma dryophilum)

Aaron Tupac-Thompson is the personable and passionate organizer behind Exploring the Mycoverse, a community science project dedicated to fungi and hosted by Arlington Garden. Tupac-Thompson organizes “fungi reading discussions, fungi film screenings, fungi forays, fungi feasts … all to connect fungi-curious folks with each other and fungi.” The following interview is a wide ranging discussion of fungi and fungi-plant relationships. It been edited and organized for clarity and length.

Andrew Jewell (AJ): Hello Aaron! You organize and facilitate the local community mycology group called “Exploring the Mycoverse.” What is the Mycoverse?

Aaron Tupac-Thompson (AT): Okay, golly gosh, I will probably go off on some of these topics … it’s hard for me not to!

AJ: I would love to facilitate you going off on the topics that you care about! Everyone seems to be passionate about everything in the age of self-marketing, but a lot of things in the world are worth being passionate about, and fungi are definitely one of those!

AT: So, the “Mycoverse” is a term coined by the North American mycologist Paul Stamets, to describe how life on earth has its origins from fungi. For example, it is thought that plants moved on to land over 450 million years with a fungal symbiotic relationship to harvest nutrients from the land in exchange for sugars produced by the plants’ ability to photosynthesize. It’s an ancient relationship. Everywhere we look we are surrounded by fungi. We are entangled in the mycoverse: the world co-created by fungi. I can talk about this stuff all day … !

AJ: What about being into mushrooms in Southern California? Isn’t it too dry for mushrooms?

AT: Most people don’t think to go looking for mushrooms in Southern California, but they do exist! Just last month I went up into the San Gabriel Mountains up to where the snow was melting and found a species of mushroom – Subalpine waxycap, Hygrophorus subalpinus (pictured above)that had never been documented on iNaturalist this far south in Southern California. There’s so much exciting research and conservation work to be done.

AJ: Did you hunt for mushrooms as a child? Did you have (or do you have) a favorite fungus?

AT: It’s hard to say which is my favorite fungus.  I can say one of my favorite to teach folks about since it’s very common in our area, is Schizophyllum commune, Split-gill fungus. It currently can even be found in Arlington Garden year round on the decomposing hugel logs in the three sisters garden! On fungi forays I love introducing folks to these shelf-like mushrooms that grow on dead trees. They look rather alien with fuzzy textured caps and gills that split when the mushroom dries out.

Also fun fact – Schizophyllum commune (pictured below) has 23,328 distinct mating types, akin to what we call sexes. It’s pretty much the ultimate queer, non-binary fungus. As a non-binary queer person, it’s important to me to share the queer stories of our more- than-human neighbors. read more…

Non-native Birds at Arlington: Bob Gorcik

Non-native Birds at Arlington: Bob Gorcik

Pictured: Red-whiskered Bulbul at Arlington Garden. Credit: William Hallstrom.

One of the most frequently seen non-native bird in Arlington Garden and surrounding areas is the Red-whiskered Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus). This berry-eating bird, originally native to tropical Asia, has been introduced to Australia, Florida, Hawaii, and Los Angeles. For decades, the Red-whiskered Bulbul seemed to be mostly confined to its original site of introduction (in 1968): the Huntington Botanical Gardens. While they have more recently started to expand to other parts of greater Los Angeles, they are still not commonly seen beyond the Pasadena, San Marino, and western San Gabriel Valley area.

Another bird originally from tropical Asia, the Scaly-breasted Munia or Nutmeg Mannikin (Lonchura punctulata) has been introduced into our area a bit more recently.  This bird tends to travel in large flocks, and since it travels often, it can be seen in one locale today and be gone tomorrow. I personally only recall seeing these in Arlington Garden since 2020.

No discussion of non-native bird species in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley is complete, however, without talking about our species of feral parrots. There are a lot of myths surrounding the origin of our parrot flocks. One legend has it that at least some of them descend from parrots that escaped a pet shop that caught fire in 1969. But this has never been confirmed. The chaparral and oak woodlands could not have sustained these species that evolved in tropical forest ecosystems, but our palm, ficus, and other fruit trees provide these parrots with plenty to eat and space to nest. read more…

Backyard Urban Gardening and Acts of Remembering: Capri Williams and Joanna Glovinsky

Backyard Urban Gardening and Acts of Remembering: Capri Williams and Joanna Glovinsky

Pictured: Citrus 101 workshop participants with Capri Williams (center) Credit: Joanna Glovinsky

Joanna Glovinsky is the founder of local fruit tree education and service provider Fruitstitute. Capri Williams is a horticulturist and expert fruit tree educator. Arlington Garden partnered with Fruitstitute in the summer of 2021 to offer workshops (“Citrus 101”) in our orange grove. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.

AG: Could you tell us a little bit about how you became interested in the noble profession of horticulture? What experiences led you to start Fruitstitute, Joanna? 

Joanna Glovinsky: Before I lived in Los Angeles, I was living in Guatemala in an agrarian society. That’s when my food changed, my body changed, everything changed. That’s also where I got into food and learned about food systems. 

I got into graduate school here at USC, and my biggest concern about moving back to the States was ‘what am I gonna eat?’ So I’m in school for communications getting my Masters in like, propaganda essentially, but uh….

AG: Just your usual skill!

JG: Yeah! I mean, I always say I got my Master’s in communications and came out a gardener. But that’s pretty much what happened! When I was in grad school, I started working for Ron Finley, and that’s how I got into the world of urban agriculture.

I graduated from school and had my “dream job” [lined up at a think tank], and I was like… “Yeah, I’d rather be shoveling shit!” And that was when I realized that I needed to pursue horticultural work. I volunteered at Huntington Ranch, which is where I took my first class in fruit tree pruning, and I realized: oh, I get fruit tree pruning … I was born to prune!

From there I started working for Fallen Fruit. And that is how [eventually] I ended up founding Fruitstitute. read more…

Remembering Betty and Charles McKenney: George Brumder

Remembering Betty and Charles McKenney: George Brumder

Pictured: Betty and Charles “Kicker” McKenney

George Brumder is former President of the Arlington Garden in Pasadena Board of Directors and current Board member. He has been a supporter of Arlington Garden since its beginning. In this interview, he discusses the early stages of Arlington Garden and the role of our founders Betty and Charles “Kicker” McKenney in its creation.

AG: How did you first become involved with the garden? What led you to become a supporter and board member?

George Brumder (GB): I grew up in Milwaukee, a place where there are four entirely distinct seasons, and my family spent summers and many weekends during the year in the country on a lake in the woods. Nature was always close, important and appreciated by me and my family.

My wife Marilyn and I have lived in Pasadena for over 50 years, and we’ve always been involved with our own gardens at home. From early 1999 through 2010 I was the founding chair of the Southern California branch of the Mediterranean Garden Society, a non-profit organization headquartered in Athens that’s a resource for gardeners in the world’s mediterranean climate regions. I was on the MGS board from 2004 through 2012. In 1999 I joined the LA Arboretum’s board of trustees and was board president for 4-plus years starting in 2000. I’ve been on the board of the Men’s Garden Club of Los Angeles since 1993, and I was program chair for 6-plus years and president in 2005 and 2006. Marilyn and I have visited many gardens, gardeners, garden designers, garden writers and plantspeople around the world.

I know meaningful connections with nature contribute to physical, mental and emotional health.  I also know that gardens are places of learning, enjoyment and inspiration. We’re in a mediterranean climate, and it’s important for people to know that and understand what that means.  Increasingly as our population density grows, too few Southern Californians have a real connection with nature. Arlington Garden responds to all these considerations, so I’m happy to help. read more…

Native Birds of Arlington Garden: Bob Gorcik

Native Birds of Arlington Garden: Bob Gorcik

Northern Mockingbird, image courtesy of William Hallstrom.

Bob Gorcik volunteers at Arlington Garden. He has been a birder since he was in middle school. As an undergraduate in college, he was a wildlife research assistant, which allowed him to study birds up close.

In this segment I’ll be introducing some of the native birds that can be seen in and around not only Arlington Garden but also in some common urban California environments, such as small city parks and the minimal landscaping surrounding apartment buildings.

Perhaps the best local bird to start out with is the familiar gray-colored long-tailed Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos). Despite the name, they are generally only found in the southern half of the US (and Mexico) where they are typically the most common native songbird in urban and suburban areas. Easily identified by their ability to mimic other birds (hence their name) they sometimes sing well into the night, especially during mating season, often to the annoyance of local residents who are trying to sleep!

Another of the most common native birds that can be found not only in Arlington Garden but around nearly any residential street and small city park is the House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). These common finches, characterized by the red-headed males were originally only found in the southwest quarter of the US until introduced to the east coast in the 1940s and is now found across the mid-latitudes of North America.

A member of the Flycatcher family of passerines, the Black Phoebe (Sayornis nigricans) is more limited to California and parts of the US Southwest than the previously two mentioned birds. The original habitat of Black Phoebes were any riparian corridors with abundant vegetation and flying insects to eat, especially where there is steep river banks for nesting, but they have adapted very well to similarly nesting under roof eaves of buildings wherever there are trees nearby and water from hoses and sprinklers and their subsequent runoff. read more…

Freeways: A Brief History of Demolition and Separation

Freeways: A Brief History of Demolition and Separation

Brian Biery is a community organizer, documentary photographer, and Adjunct Professor of Advocacy/Social Justice at Pacific Oaks College. His world view has been shaped by serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala and by engaging his community on social justice issues for over 20 years.

The construction of freeways and interstate highways has long been the subject of intense scrutiny.  Who decides which route should be taken and what is their rationale for making that decision?  How do highways impact communities of color?  How are displaced families relocated and made whole financially?  What are the health impacts of major highways located adjacent to residential areas?  Which communities suffer the brunt of those impacts?  And, here in Southern California, will the freeway soon become obsolete and require further enhancements to meet the needs of a society that is dependent on motorized vehicles?

Historically racial and economic segregation in urban communities is often described as a natural consequence of poor choices by individuals. In reality, however, racially and economically segregated cities are the result of many factors, including the nation’s interstate highway system. In states around the country, highway construction displaced poor and minority households.  And it cut the heart and soul out of thriving minority communities as homes, churches, schools, and businesses were destroyed.  read more…

The Future of the California Lawn

The Future of the California Lawn

Paloma Avila is Program and Development Manager at Arlington Garden Pasadena and co-host of Beyond Freeways. 

According to the University of California Cooperative Extension, landscape irrigation accounts for about 50% of annual residential water consumption statewide. Since lawn irrigation makes up such a large proportion of this consumption, one simple way we can reduce residential water use quickly is by removing non-native, water-demanding lawns. In addition to the water demands of turf, lawn irrigation wastes water through run-off and introduces pesticides and chemical fertilizers into the ecosystem. Even “water-wise” technologies create harmful impacts when installed incorrectly.

Given the negative environmental impacts, why are lawns so pervasive in California?  read more…

A Climate Change Garden

A Climate Change Garden

Andrew Jewell, Communications and Volunteer Manager

It is now widely appreciated that the global climate is irreversibly changed and will continue to change in our lifetimes. The magnitude of the change depends on what human beings can accomplish in the years ahead. The recent IPCCC report shows an average temperature increase between 1.2 degrees C (the most optimistic model) and 3 degrees C (the least optimistic model in which carbon emissions double by mid-century) by 2040-2060. [1]

This means that, within the next 20-40 years, the global average surface temperature will increase by an appreciable amount even in the best case scenario. Even in the best case scenario — and, to be clear, this is not the scenario that current policies put us on track to face — many parts of the world will experience an increase in extreme heat events, flooding, and droughts. This is dangerous to both human beings and the diversity of life on this planet. read more…

Why a tree survey?

Why a tree survey?

by William Hallstrom (Arlington Garden volunteer)

For the past few months, most of the volunteer crew at Arlington Garden have spent at least some of their time wrapping the trunks of each of the garden’s trees with the kind of soft tape measure you might use for sewing, looking up to the highest branches and pacing underneath them while jotting down notes. It’s all part of the tree survey, one of the recent volunteer projects at the garden, whose goal is to determine how much carbon is being sequestered by the trees in Arlington Garden. read more…

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