LETTERS FROM THE GARDEN
Tahereh Sheerazie is Head Gardener at Arlington Garden. In this travelogue, she shares her experience hiking through the 2022 monsoons in Chitral, Pakistan that caused record-breaking flooding and describes some of the resilient people and landscapes she met in the high mountains.
We knew it would rain in Chitral (Pakistan) for the first week of our scheduled trek. Our guide Ishfaq was convinced the rain would last only a day or two, so we took our chances. We had picked the end of August to do the journey, since locals had told us it’s the best time of the year to visit Chitral. The monsoons would have subsided; the weather would not be too cold nor too hot; and most of the crowds would have left, since schools reopen in mid-August. It turns out that the monsoons had not let up. But the crowds had definitely left! read more…
Arlington, Overworld is a monthly series devoted to the ecology, history, horticulture, and biology of plants in Arlington Garden. The “overworld” is the highest-level map of a videogame showing mountains, forests, kingdoms, dungeons, and treacherous wastes. Not part of normal gameplay, the overworld facilitates progression from level to level — A.J. Jewell.
Western sycamore: Planatus racemosa, aliso (Spanish), sā-vār or shă-var’ (Tongva)
Origin: California Floristic Province, riparian areas near the coast and some inland areas
Mature height and width: 40-80 ft. tall, 30-50 ft. wide.
Gardening notes: winter deciduous; thrives with significant amounts of water in well-draining soils; best planted near swales, streams, or seeps; otherwise supplemental moisture is required.
Sycamore trees are apparitions of riparian or seasonally wet habitats across Central and Southern California extending into Mexico. The pale white and grey trunks of mature specimens can reach several metres in circumference, growing at odd angles from the ground with branches gnarled and leaves muttering in the wind. The local El Cajon author and postal worker W.S. Head fancifully but correctly called this species “the Queen of the elfin forest” and cites “someone” as calling it “the ghost that stands with its feet in the water” [Head, 41]. read more…
Brian Schopfel is the founder and CEO of sound experiences producer Floating who will be curating our 2022 Autumn in the Garden. The LAT recently profiled Floating here. Read more about how nature changed his life here.
AJ: For those who don’t already know, what is Floating?
BS: Floating hosts weekly sound and nature experiences in and around Los Angeles.
AJ: You describe Floating’s events as “sound based experiences.” I assume music is one sort of sound based experience, what are the others? What sets them apart from music, as it might ordinarily be conceived?
BS: The artists and practitioners who share their talent with our community tend to embrace the natural improvisational and spontaneous aspect of our events; most don’t bring a set list; some rehearse ahead of time; some play off of their collaborators, the space and the audience; some transform the energy of living plant organisms into sound; sometimes it is simply standing quietly, listening to the sounds that nature is providing. We view sound as a conduit to having a memorable, grounded experience by enhancing one’s ability to open their eyes, ears & mind to what is going on in that exact moment. Sound encourages a heightened sense of presence. read more…
We are reaching the end of a particularly brutal summer, so it is time for a garden update!
Let’s start with the obvious. Visitors will notice that the plants in the garden – with some notable exceptions that I’ll mention later – have faded to the subtle colors of dormancy. Leaves have fallen from golden currants and elderberries, leaving bare stalks and stems, while the leaves of others have simply shrunk and curled in place. Some leaves wait to expand again with the winter rains. Many will fall off later in the season. Nearly everything, both native and non-native, is in the watchful sleep of dormancy or semi-dormancy.
Arlington garden is by mission a mediterranean-climate garden. We grow plants adapted to climates with dry summers and mild, wet – or at least wetter – winters. There are only five regions on the planet with this seasonal weather pattern, which means we are lucky to garden here. read more…
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…
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…
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…
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.
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…
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…
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…