While past peak, the years-long drought in California is showing its effects in slo-mo delay, coming on in the form of many a street tree stressed to the point of just not being able to take it anymore. Nowhere can this phenomenon be seen more than in Southern Calfifornia, where one of the street trees hardest hit has been the southern magnolia / Magnolia grandiflora. A tree native to the rain-abundant American South, it probably never should have been planted in Southern California at all, where rainfall is typically a scant 12 – 15″ during a good year. But, alas, like so many consumer goods, trees come in and out of fashion, regardless of what practical considerations there may be. So in the ’50s and ’60s street upon street were planted with magnolias in places like Hollywood, and Beverly Hills, and Alhambra – all arid regions and all requiring that the magnolias be irrigated generously in order to survive and thrive. So when the watering bans then hit a few years ago and folks were told to let their lawns and parkways go brown, the trees were never ready for the suddenly parched conditions. Many became stressed, and now, some years later, many are dying. As a result, the cooling shade and outdoor-room-creating canopies will be lost, and we will be left with wide streets and excessive sunlight and heat.
While devastating for the character of so many neighborhoods and the quality of life of our cities, we need to view this loss of trees as an opportunity to rethink what we plant and how. Even before the drought and worsening global warming, LA was a dry place. This simple truism is not going to change in the foreseeable future, and thus we must start planting trees that can handle these hotter and drier conditions – and that can handle them for the long haul. All it takes is a little observation to see which trees are still pushing on and looking good. In the photo above, you can see that this jacaranda – a tree actually not considered one of the most drought tolerant – and its surrounding plants are doing just fine – more than fine – and this is in hot hot Riverside County, in a parkway space surrounded by heat-absorbing asphalt and concrete. What other trees do you see still doing well? What other trees that you haven’t seen could be invited in, to create amazing tree-lined boulevards for the 21st century? Mesquites, acacias, jacarandas, palo verdes, tristanias – and the list goes on. We cannot keep doing what we’ve always done; it’s simply not working, and we’re seeing our lack of foresight in the form of sadly dying trees and sunbaked parkways. Let’s do better this time around.
No matter where people go, or where they must flee to, so many will turn to nature for comfort and refuge – especially when there are no other options. While folks in the modern world seem to be increasingly turning to their phones and social media for some semblance of that comfort, when the lights go out and your wired world goes dark, family and nature are our default comfort spaces to turn to. Perhaps nowhere can this natural instinct towards nature be seen more than within refugee camps, where people suddenly no longer have those creature comforts of home, or the option of turning towards Netflix or Facebook or the like to find some sort of modern comfort.
The above video is a fascinating look into how refugees in northern Iraq have managed to create their own calming green spaces within an otherwise unsettled environment. The very act of shining a light on these spaces and their creation serves to truly underscore the humanity of the people having to flee and live in these camps. And to further highlight the refugee’s efforts to carve out their own gardens amidst such troubling and tough conditions, the Lemon Tree Trust created a landscape for this year’s Chelsea Flower Show that was inspired by the resiliency of the refugees in these camps. You may find more photos of the garden by clicking here.
It’s o-fish, we have passed our exams, are fully bonded and insured, and are now licensed landscape contractors in the state of California. We started out mega-small in Minneapolis, working on my parents’ landscape, and from there things have grown and evolved and led to this. Our goal is to make irrigation-free a reality in California. People say it cannot be done, but we know it can, and the plants and water supplies will thank us for it.
We wrote about the work of street artist YZ a semi-long while back when she did an installation in the crumbling former nightclub Les Bains in Paris before the whole building was renovated and made sleek and glossy in the way that so much is in our cities of now. What drew us to her work in the first place was its haunting quality, one that was decidedly without sound but somehow resonant at the same time, that spoke to the inevitability of cities crumbling, decaying, and changing, that temporarily froze that space in time before it became something else – something probably altogether less nuanced and textured than what it had been.
In between now and then her career has taken off exponentially, and she was recently chosen to paint the newest version of the French Marianne, which, for the uninitiated, is a national symbol of the French Republic and who personifies both liberty and reason. The image of the Marianne has indeed evolved over the years, and this time is no exception, as now she appears on the entire side of an apartment building in Toulon. Click on the video above to watch the project unfold.
Dwarf fritillary butterfly caterpillars on passion vine
In 21st-century California, it is increasingly a luxury of kingly proportions to have a yard of one’s own, especially within one of the state’s major metropolitan areas. As such, container gardening is the only option for many of us, a type of gardening that presents its own set of challenges, not the least of which being watering, as even the most drought-tolerant of plants will require much more watering in a container than they would in the ground. Maintenance reservations aside, I bit the bullet some months ago and started transforming the fire escape/balcony we have here in Oakland into a pollinator garden that is ideally groovy to look at and hang out in as well. To these ends, I planted, among other ‘tings, three kinds of passion vine back in April, hoping to attract the dwarf fritillary butterfly, whose food of choice is the passion vine. Well, as of a month ago, I discovered tiny orange eggs on the vines, and then two weeks ago, these eggs hatched into the tiniest of caterpillars. Since then, the caterpillar children have eaten to their hearts’ content and grown exponentially bigger by the day.
It would be a cliche to say that these are uncertain times we are living in, but, well, the cliche rings true. And in such uncertain times, inviting wildlife intro your landscape in whatever way possible can be a tonic to the lunancy about, serving as a small beacon of hope. What’s not to marvel over that a tiny butterfly would fly around and somehow locate a little patch of passion vine in the middle of dense, urbanized Oakland and decide to make that small patch of green home for its butterfly kids? It is marvel-worthy indeed.