Monday, January 28, 2008

Urban Sunsets:

Subsequent to the last two posts, I want the contrast of more colour- so here are some sunsets from my apartment. The trees may be very small but they are there.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wet Sunday Afternoon: 2

Now, I've talked about being mad about Trees but I'm also mad about Birds (and Flowers and Mountains and Sea and Deserts.....) so when I find a combination of Trees AND Birds I'm in Heaven...

Wet Sunday Afternoon: 1

"Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun", yes but mad English-persons (as we now have to say) also, unlike Southern Californians, go out in the mid-day rain for PLEASURE. A wet Sunday afternoon can give you lots of visual excitement...

First. the trees:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fairmont Miramar Hotel:

The day after the Landmarks Commission Hearing, Treesavers had a table at the Chamber of Commerce “The State of the City” Luncheon at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.

Coincidently, the hotel is fronted by an outrageous "Landmarked" Ficus- a Ficus Macrophylla, as opposed to our Ficus Retusa’s (also called Microcarpa ‘Nitida). Known as a Moreton Bay Fig Tree (originating in Moreton Bay, Queensland), this over-a-hundred-year-old tree is 80’ tall. When measured in 1991, the canopy had a width of 167’ and the trunk diameter was 12.5’.

It is said that an Australian sailor gave the tree to a bartender, in payment for drinks, in the 1880’3. He in turn gave it to the owners of the original house- and there it has stayed. Since being an hotel, an illustrious collection of people have passed under its canopy: Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Howard Hughes, Charles Lindbergh, Eleanor Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy and Jackie Kennedy, President Clinton, Barbara Streisand, Steven Spielberg- and finally: a group of SANTA MONICA TREESAVERS!

The guest speaker at the luncheon was Senator Dianne Feinstein. Ironically, the main thrust of her speech- as well as that by the Chamber of Commerce- was Global Warming and Santa Monica’s commitment to reducing this. To implement this you remove 53 wonderful mature-canopied, environmentally invaluable Ficus Trees from the streets?

Afterwards, it was interesting to learn that one of the Cities’ Councilmembers was unaware that Santa Monica was a “Tree City USA”.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Ficus Trees not Landmarked:

Well, the Ficus Trees of 2nd and 4th Streets (see Treesavers/ Ficus Posts) finally came up before the Landmarks Commission last Monday: the trees were not saved but a hero was resurrected - Santa Monica’s own 1960's “Jackie”, Jacqueline Girion.

To qualify for a “Landmark” the subject has to fulfill one of 6 designated criteria. We –Treesavers- believed the trees fulfilled 4 criteria. How could you deny that these two avenues with their dense canopies providing endless environmental benefits, which in turn are proven to provide many monetary benefits, are not of “noteworthy interest or value”? How could you deny that these beautiful, majestic trees, giving the streets their only unity, have “aesthetic or artistic interest”? How could you deny that, being the only Ficus’ in the Commercial Center and Historic District, they have a “unique location” or that, giving the streets identity, they are “an established and familiar visual feature of a neighborhood, community or the City”?

Two other criteria cover Social History and being ”identified with historic personages or with important events in local, state or national history”.
At the previous Hearing the Commission had already- unbelievably! - indicated that Environmental Benefits were NOT of value but had expressed interest in the history we had unearthed. This was that in 1961 a woman named Jacqueline Girion had collaborated with the Chamber of Commerce and businessmen, setting up an all-women City Beautiful Committee to initiate Tree Planting in the commercial sector. So we concentrated on this. Intense work by members of our research group produced fascinating results. The first “coup” to excite us was finding Girion’s sons (she died ten years ago), followed by many articles being discovered in archive newspapers.

Having initially just been involved in the aesthetic/ environmental aspects, we were all drawn into this social history. Here was this “housewife” doing her charity work- as had a long history of Santa Monican women- but with the emergence of feminism actually having a voice- and a voice that men listened to. She could be called an early environmental activist.
This wonderful woman had the vision to initiate street planting on 2nd and 4th Streets realizing that trees would draw shoppers to the area and benefit business- as since proven by research: see Link to Kathleen Wolf (Washington University).

Our research culminated in two of Girion’s five sons attending the Hearing. They spoke very movingly about their mother. The seven members of the Commission expressed interest but the one person to have the integrity to see the historical significance of Jacqueline Girion was the only Architectural Historian, Ruthann Lehrer. The other six members voted for the trees not to be Landmarked. We feel we have won a victory- we have proved the Ficus are Landmark-worthy; there is still hope.

“Trees become more beautiful when the contrast is the cold, solid buildings that make up a business district”. Jacqueline Girion 1961

Kathleen Wolf

Friday, January 18, 2008

Marimekko Fabrics

In the meantime, something quite different: when in the City of Bath (in the UK) prior to finding or moving into my present apartment in Santa Monica, I saw the Tree fabrics shown above. I just WANTED them, although I had no idea what I was going to do with them- and so I bought one length of each design. Imagine my delight when I realized that they were a perfect fit for the two windows on either side of my front door. The outlook from those two windows (an office building) is not attractive. To allow light to infiltrate, I lined them with a very fine voile. When the morning sun streams in you get a wonderful Stained Glass effect. The two other windows provide sufficient
light for the apartment.

What interests me is that these fabrics are from a Finnish company Marimekko: these particular ones are by the designer Maija Lovekari. Now I first fell in love with Marimekko’s fabrics when a student in London in the late 1950’s/ early 60’s. A wonderful shop called “Finnish Designs” opened in the Haymarket. At that time, Swedish fabrics were very popular and they were all in rather musty dark greens and purples, whereas I loved- and painted in- clear, fresh colours. Here they were in abundance and in beautiful designs. I bought yards of them- making curtains for my parent’s house in the country among other things. They were so uplifting. I see they are still marketing some of the early designs I had.

Not trees, but the other Marimekko fabric that I bought in Bath was the Wave design shown above. I was fascinated by the fact that it so closely resembled a favorite Matisse cutout painting- a print of which I had bought in the Matisse Museum in Nice, where the original is. Again, I was lucky in that I had just bought sufficient fabric for my bedroom window. You could get seasick here: even the (old) Ikea chest of drawers is wavy!

Like lovely Santa Monica, my apartment has both the Trees AND the Ocean....

Design sponge online: Seeing a post about a Marimekko black and white Tree fabric used to upholster chairs prompted this post.

The fabrics were purchased at: Shannon, 68 Walcot Street, Bath.

Marimekko book
Design Sponge

Not forgetting Ficus Trees....

For the last two weeks my head has been full of Ficus Trees: we had an intense build-up before the issue of the trees was put before the Landmarks Commission Hearing last Monday and this week has been taken up with the aftermath. I am still collecting material for my Landmark post.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Two more Ficus Trees

How to see the World through Ficus Tree Glasses....
Having had to wear a mask for a Twelth Night Party, what other option did I have but to support these miss-judged trees yet again?

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Conker Trees:

In my first Post- “City Trees”- I mentioned my relationship with Conker Trees- Horse Chestnut Trees. Recently, I made contact with the Artist Joel Tauber who has a love-affair with a previously uncared for Sycamore Tree in a parking lot. You will find his beautiful story on the link below. Two days ago he forwarded an email describing how his now cherished tree has produced “babies” that he is finding homes for. This brought back memories of my Conker Trees which I shared with him and will now share with readers:

As a kid- in the UK on the Malvern Hills- in our garden I planted a Conker which grew magnificently and- after about 10 years- produced its first Flowers. Being in London at the time-at Chelsea Art School- I was determined not to lose the first conkers. I therefore protected the flowers with hair-nets when the seeds started to form. All went well and my first Baby Conker was born. The next year, the original tree produced many more flowers, so I took over a prime part of my dad's vegetable garden to turn it into a Conker Nursery! The 'First Born' I gave to my brother- first it went with me on a train to a London garden but it is now in the garden of the Royal Crescent in the City of Bath in the UK. Two more 'babies' joined it and when my brother left the house he had a Preservation Order put on it (similar to a Landmark in this country) so IT CANNOT BE CUT DOWN.

The other babies in the Malvern nursery I gave to an environmental group that looked after the Malvern Hills. They planted them all over the hills and commons in the area.

My original Conker grew & grew and my parent's garden became a wood and the house very dark...

When my daughter was born in London, I took a Conker from my original tree and planted it in our garden- and it, too, grew and grew....and when I left a few years ago I had a Preservation Order put on that too- so it CANNOT BE CUT DOWN....

Yet another of the babies is in the garden of my brother's present house in Bath (an image of it to be found in the first Post-“Woodland Garden”).

Before my wonderful Sister-in-Law Bunny (I have had 3 wonderful Sisters-in-Laws) died of cancer in September 2002 she asked me for one of my trees as she wanted to be buried in a "Woodland Cemetery"- instead of a tombstone, each person has a Tree- and so a forest will eventually grow. What could be more perfect? I have added an image of it below. It looks a bit sad because, like many Horse Chestnuts in the UK, it has been attacked by a leaf miner- a moth, Cameraria ohridella. At present it is believed the damage caused is insignificant, effecting the appearance but not the life of the trees. When this photo was taken it had a very healthy, gleaming, leading sticky bud.

Joel Tauber
Memorial Woodlands

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


Since the New Year I have been caught up with Santa Monica Treesavers again (see "Ficus Tree" posts in December). The Landmarks Commission will be making a decision about the Ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets on January 14th, so we have been researching their history.

On January 3rd we held a 'vigil' by one of the Ficus Trees outside the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) building on 2nd Street. Afterwards, we were invited to hold a meeting in the Robert Redford room at the top of their amazing building. I say 'amazing' because it received the highest certification available for green building design- a Platinum rating- from the US Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program. It is a showcase for what the NRDC stands for- everything has been thought through, from the site to the materials used. It was an exciting day for them as they had just had a break-through in getting the Navy to adopt significant measures for Sonar use- to protect Marine Mammals during exercises.

Above is a photo from the LA Times of some of the Treesavers. Perched on Activist Jerry Rubin's placard (to the right of the picture) is my head- reminiscent of John the Baptist?. The figure on the extreme left is Chris Paine, Director/Writer/Camera Operator of "Who Killed the Electric Car".


Wednesday, January 2, 2008

New Year's Day 2:

and here are some close-up images from my New Year's Day walk....

New Year's Day 1

On New Year's Day the sky was unusually grey- but here are some of the trees that I saw when I went for a walk up and down the streets near my apartment: