Monday, March 31, 2008

From my Roving Reporter:

As said in my previous post, I now have a "Roving Reporter", Zac Ware . Here are some of his images from Sweden: pom-poms gone mad?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

A Moreton Bay Fig Weekend

Last weekend was dominated not by Ficus trees but by their opulent relatives Moreton Bay Fig trees. It started on Saturday when I interviewed Treesaver Carol Purcell: her favourite tree? The Moreton Bay Fig tree at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel- the "Kissing Tree". On Sunday I went to La Mesa Drive to photograph its dramatic avenues of Moreton Bay Figs. Subsequently, when I emailed fellow Treesaver, photographer Scott Smith to thank him for telling me about La Mesa, he told me how that weekend he, too, had been looking at these trees at the South Coast Botanic Gardens- and he sent me the great sci-fi root image below. While I was at La Mesa Drive, I texted an Easter message to my nephew- Zac Ware- and he replied that he was going to send me some tree photographs. As Guitarist with the Scottish band The Proclaimers, he is on a World tour. Seeing a lot of interesting trees in different countries he has kindly decided to be my "Roving Reporter". Among the images he sent? A Spanish Moreton Bay! So here is the Moreton Bay Collection- from top: 1. Miramar Fairmont Hotel, 2. La Mesa Drive, 3, South Coast Botanic Garden: Scott Smith, 4 & 5. Murcia: Zac Ware:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Carol Purcell: Treesaver

Just as there are certain rare trees that bowl you over with their character and uniqueness, so are there certain people: Carol Purcell is one of them.

I well remember the impression she made on me when I first saw her striding into a Treesavers’ meeting with her magnificent Yucca staff. I love people who dress like paintings, and this she does- like a Matisse painting- always wearing beautiful colors and personalizing her clothes with delightful details- whether adding bindings made from contrasting patterned fabrics (she is a quilt-maker) or flowers to her many beautiful hats:

Not only is she a joy to look at but she’s also a joy to talk to- and has a fund of interesting stories.

She is of that admirable generation of American Twentieth Century women: a pioneer, an early environmental activist- a whole woman.

Born in Virginia, her father being a Naval Officer (stationed in Constantinople) the family were mobile, moving to the tropical island of Guam after three years in Milwaukee. Three years later they moved to California- first to San Diego and then to Long Beach. There they experienced the 1933 earthquake, when their house moved 11 inches- but her resourceful father saved it from collapsing by propping it up with 4x4 timbers!

When Carol’s father retired, the family bought an early trailer, large enough for 6 people- Carol, her parents, her 3 brothers and 2 Scottie dogs. They intrepidly explored 33 States.

Finally, in 1935, they came to Santa Monica. Here they moved a house from 4th Street to a lot on 21st Street and Washington. Again resourceful, her father rebuilt the house with the help of her brothers, who were excused from school for the experience. He was also a “sailor turned farmer” and cultivated fruit trees. Today, Carol belongs to the Rare Fruits Society. She spoke with pleasure of a valley she had visited with the society, planted with alternate Avocados and Cherimoyas, which fruit she described as “the nectar of the gods” and Mark Twain described as “the most delicious fruit known to man”.

Carol met her husband when he was at UCLA. They had 2 daughters and 1 son. When we joined a group of Treesavers at the Chamber of Commerce’s luncheon at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel she told us that it was there that she became engaged and had her first Champagne. Coincidentally, when asking her whether she had a favorite tree, she said yes, the Miramar Fig tree (a stupendous Moreton Bay Fig Tree, with a charming history attached to it. see Link) known as the “Kissing Tree”:

And here she is with her staff at the Chamber of Commerce Luncheon:

Carol’s interest in trees was sparked by her friendship with George Hastings, author of “Trees of Santa Monica”. She first became an environmental activist when the City threatened to remove the extraordinary Coral Trees on San Vicente Boulevard:

She and Clo Hoover (who became first woman Mayor of Santa Monica and supported the Downtown planting of the Ficus trees on 2nd and 4th Streets), among others, were successful in saving them. For this we must all thank her.

When her husband went off to the 2nd World War and her 17 year old son went into the Naval Reserve, Carol decided to take her daughters camping as she did not want them to “marry the village idiot”. Just as her enterprising parents had driven through 33 States, Carol drove her daughters and 2 bicycles in a small Buick for 1800 miles across America- Key West Florida, the Hudson River, Vermont, New York (this was where one of her country-loving daughters cried in despair: “Momma, show me a COW!”) and finally across Canada to Calgary.

In 1967 they moved to San Francisco but after Carol’s husband died she returned “home” to Santa Monica in 2000. And now she is a tree-activist yet again, helping us to save the Ficus trees. Carol is an inspiration to us all, sitting there with her knitting through long City Council meetings- she explains how knitting helps her concentration and that after learning to knit at school, when a senior she was allowed to knit during classes as she was making socks for soldiers overseas.

Asking her what advice she would give future generations regarding trees, she replied that trees should be “respected”- they are living things and should not be carved or harmed.

Easter Sunday on La Mesa Drive

I spent a wonderful Easter Sunday revelling in the Moreton Bay Fig trees of Santa Monica's La Mesa Drive. These trees are the very flamboyant relatives of our more modest Ficus trees. Here they form a crescent shaped avenue in a select street made up of houses built mainly in the 1920's and 30's- with many designed by renowned architects- but the houses are eclipsed by the trees:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday

A suitable tree for Good Friday?- and this is a Magnolia, NOT a Ficus tree!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ficus see-saw

The City are leading Santa Monica Treesavers a dance- one moment we think the Ficus trees are going to be cut down any moment and we monitor the streets at unsociable hours- then we hear we have a temporary reprieve, the Court having said they cannot be touched until a judgment is made- THEN we hear that the City are disregarding the Court Order, claiming they have got to be cut down immediately because they are a danger to the public. Hearing the city are having a "closed meeting" to discuss the trees, back we all troop to City Hall to try to make the Mayor and Councilmembers see sense. Why have 23 trees suddenly become such a threat?

Back to the streets we go on our 24/7 watch....and now we have heard that, after letters from our great Attorney, Tom Nitti, they realize they cannot cut them down without the Court's permission- so they write to the Court saying their Arborist has stated on oath that the trees are potentially dangerous to the point of causing DEATHS! This is all very strange- in spite of this great danger pedestrians are able to wander freely among these land-mines, without any warnings of the dangers they are being subjected to.

Curiously, the Cities independent arborist Cy Carlberg only declared 3 trees out of the 23 to be in the High risk category and NONE in the Severe category, while the majority were in the Low one...

At least now we don't have to fear the chain-saws are coming immediately- but we DO have to fear that the Court will be led by misleading Oaths.

While patrolling the streets, I was yet again very moved by these beautiful, sensuous, innocent trees- and here are images of some of those under threat of destruction:

Monday, March 10, 2008


This weekend- the Ficus Trees not being in immediate danger- I was finally able to get back to work on my tree lightboxes, which I will write about later. The weather has at last been what you expect from Southern California- hot and sunny- but because I was working it was dark before I was able to go out for a walk.

Here are a couple of images of the trees that emerged from the darkness- interspersed with a tree-less Sunday sunset to brighten things up....

Friday, March 7, 2008


Today is a brilliant day- just when we were expecting the Cities' chain-saws to be arriving at any moment- probably at dead of night- to destroy our Santa Monica Downtown Ficus Trees, we got a temporary respite. Our wonderful attorney, Tom Nitti, succeeded in getting a reprieve for them from the Court. A restraining order now protects the trees until the Court either has a Hearing or makes a ruling without a Hearing- subsequent to the City responding to the order and Tom Nitti replying to their response....

Although we cannot totally relax, knowing there is still a lot of work to be done, we can at last SLEEP IN PEACE- for the time being at any rate....


Ficus Trees continued: When doing a shift, walking the streets to check on the ficus trees, I felt compelled to take a photo of this magnificent tree on 2nd Street. A passerby commented with a heartfelt "BEAUTIFUL tree!", and looked totally astounded when I said "yes, and they want to cut it down".

This tree is marked by a cross for destruction- reminding one how,in medieval times in London, houses struck with the plague were marked with crosses. Relevantly, the City initially used the word "diseased" to describe trees they wanted to cut down. They had to retract on this and change it to "decayed". And in spite of their independent Arborist declaring that only three trees are possibly decayed beyond treatment, this evening on Channel 4 News, Kate Verney- the City Manager's Assistant- claimed that "23 of the trees are structurally unsound"!

Yesterday, I had to watch a contractor- doing electrical work for the Cities' "beautification" scheme- grinning cheerfully as he hacked through the roots of a neighboring tree, not designated for destruction. However he was not happy when I took a photograph and immediately took one of me and screened off the area to block my view. There are strict guidelines on how work around trees should be carried out- they are not been adhered to.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Phone Tree

Well, it has finally happened, I have turned into a tree: a Phone Tree!

A lot has been happening regarding our precious Santa Monica Ficus trees, which is why I have neglected this site.

A week ago, Treesavers lost the case in Court in spite of our Attorney- Tom Nitti- battling brilliantly for us- and our leader Jerry Rubin wearing long pants for the first time since his wedding day! It was more than frustrating as the whole case was based on the interpretation of legal minutiae- the Judge in her summing up saying another Judge might have given a different Judgment. It was all dependent upon the City being able to prove they had given the community sufficient warning about their streetscape plans in 1995 and 2005 and the fact that we should have appealed THEN rather than in 2007 when they first made their plans clear. We need to all become

The result of losing the case was that the trees are now very vulnerable- there is nothing to stop the City destroying them. Because of this we are all on alert so that we can put up some sort of tree defense. As it is highly likely that the contracted company will act either during the night or early morning, we are keeping a 24/7 watch on 2nd and 4th Streets. Should a red alert happen, the Phone Tree will go into action to get all Treesavers round the trees. This is why I have turned into a Tree- a tree spending long hours trying to set up a phone system.

This afternoon we had a Peaceful Sit-In at City Hall- in an attempt to set up a dialogue between us and the City. It was good to see a lot of High School kids supporting us- they, at least, have more sense and understanding of the environment than some of our Councilmembers. Mayor Pro Tempore, Richard Bloom, passing through the Lobby, agreed to answer some of our questions. But he made it absolutely clear that he had NO intention of changing his mind and listening to the people who had voted for him. Democracy???

Jerry wears the pants

and Richard Bloom listens to his people...