Monday, October 31, 2011

Moreton Bay Fig Trees

Anyone who has followed this blog for some time will know of my obsession (one of my obsessions!) with the extraordinary Moreton Bay Fig Trees- especially those on La Mesa Drive. A member of the Banyan tree family, Ficus Macrophylla originates in the rain forests of Australia and sends down aerial roots which, on establishing themselves in the ground can help support the weight of the often massive limbs.

What is special about La Mesa Drive is that the trees form a wondrous avenue on a crescent; you walk along the road seeing one amazing tree after another...On returning to LA, one of the first things I did was to walk down this street, falling in love with the trees all over again and feeling ecstatic...

Starting with a general view:

And here are some of the aerial roots- I love the different textures between them and the main bodies of the trees, the difference between youth and old age :

This is one of my favourite trees, incredibly sculptural:

And here is a mad tree:

Another thing I love is the way the trunks and branches frame their backgrounds:

Here there is a contrast with a delicate little Fall, yellow-leaved Ginkgo tree:

And here one of the human-like sculptural shapes:

I find the individual patterning on the bark engrossing:

Especially when contrasted with the terracotta aerial roots

And as for the aerial roots....

These I just like for their bony quality:

Now for the figs, which I find quite delightful. Like all figs, they are pollinated by the Fig Wasp, the Fig Wasp only being able to reproduce in the fig flower.

There I will finish- but I'm sure I'll be back again among the Moreton Bay Figs very soon...

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Junipers: Santa Monica City Hall

I have long been an admirer of Santa Monica City Hall. This Landmarked building was built in 1938- 1939. It is described as Deco Moderne, a cross between Art Deco and Art Moderne and seems to me to be an archetypal town hall. An elegant geometric white structure, detailed with rich terracotta tiles, its facade is wonderfully contrasted with the dark green, exotically sculptured shapes of Juniper trees on either side of the entrance. Two more Junipers act as sentries when you enter the grounds. The whole effect is both grand and iconic.

Here it is: but alas not for long!

Now, apart from being so decorative, these evergreen Junipers are drought-tolerant and having been there since the late 40's could carry on helping the environment for another 100 years. So what does the City Council do? agree to get rid of them!

This is all to do with a wondrous new plan, a redesign of the landscaping to complement and connect to the planned new Palisades Garden Walk. I am extremely puzzled: are we not in a financial crisis, are there not countless unemployed and homeless people? Is this the time to redesign a beautiful, stately design? And with what? a nondescript, bit of urban design- regardless of being by James Corner, a designer of repute. The layout has no stature, no character:

Yes, they have included more trees- pollarded Western Sycamores- and a boring water feature replaces the Memorial Rose Garden. The Rose Garden may not have been stunning but at least it was made up of living flowers, rather than a series of familiar spurts of water.

However, the design has finally been approved by the City, after an appeal regarding stipulations by the Landmarks Commission, which were overthrown. I attended this meeting on October 25th, trying with other Treesavers to save the Junipers. The Landmarks Commission had wanted to retain the planters which housed the Junipers and also the original red brickwork of the steps, which continued as a pattern round the paving, connecting the building to the courtyard:

James Conner, however, wanted to remove the handrail on the ramp on the Southern approach. This entailed extending the ramp to a shallower gradient. To maintain the symmetry, he wanted to repeat this on the North side - this meant removing the Junipers. The brickwork he regarded as incompatible with the new materials- therefore it, too, must go.... A rather odd solution to the patterns of bricks on the courtyard was to score demarcation lines where they had been! One Councilmember, Kevin McKeown, made a stand for both the Junipers and the brickwork- but receiving no back-up joined in voting to accept the plans...

The four Junipers against the facade cannot be transplanted as they are too interwoven with the fabric of the building, but the plan is to relocate the other two.

What a tragedy- to lose six magnificent, valuable trees and a wonderful, iconic landscape...and what a waste of money...

Friday, October 14, 2011

Ivy: Does it Strangle Trees?

I am actually now back in Los Angeles, but I still have a lot of catching up to do from when I was in Wales. There the ivy was rampant on the trees, who's characters it completely changed according to the pattern of its growth.

It has often been said that ivy strangles trees, but this seems to be a misconception. Ivy naturally reaches for the sun, needing it to gain sufficient levels of photosynthesis. In this process, if it covers the crown of the canopy it can affect the photosynthesis of its host and it can- by covering the trunk- create a humid environment where fungus or bacterial organisms can flourish. However, the general opinion seems to be that the tree will only suffer seriously from this if it is already declining. On the plus side- apart from the decorative- ivy can support many forms of wildlife, such as providing roosting, hibernating and nesting sanctuary for animals, birds and insects.

The trees I am about to show here are all around Manorbier, where I was staying in Wales, and because of the prevalence of Sycamores there, most of the trees are Sycamores.

As result of the fear of ivy damaging trees, people will often cut its stems near the base of the tree. This will cause the ivy gradually to die, the host being left with a tracery of dead stems, as in the next three images:

I like the fact that you can see the pattern on the bark of this tree where the ivy once grew, while another stem is still alive:

Now for a contrast- a tree trunk smothered in blossoming growth:

And there is something wonderful about an ivy-smothered wood...

this wood reminding me of Lewis Carol's descriptive phrase of a "tulgey wood" in his Jabberwockey:

Whereas this next display seems to be a delightful peace of design:

And on these next two images I love the different textures of ivy, lichen and moss:

This seems to me to be another example of an ivy design project:

Here the bark of the Sycamore is gleaming from Welsh rain, a contrast to the elegant strands of ivy:

And here again it is the juxtaposition of the bark and the ivy that appeals to me:

Now, apart from being decorative, ivy on a tree can be quite spooky, as I find in the following images:

Finally, walking up a lane surrounded by ivy-covered tree trunks, at first I thought this was yet another one- until I raised my eyes and saw it was a telegraph pole!