Monday, January 16, 2012

New York City December Trees

Twelfth Night has been and gone, so although it is really far too late to write about Christmas I am now going to tell you something about a short family visit to New York, between Christmas and New Years Eve.

In Manhattan I have always been struck by the two very different approaches to Christmas decorations: on the one hand, you see the very formal, minimalist ones- a few lonely, outsize Christmas tree baubles or a whole store wrapped in a giant red Christmas bow- on the other hand the delightfully romantic way every tree is delicately entwined with Christmas lights, turning the streets into fairyland. It is the latter visual experience that I want to share, so here are some images:

Having lovely memories of a Christmas spent here 14 years ago, I was eager to show my granddaughter the iconic scene of the Rockefeller Center with its skating rink and Christmas Tree. Unfortunately, when we reached it- after time spent in MOMA- she was fast asleep! But that didn't stop me enjoying the lights- although the crowds were so dense you could barely see the skaters:

Needless to say, I cannot visit New York without going into Central Park. I find it fascinating that the concept of this park was largely that of a 19th Century visionary, Frederick Law Olmsted. He was multi-talented with varied, enlightened careers- a prolific landscape architect among others. In this industrial age, he understood the need to both protect the natural phenomena- such as the Niagara Falls and Yosemite National Park- and to create parks within cities. It was he who had the vision of Boston's Emerald Necklace as well as being co-designer- with Calvert Vaux- of Central Park, which was built between 1857 and 1873.

I like this quote of his from 1870: "We want a ground to which people may easily go when the day's work is done, and where they may stroll for an hour, seeing, hearing, and feeling nothing of the bustle and jar of the streets where they shall, in effect, find the city put far away from them..."

The above photos were taken on this last December visit, when the weather was comparatively mild for New York- if not compared with left-behind sunny Los Angeles- whereas the next two were taken last year on a freezing February day...

Another fact I like about Central Park: in these days when we see so much needless destruction of trees, it is good to know that here the trees are valued and protected, as I read in a New York Times article in 2009. Film director Brett Ratner was filming a segment in Central Park for "New York, I love You". Although there are some 26,000 trees there, a filmmaker is not allowed to touch a single leaf. Because of this, Mr Ratner had to provide his own prop tree together with a crane to support it while his leading lady "shivering in a pink cocktail dress, dangled from a branch"!

Now THAT is the way to respect trees!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The King Palm

The King Palm- Archontophoenix Alexandrae- is a native of the rainforest regions of North East Australia but seems to flourish in Santa Monica and Los Angeles. It can grow from 50- 80 feet high with a spread of 10-15 feet of its pinnate leaves, the single grey trunk being attractively ringed.

When I first became aware of these elegant trees, I was totally enchanted by their exotic "chandeliers" of flowers, on coral-like stems, so was not surprized to learn that they were named as the King of Palms:

These ivory or magenta flowers are succeeded by wonderful cascades of brilliant red berries:

I love their bright, lime green crownshafts, speckled with reddish-brown:

And eventually the brown overtakes the green...

Palm trees may not be as environmentally indispensable as many other trees (after all, they are officially PLANTS rather than trees) but to me they are certainly visually indispensable...