Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Palm Trees in Los Angeles

Last week I blogged about jacarandas (again).

And in the past, I've blogged about eucalyptus trees in Los Angeles, and the trees of 1891. So today, I refer you to an excellent article about the history of palm trees in our city, by Dan Nosowitz in Atlas Obscura.

Nosowitz goes into a lot of detail about the palm trees, pointing out that they aren't even trees, really. They don't even have wood.

I've heard before that hundreds of palms were planted in advance of the 1932 Olympics here, and I just verified that on one of the history pages that Nathan Masters does for PBS, called "A Brief History of Palm Trees in Southern California." 25,000 trees planted in 1931! But according to Masters, beautifying the city for Olympics might have been a secondary reason. The program to plant palms back then was part of a larger program to put men to work. A $5 million bond helped pay for 40,000 palms in total.

The PBS story gets the prize for best pictures, though. Go see. The image at right is from the Los Angeles Library, and is not dated. Nor does it note a location.

Garden Collage Magazine also chronicled the arrival of palm trees, back to Mission days, up through the '32 Olympics, and into the present. That's the one to read if you want a quicker overview.

Another palm tree story ran twelve years ago in the LAist and it claimed that 100 years ago, Los Angeles was full of pepper trees. Palm trees replaced them. Are pepper trees native? Because in Palos Verdes, which is still richly populated with pepper trees, folks call them invasive.

Well, I just learned (from another PBS/Nathan Masters piece) that our pepper trees are South American. From Peru, specifically, and they are ornamental. Hmmm ... they smell awfully peppery for ornamental purposes. But that'll be a story for another day.

Finally, a few months ago the Los Angeles Times reported on the mass die-off of our palm trees, with a great graphic that you should really go see: iconic movie scenes with disappearing palm trees.  The article lists the pests that endanger and kill our palms.

And many of these pieces interview one Jared Farmer, who wrote the book Trees in Paradise.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

It's Shakespeare Season!

Yes, it's time for the Bard.

And last night, after the temperature soared to 108 degrees in Los Angeles, the best place to be was at Pt. Fermin Park in San Pedro, overlooking the ocean, watching Shakespeare by the Sea.

Where, by 8:30, I actually had to put on the sweater I brought.

Heaven! To be cold!

And the play wasn't bad either.

Actually, it was wonderful. The Merry Wives of Windsor, done in period costumes.

A few years ago, I saw a Shakespeare in the Park performance of Merry Wives, and it was done in a 1950s theme, with the two wives channeling Lucy and Ethel. Very funny,very effective--but last night's version was easier to understand, just based on the chosen lines.

Here, Falstaff cowers in the lower right as Mistress Quigly rouses the faux fairies to attack.

My trusty camera has died, and I'm relying on my phone camera, which isn't quite up to the job. Maybe I should start a gofundme page for a new camera?

There are always two plays presented, and this year's second is A Winter's Tale. Also carefully edited and completely comprehensible (if you can get over a woman giving up her child to hide in the woods for 16 years ... but that's Shakespeare's fault).

This picture is from the website Tales of Travel and Tech, taken by host Deb who went with me to see Winter's Tale and blogged about it. Stage at left, lots of benches. In fact, Deb went to the trouble of putting up Shakespeare by the Sea's 2018 schedule.

If you travel, want to travel, or like to read about travel, or if you're into travel tech, the best and most lightweight bags, the useful, most dependable gadgets, etc., check out Deb's website.

At right is the fearsome bear from Winter's Tale. Don't be fooled: the beast can roar!

Shakespeare by the Sea is celebrating 21 years, and will tour as far north as Encino and south to Laguna Niguel. Here's their calendar. Chances are they'll come to a venue close to you, and the play is free (but your donations are so appreciated!)

Below is Leah Dalrymple as Mistress Quigley. She also played Hermione in Winter's Tale. She was wonderful in both roles, and lovely to talk to afterward (the players assemble in front of the stage for a bit of a gabfest after the show.)

I miss Shakespeare Festival LA, which used to stage plays around the downtown area. Julius Caesar on the steps of City Hall (1999); As You Like it in the old ticketing area of Union Station,  and the last few plays, from 2005 on, at the Los Angeles Cathedral's courtyard.

A quick search (OK, not so quick since it took me a bit to figure out the proper title to search for: Shakespeare Festival/LA) tells me that the first production (Twelfth Night) was in Pershing Square in 1986. The current website ( describes how the homeless of Pershing Square got involved and even collected trashbags full of cans that could be recycled, in lieu of a cash donation.

Ben Donenberg founded the company, which changed its name to Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles in 2011. And there was no play in that year. But Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles thrives; it is the group who brought us Tom Hanks as Falstaff this year. Huzzah!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

All Hail the Shedding Jacarandas!

 Just don't park your car under them.

I love jacarandas. Nothing matches the color. Few suburban vistas are as lovely as a street lined with these trees in bloom, like giant puffs of periwinkle bordering the skies and homes.

But those pretty flowers fall, and each one has a base of sticky goo that adheres to shoes, cars, and everything it touches.

I blogged about jacarandas once (omg, it was 10 years ago!). A19th century landscaper named Kate Sessions was largely responsible for bringing them in to California. Sessions was based in San Diego and had a nursery in what is now Balboa Park.

Here's another, much more detailed piece about jacarandas from the LAist, from about 2 years ago.

Huell Howser did a show on jacarandas, and you can watch it at Chapman University's site.

If that doesn't cover everything you wanted to know about jacarandas ... which are originally from South America ... then I don't know what will.

As for when they bloom and shed, it's different each year, depending on warm and cold spells in spring. Often there's a fall blooming as well, but those are less frequent, I'm told.

And if you are a gardener or homeowner that has to rake up the purple plague, you have my sympathy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

San Pedro Community Gardens

Off the 110 in San Pedro, along one of the many slopes that are left to grow wild in San Pedro and the Peninsula -- which is riddled with little canyons, crevices, and hills -- gardens bloom with fruit from all over the world. Filipinos started gardening here over fifty years ago, and the plots grew to cover six acres. Retirees and urban farmers from many cultures grow tropical fruits, bean trees, vegetables, potted vines of tomatoes, and more.

The picture at right is from a 2011 post on LA Eastside.

The problem that confronts this maze-like collection of gardens and makes it newsworthy? Water is becoming scarce, and so some of the gardens have been abandoned. But not many.

The gardens have a website:, and it has a laser focus: the status of water. There I learned that few years ago a pipe broke, with devastating consequences. Now, the issue is that the landlords are just cutting off the water for most of the day.

Over a month ago, the Los Angeles Times ran a story about the San Pedro Community Gardens, and they have a video posted on their site as well. So you can see, in their own plots, Frank Mitrano, Carol Christian, and David Vigueras, who says: "It's not a garden. This is a universe."

At left is one of the photos that accompanied the Times article, which was packed with information.

The land belongs to Los Angeles City's Dept. of Sanitation, according to the Times. During the drought, they cut down on the water when they realized that hundreds of thousands of gallons a day was being poured into the gardens.

No bad guys here: there was a drought. There is still reason to conserve water. It's driven some of the gardeners out, but others are making do. The water flows only during select hours of the day, and pipes are old. Gardeners are doing what they can to collect the water their plants and trees need.

At right is a year-old picture from the Garden's website, showing the results of no water on some of the plots.

I applaud these gardeners and think we should have more of them. I will shorten my showers for them. I have no talent for gardening and am amazed at what men and women do to grow and nurture plants from the dirt.

If you'd like to know more about community gardens in our area, there's not only a website for the Los Angeles Community Garden Council, but Yelp has a list (of course) of the top community gardens, and CurbedLA has a 2014 list of the best.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Mosaic Monday Goes South

I've been vacationing, and drove south. While I was not on a quest to find mosaics, I could not help spotting them. So here is work of art I stumbled across.

The picture was taken at a garden shop in the touristy area of San Clemente. Of course. Because if you say "San Clemente" there are only two reactions possible: Baby Boomers will remember the Western White House of Richard Nixon (which is for sale, btw) (for $63 million, since you know you wanted to ask) or they'll know the town as a major surfing destination.

The sign at the base says "Sustainable Functional Art" This shower is just one example of their work, so if you're interested, go to the website.

At the WillandJane site, you'll see a charming picture of some children enjoying a working shower/mosaic/surfboard like this. Their Gallery page shows other designs, using recycled surfboards, starfish and shells, and glass mosaic pieces.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The Lassie House in Pomona

This historic, rebuilt and restored home will be dedicated in the afternoon of July 1, 2018, so you still have time to rework your schedule. The address is 1195 Washington Blvd in Pomona.

It IS a lovely house -- all that river rock and the craftsman touches. 7000 square feet, 8 bathrooms and 8 bedrooms (huge, huh?) and built in 1900.
It's owned by Ray Adamyk, who heads Spectra Company and owns the YMCA of Pomona, which he's also restoring. 
Why is this called the Lassie House? 
It's because of Timmy. If you remember the Lassie TV series, Timmy was played by Jon Provost from 1957 1950s to 1964. As the Facebook page spells out, this was Jon Provost's home once.
At the right is the house in 2008; clearly, lots of work has been done. In fact, older online MLS listings say it had five bathrooms and six bedrooms, and much less square footage. 
When Timmy joined the Lassie cast in 1957, the Provosts had to go to a neighbor's to watch it -- they didn't own a TV yet. (Although Lassie had debuted in 1954, different actors played Lassie's family. In 1954, the cast changed and Lassie became Timmy's dog.

According to Provost's own website, the checked shirt and bluejeans he always wore in the TV show (one set of them, anyway) is in the Smithsonian, next to Archie Bunker's chair.
Back in the 1950s,Provost's father was an aerospace engineer at the Convair Division of General Dynamics. The family moved into this home when Jon was four, and moved out to Beverly Hills when he was nine -- after only two years on the TV show. . (People Magazine says Jon and his Mom moved; Dad and siblings stayed in Pomona.)
By then Jon Provost was Timmy Martin to everyone in American ... Let's face it, he's still Timmy Martin to all of us. His role ended in 1964, but the Lassie show continued, with different stars and scenarios, until 1973, nearly 20 years. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Dude in Pixelated Mosaic Glory

The artist is called Invader, and you can read his Wiki bio here. Where is this? Near as I can tell, 356 South Vermont. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Pelicans in Trouble in the South Bay

These pictures were taken at the Redondo Beach Pier last Sunday. You can see the old library, now a Veterans Park Center, in the background.
Last week, a flurry of news stories appeared about sick brown pelicans. Here's the article in The Daily Breeze, pointing out that the International Bird Rescue of San Pedro had 32 pelicans in their care.
Local radio stations also talked about the pelicans; speculating that the fish population ain't where it should be, and the birds are starving. Older, more experienced birds are suffering.  They are cold and emaciated when rescuers get to them. The birds should be eating up to six pounds of fish a day.
Disoriented birds have stumbled in to back yards as well. Here's the phone number of the International Bird Rescue:
There's even a story in the NY Post about our pelicans. Apparently, a couple of the birds dive-bombed a graduation ceremony at Pepperdine University last month, and that got a lot of attention and tweets.

What does one call a bevy of pelicans? I just looked it up. They can be called a brief, a pod, a pouch, a scoop, or a squadron.
I think squadron has the most gravitas.
A similar pelican sick-in happened a few years ago, with even worse numbers. Ill, listless pelicans settled along the eaves of the restaurant at the end of the pier, dozens of them. Rescuers were taking only the weakest, because they were so overwhelmed and did not have room to care for all of the pelicans.
They hang around the pier looking for handouts from fishermen. While I wouldn't recommend that anyone try to get too close, you can tell by these photos that the birds were not shy or worried about people.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Dare I say ... Mosaic Monday?

It's almost Monday, and I came across two mosaics this weekend, both on the same block in Redondo Beach. The street is The Esplanade, so directly across from these mosaics is the beach itself.

No information on the mosaics, how old they are or who created them. They are on private property, but outside, not at all hidden.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Falconry in Los Angeles

There are around 650 licensed falconers in California, mostly members of the California Hawking Club. They take their birds of prey out to hunt, and have to purchase hunting licenses for anything that they birds might possibly catch. If the falcon grabs a kangaroo rat or other endangered species, the falconer must step in and distract his or her bird with a chunk of meat and get it away from the prey--even if it's already dead.
The term falconry covers the care of owls - like this great horned owls - and hawks, as well as merlins and falcons..
Having seen great horned owls in the eucalyptus trees at twilight --and did you know they bob forward when they hoot? -- I was truly surprised that this guy looked half the size of the ones in the trees. I was told that the females are much larger, so it's probably females that I've seen.
Another thing about hawking in general: the birds' habitats are subject to inspection and have to meet many regulations. If a falconer wants to go on vacation ... well, he or she had better have some really good friends willing to weigh, feed, and care for the birds every day.
I had no idea that falconry was such a demanding hobby - a life-style, really.
I learned all this from Frank Hoffman, an officer of the California Hawking Club, who brought a Harris Falcon to Deane Dana Friendship Park in San Pedro He comes out there every few months and probably goes to other parks as well.
These raptors are stunning up close. We see red-tailed hawks circling over canyons and occasionally striking a pose at the tops of trees. Once in a while I'll see a falcon perched on a street lamp or freeway sign, or a Coopers Hawk diving at another bird. But unless a pair of high-powered binoculars is at hand, most of us rarely get a chance to study their beaks and eyes and very intimidating talons.
They weigh around two pounds or less, as big as they are.
So that's all I've got. If you see a flyer at your local library about a talk on Falconry, you really should take the opportunity to see these birds and talk to their handlers. It's a look into another world.