Birthday Trees

Oh, this is a good article to reblog!

Tony Tomeo

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The big wide medians of San Vicente Boulevard in western Los Angeles had been lacking trees since the Red Car Streetcar rails were removed decades earlier. My colleague, Brent Green, had been wanting to add trees to the medians since he was a little kid, and then became intent on doing so after he became a renowned landscape designer in the region.

At about the same time, I was a nurseryman. In my work, it was not uncommon to dispose of a few items that were unsaleable. Sometimes there were entire crops of unsaleable plants; and in 1997, I needed to dispose of a group of coastal redwoods that had very minor kinks in their trunks.

That gave Brent an idea.

He wanted me to bring some of the trees to Los Angeles to plant them in the medians of San Vicente Boulevard just south of the Miracle Mile District…

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Birthday

Ginkgos colored remarkably well this year. None live nearby, but there are a few in town. This article is three years old now.

Tony Tomeo

P71213This single yellow ginkgo leaf says a lot. It was found among the abundant cottonwood leaves on the broad walkway in Felton Covered Bridge Park (https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/felton-covered-bridge/). There are no ginkgo trees in the neighborhood that I am aware of. It must have come a long way to arrive here on the morning of December 13.

It really did not need to go through all the effort to get here. I need no help to remember the date. It is the birthday of a good friend who passed away last May.

Steven Michael Ralls is one of two friends I went to Oklahoma with late in 2012 (https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/oklahoma/). In the picture attached to my article about going to Oklahoma, there is a handsome gentleman to the left. That is me. The bronze guy in the middle was just standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. Steven is…

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Birthday Trees

30731

The big wide medians of San Vicente Boulevard in western Los Angeles had been lacking trees since the Red Car Streetcar rails were removed decades earlier. My colleague, Brent Green, had been wanting to add trees to the medians since he was a little kid, and then became intent on doing so after he became a renowned landscape designer in the region.

At about the same time, I was a nurseryman. In my work, it was not uncommon to dispose of a few items that were unsaleable. Sometimes there were entire crops of unsaleable plants; and in 1997, I needed to dispose of a group of coastal redwoods that had very minor kinks in their trunks.

That gave Brent an idea.

He wanted me to bring some of the trees to Los Angeles to plant them in the medians of San Vicente Boulevard just south of the Miracle Mile District. We were sort of skeptical about their ability to adapt to the climate; but were willing to give it a try, and possibly give the trees a second chance. We planned to install thirty coastal redwoods for Brent’s thirtieth birthday on January 18, 1998.

Well, the trees were not happy there, and did not last long. However, they were the first of what became an annual tradition of planting trees on Brent’s birthday, January 18. The number of trees is determined by Brent’s age for the respective year. For example, we planted thirty coastal redwood trees on his thirtieth birthday, and then planted thirty-one manna gum trees, Eucalyptus viminalis, on his thirty-first birthday, and so on.

After a few more years, there was not much space on San Vicente Boulevard, so Brent started planting street trees in the parkstrips of streets that could use more trees. The original trees in San Vicente Boulevard needed to be removed for the installation of the Metro Rail, but they were nice while they lasted.

This short video is about what the tradition has become now that Brent will be planting fifty birthday trees.

 

Birthday

P71213This single yellow ginkgo leaf says a lot. It was found among the abundant cottonwood leaves on the broad walkway in Felton Covered Bridge Park (https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/felton-covered-bridge/). There are no ginkgo trees in the neighborhood that I am aware of. It must have come a long way to arrive here on the morning of December 13.

It really did not need to go through all the effort to get here. I need no help to remember the date. It is the birthday of a good friend who passed away last May.

Steven Michael Ralls is one of two friends I went to Oklahoma with late in 2012 (https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/oklahoma/). In the picture attached to my article about going to Oklahoma, there is a handsome gentleman to the left. That is me. The bronze guy in the middle was just standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona. Steven is on the right. Gayle is on the sidewalk groping the bronze guy.

Steven did not know or care much about horticulture, but he knew ginkgo. It was his favorite tree; and it is the only tree that he remembered the botanical name for. There are a few gingko trees about Santa Cruz and elsewhere. He would sometimes point them out and exclaim, “Gingko biloba!”

I have not yet planted a ginkgo tree for Steven. At the spot under the Felton Covered Bridge where we scattered his ash, I planted a few canna seed that I brought back from Oklahoma, and some rooted cuttings of a pink brugmansia that I acquired during an outing with Steven to Santa Cruz. Neither grew enough to survive when the San Lorenzo River comes up this winter; so I will probably need to plant more.

Well, getting back to the single yellow ginkgo leaf. It says a lot. Today is December 13, the birthday of my good friend Steven.

Riots

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This is one of the several Canary Island date palms that Brent Green saved from poachers on the embankment of the Santa Monica Freeway.

Since I began posting my gardening column articles here, and supplementing with blog posts, I have deviated from horticultural topics only a few times. I will now do it again. I had earlier selected a horticultural topic for this post. It will wait for now.

Brent Green, my colleague down south, called me on the telephone to tell me to watch the news. I did so, but only briefly. It was just too crazy. So far, I have made a point of saying nothing about Coronavirus. I said nothing about those who protest the violation of their right to spread disease that will kill others. I mentioned nothing about the racist murderers in Minneapolis.

Now I see that people are senselessly rioting and looting in several cities in America.

The office building of the Canyon News, one of the newspapers that I write for, was clearly visible in the background as police helicopters showed looting of stores on the historic Rodeo Drive in Downtown Beverly Hills, in the region of Los Angeles. Police cars and palm trees were burning. From three hundred and fifty miles away, I can see it online.

This is not demonstration or protest. It is looting. It is mere opportunistic thievery. Those involved are not at all concerned about social justice, their own Communities, or that Black Lives Matter. They are exploiting an already bad situation to plunder what they can get away with.

This is happening in the Community where Brent Green has been planting his Birthday Trees (in quantities that corresponds to his age at the time) in public spaces for the past twenty two years. This is near where Brent Green saved several Canary Island date palms on the Santa Monica Freeway from poachers. This is a region that many people care about.

Another Johnny Appleseed

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Just to be clear, I earned the title of Johnny Appleseed before my colleague Brent Green did. While Brent was secretive about our tree planting projects in Los Angeles, I was not so about our similar projects in Los Gatos. While Brent’s neighbors wondered where their new street trees were coming from, mine read about their new park trees in the Los Gatos Weekly Times.

In fact, the exposure from that article is how I started my weekly gardening column in the same newspaper just a few months later, in October of 1998. Los Gatos is a smaller town than Los Angeles is. Secrecy was not an option. Sadly, our projects in Los Gatos, and then in Scott’s Valley, did not continue. We concentrated our urban tree planting efforts in Mid City Los Angeles.

The tree planting projects that I am referring to are our Birthday Trees that I wrote about last January. As I explain in that article, Brent had been wanting to plant trees in the formerly blank and broad medians of San Vicente Boulevard in Los Angeles. I just happened to be able to supply such trees from those at the farm that got a bit too past their prime to be marketable.

I do not intend to be redundant to that article, but want to share this video, Johnny Appleseed. As much as I hate to admit it, Brent is much more entertaining than I am. (I should later share one of my old videos from Gardening By The Yard, so you can compare.) I should probably look through more of Brent’s old videos to see if there are others that would be interesting.

If I had more time, I would write more about Brent’s work to improve the urban forests of the Los Angeles Region.

GreenArt

p90120p90120+It seems that I have been negligent about writing about my colleague Brent Green and some of our crazy adventures in horticulture. I said I would do so when I started writing my articles here way back two Septembers ago. It is easy to get distracted from such topics, particularly since we do such different types of work. Brent is a renowned landscape designer and proprietor of GreenArt Landscape Design in Southern California. I am just a horticulturist and arborist who really should get back to growing horticultural commodities in Northern California. For all of our similarities, there just might be as many differences.

After posting that old video of the Birthday Trees yesterday https://tonytomeo.com/2019/01/19/birthday-trees/, I thought that I should also write more about what Brent does for the urban Forest of Los Angeles, which is probably more interesting than our crazy adventures. I really want to find the old news article about how he busted tree rustlers who were stealing mature Canary Island palms from the embankments of the Santa Monica Freeway, which is pictured above. It is still a sore subject because we know that it continues, and that the trees that were stolen were not returned as promised.

I could write a separate blog about the work that GreenArt does if I were more involved with it. I just do not enjoy design like Brent does. Actually, I am no good at it. I just work with the horticultural aspects of it, and growing material for it. In the future, I will probably be more involved with projects that are not directly affiliated with GreenArt, such as initiatives to maintain and protect trees in public spaces of Los Angeles.

For now I have only this brief and outdated video of the landscaping of Brent’s home, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2IwcuU3KEo .

Suckers For Street Trees

P90804This grand sycamore has likely been here since the third day of Genesis. A few of the top branches got broken off when Noah’s Ark floated over. When I was a little kid, it was on the edge of a vacant field where road debris was dumped, and older kids rode their dirt bikes. Now it is on the western edge of the parking lot of Felton Covered Bridge Park. I write about it sometimes.

California Sycamore‘, ‘Hanging Gardens Of Babylon‘, ‘Nature Is Messy‘ and ‘Tufts‘ are some of the articles that feature this exquisite specimen. The last three of these examples describe some of the difficulties of old age for sycamores. Something that I may not have mentioned in these article though, is that such mature sycamores eventually develop root suckers.

I use the term ‘suckers’ loosely. For those of us who grow grafted trees, ‘suckers’ are stems that develop from below the graft unions of grafted trees, even if above the roots. They are from the understock below, so are genetically different from the scions above. Unusually vigorous stems above graft unions or on ungrafted trees, including the roots, are known as ‘watersprouts’.

For all other intents and purposes, ‘suckers’ really are just vigorous stems that emerge from roots, which is what we have here. Because no one was here to graft this grand sycamore on the third day of Genesis, these ‘suckers’ are genetically identical to the main tree. Unfortunately, their appearance indicates that the tree is finally acknowledging that it is slowly deteriorating.

Many trees do it, especially old riparian trees. When they know that they will not be around much longer, but still have some time to do so, they divert resources into their own replacement. Suckers are expected to mature into new trees after the original is gone. They recycle the mature original root system until they eventually replace it with younger and more vigorous roots.

Arborists may try to interfere with this process by removing suckers and watersprouts, and diverting resources back into older stems. This is actually helpful for trees that are distressed, but not yet decaying. For trees as mature as this sycamore, removal of vigorous suckers and watersprouts is mostly cosmetic, because thickets of such rampant growth becomes unsightly.

As violent as it sounds, it is best to abscise suckers like these when they first appear, and any that appear afterward. That involves literally tearing them from their roots to remove some of the callus growth from which they emerged. Cutting them at the ground not only leaves the callus growth to develop into distended burls, but also stimulates more vigorous sucker growth!

Now that these suckers have been cut down repeatedly over the past several years, simple abscision is no longer possible. Callus grown has expanded and fused into broad subterranean burl growth. Removal of such extensive burl would severely distress and possibly contribute to the destabilization of the already distressed tree. Suckers can now only be cut down to the ground.

Several years ago, when the first of the suckers started to appear, they were much easier to abscise. The process was delayed until winter dormancy. The small defoliated suckers were then abscised along with much of their associated callus. It did not accomplish much for the massive tree, and only delayed the inevitable for a few years, but generated an interesting byproduct.

The bare suckers with their bit of callus were ideal for growing into copies of the same tree. Most were plugged back into the riparian area nearby, but later killed by necessary vegetation management. A few others were canned (potted), and grew into small sycamore trees that were planted, with other sycamores, into broad medians and parkstrips in Mid City Los Angeles.

It is a long story about how those few trees ended up in Los Angeles, and were added to the fifty or so Birthday Trees that we plant annually on January 18. Sadly, their identities were lost in the process. If the other sycamores are genetically identical clones of each other, it may eventually be possible to distinguish genetic variations of those that were once root suckers here.

Horridculture – All Hallows’ Eve

P81031All Saints’ Day is November 1. As the name implies, it is a feast day that honors all Saints. It is one of the most important Holy Days of the Catholic Church. Yet, not many of us know about it.
We are much more familiar with the day before, which had been known as All Hollows’ Eve, and is now known simply as Halloween. Although some of the associated traditions are fun for children, Halloween has become an excuse for people to dress up in costumes, party, ruin perfectly good pumpkins, and behave stupidly. What an unsaintly way to celebrate, just prior to the day designated to honor all Saints!
Saint Patrick’s Day is no better. People dress up in green, party, exchange disposable potted shamrocks, and behave stupidly, all on a day that had been designated to honor a Saint whom they know very little about, and care even less about.
Mardi Gras at least makes a bit more sense, with all the indulgent behavior just prior to forty days of good behavior and fasting. Even societies that do not party for Mardi Gras have old traditions of feasting on foods that will be abstained from through Lent, just to avoid wasting them. It is easy to see how such feasting and indulgence evolved into over indulgence and partying. Mardi Gras lacks a tradition of wasting innocent horticultural commodities like pumpkins and shamrocks.
Easter, at the other end of Lent, is still a respectable Holy Day. Most people know that it is a celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, and celebrate accordingly. Perhaps a bit of indulgence is in order after forty days of fasting, Colored eggs nestled in fake grass, and disposable potted lilies, do not seem to be as inappropriate as ruined pumpkins.
Christmas is the most complicated Holy Day of all. It should probably be divided into two separate Holy Days. The primary Christmas should be the celebration of the birthday of Jesus. The secondary Christmas, which could be assigned another day, and given a different name, could be a celebration of disposable potted poinsettias, dead mistletoe, and a fat guy in red coming down chimneys to deliver gifts under dead coniferous trees that would be terribly embarrassed by their tacky adornments if they were alive.
There is more to Holy Days than pumpkins, shamrocks, lilies, poinsettias, mistletoe and coniferous trees.

Gemini

P80617Astrology is an interesting concept. It is amazing how accurate the various zodiacs are. In fact, they are so accurate, that all twelve of the zodiacs can apply to just about anyone, regardless of their respective birthday.

For example, Gemini people are gentle, affectionate, curious and adaptable. Well, who isn’t? If I told you that these traits applied to Leo, Aquarius or Sagittarius, would you believe me? The weaknesses of Gemini are nervousness, inconsistency and indecisiveness. We all of us experience these weaknesses at one time or another. Gemini people like music, books, magazines and strolling about town. What about Aries, Capricorn and Taurus? Don’t they? Are Gemini people unique in their dislike for loneliness, confinement or repetition? Probably not.

June 20 will be the end of Gemini. It will then be time for Cancer, with its set of distinctive traits, strengths and weaknesses.

Gardening according to astrology might seem to be just as ‘accurate’, but there is a bit more science to justify it. Back before calenders were commonly in use, the seasons were identified by the weather. Since weather changes like . . . well, like the weather, astrology provided another level of accuracy based on the time of year rather than on variable weather. For years when warm weather lingered into autumn, astrology dictated when cool season vegetables needed to be planted, even if the weather suggested that it was too early. Astrology was also used to forecast the last frost date, even while winter was still cold. It might have taken decades to compile enough data for the system to work, but it really was, and continues to be effective. After all, the calendars that we use now are based on the position of the Earth within the Solar System, or in other words, astrology.