From water, dreams, art

“THERE is found in widely separated parts of Australia a belief in a huge serpent, which lives in certain pools or water-holes. This serpent is associated, and sometimes identified, with the rainbow. In many instances, it is also associated with quartz-crystal, doubtless from the prismatic colours visible in the latter. Now rock-crystal, in a great number of Australian tribes, is regarded as a substance of great magical virtue,” wrote the late English anthropologist, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, in “The Rainbow-Serpent Myth of Australia.”

This photo series records a glimmering recent incarnation of the rainbow serpent, or dream snake, in the Australian garden at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden. Commissioned in 2008, the project was overseen by Arboretum artist-in-residence Leigh Adams, who gives a gripping account of the dream snake legend at her website. “Before all this was here, there was dreaming, only dreaming

Arboretum to public: Grade me

The Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, which was given a hard time in these pages, has called in experts to help canvas those who use the garden on what they think are its strengths and weaknesses. To that end, the consultants would like anyone interested to complete the following questionnaire. I strongly urge anyone who cares about horticulture in Southern California to take five minutes to do it.

Of course, the design of the questionnaire may not ultimately drive at the reason there is invariable sprinkler run-off coursing down Baldwin Avenue from the Arboretum, even after rains. The Arboretum is jointly run by the County of Los Angeles and a foundation that keeps a lower profile than a gopher in Antarctica. Missing from the questionnaire is any inquiry about the efficacy of this split leadership. Who among us has even heard of the Los Angeles Arboretum

Since you asked

Interviewing Richard Schulhof should have been simple, a rote exercise of announcing that the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden has a new Chief Executive Officer, imparting a few quotes as to his plans, then wrapping it up with a time-will-tell remark. That’s the approach that I took six years ago, when the last CEO arrived.

It was about as successful as the last CEO, who in 2008 left the place much as he found it — an Arcadia picnic ground full of exotic plants and free-ranging peafowl.

The recent decision to interview the Titanic’s, excuse me, the Arboretum’s new CEO was a reluctant one. In fact, it was made only after Schulhof gamely responded to a dismissive reference on this site to the effect that the Arboretum’s 127 acres are a monument to the gardenesque philosophy that is draining our water supply.

“I thank you for throwing

The Dry Garden: Turning a monument to the past into a model for the future

Richard Schulhof, new CEO of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden. Schulhof, a native Angeleno, arrived from Harvard's Arnold Arboretum six months ago. “I didn’t come back here because I needed a job,” he said. “I came because I think L.A. should have a great arboretum.” Photo: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles was sold to the world as the place where anything grew. As if to prove it, more than 10,000 exotic plants were tested last century on the grounds of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden in Arcadia. “The original notion was that it would be a big, big trial ground to see what could flourish in L.A.,” explained Richard Schulhof.

According to the Arboretum’s recently appointed chief executive officer, this makes the arboretum’s collection a living history. So many of the plants tested flourished that roughly half a century later, eucalyptus,