In the aftermath of a storm

Posted on | December 1, 2012 | 4 Comments

Margaret Garcia was one of the dozens of artists who made sculpture from trees toppled in a November 2011 wind storm to benefit the Los Angeles County Arboretum’s tree fund. Click on the image to learn more about Garcia.

A year ago last night thousands of trees fell in Los Angeles as the county was scoured by hurricane force winds. Hardest hit were the foothill cities, such as Arcadia, Sierra Madre, Pasadena and Altadena. This weekend the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, based in Arcadia, will be displaying artwork made from the remnants of the more than 200 trees toppled across its grounds. The show, curated by Arboretum artist-in-residence Leigh Adams, will benefit the garden’s tree fund.

For information on the show, click here and for a sample photo gallery here. For an article describing the most common causes of tree failure in Los Angeles, here. As climate change rewrites all rules for urban arbors, Los Angeles’s horticultural establishment has yet to grasp the nettle of revising and updating recommended tree lists and reforming planting and irrigation practices. However, for an excellent two-part tree planting guide by Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden research associate Barbara Eisenstein, click here and here.


4 Responses to “In the aftermath of a storm”

  1. Janis Hatlestad
    December 1st, 2012 @ 4:41 pm

    Lots of great info as always, Emily. Excellent article you wrote in 2010.

    Just read this article this morning:

    There is great need for communities all across the US to set storm-related guidelines for selecting and managing urban trees. Need is greater now than ever.

  2. EmilyGreen
    December 1st, 2012 @ 4:53 pm

    Really good article, Janis, thank you. I particularly like the point about tree failure not being an “act of God.” I couldn’t bring myself to use the Arboretum show title “Forces of Nature” because I think the tree failure there was more a forces of man issue, though my heart still broke for them when they got clobbered. And the show hopefully will mark a real turning point for them. Florida has been looking at hurricane resistance of trees for a long time (for obvious reason) and Chicago upated its street tree list several years ago, with the stunning and sobering result that it cut out the state tree, the white oak, because of climate change. LA has always been bad at arboriculture. The door is wide open for it to get better. It’s an open question to see if anyone will walk through it. I’m heartened that you’re aware about this and sharing good info.

  3. Margaret Garcia
    December 1st, 2012 @ 7:58 pm

    Thank you so much for the review. I was honored to be in such talented and skilled group of artists. You are right about the angst of losing all of those trees. My work is normally 2Dimensional oil paintings. But I reached out to Leigh Adams to lend support for this enormous effort to save some of these beautiful specimens from the mulch pile. It was heartbreaking to see such old growth come down and it was important to create something positive from the loss.

  4. EmilyGreen
    December 1st, 2012 @ 9:19 pm

    Margaret refers to an e-mail that, because I don’t know her, I sent to a mutual friend saying the following: “I can’t adequately say how much I liked the (Margaret’s) piece. It and maybe it alone bridged the gap between the feelings of wounded desolation about what’s going on in the wider world and caused the trees to fall and something sexy and urban and tough … There was lots of lovely work there but Margaret’s caught the angst of the source wood in a way I still can’t quite put to words but felt immediately on seeing it.” I should admit to very complicated feelings about the show because the storm hit so close to home. Around 9pm on November 30, 2011, after watching transformers explode over the Verdugo hills, the lights went out. A long night was spent listening to howling winds and comforting dogs as Christmas tree sized deodar branches crashed on the roof. The next morning was a scene of utter devastation, with fallen trees either side of the house and the garden strewn with branches and leaves. A kind of cyclone effect had forced most of the debris to four corners. Weeping neighbors either side of the house stood over fallen trees. It turned out that this was the scene for many miles around. Power was out for four days as utility crews sawed through the wreckage. Amazingly, in an almost surreal twist, three miles south, crews were setting up Rose Parade bleachers celebrating carbon culture-chem gardening amidst fallen magnolias. Leigh Adams, curator of this weekend’s show and a close friend, moved swiftly into action at the Arboretum, where she is artist in residence, to stop the hundreds of fallen trees there from automatically being reduced to mulch. She wanted to find meaning in what happened and spent the better part of a year reaching out to artists of stunningly diverse backgrounds. While supporting her — deeply — I have also been stubbornly critical of the Arboretum’s slowness to lead by example in reforming tree choice and husbandry. This is of course unfair — there are good people there doing difficult, under-funded work — but terror is unfair. The show is an important start in addressing a huge problem with the care of our beloved urban canopy.

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