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In the coming months we will be making decisions about the future of the Arboretum.

Book Review - “The Abundant Garden”

We're fortunate to be featuring book reviews by horticultural history author Judith M. Taylor. After a career in neurology she retired to northern California and now “practices history without a license.”  She is currently working on her forth book and is the honorary librarian and book editor for the San Francisco Garden Club. Her website is Horthistoria.
Of course gardens have to be full of color, texture and blooms. What else are they for? This seems to be a statement of the obvious but I doubt that two such skilled authors, and Daniel Hinkley, who wrote the foreword, would be satisfied with that. Yet, as soon as I wrote those challenging opening words an odd question came into my mind. What would I find if I took the opposite view: no color, no texture and no blooms? Is the answer “not a garden”? Well no, not exactly.
There are indeed amazing gardens with no color, no vegetative texture and no blooms: the Japanese Zen gardens. Right away we are catapulted into the midst of garden philosophy and the very definition of what constitutes a garden.
Now it is time to read the small print. The book sprang from close observation of nine beloved gardens in Washington State, emblematic of the “new Northwest landscape”. By “abundance” the authors mean rich planting in a thoughtful manner, more or less hiding the surface of the soil from view yet allowing some room for excitement and the unexpected. This is not an agricultural treatise in which an abundance of fruit and food is important.
In some ways the term means planting rather more than the space can hold. That leads to spillage over tight borders, giving an effect of spontaneity. Planning for surprise sounds a little like an oxymoron but one knows what they mean. Given adequate climate and soil nutrition, they indicate that most gardeners in the temperate regions could create such a place. The introductory section offers nine design principles as guidance.
Scale is important, also the techniques of ornamentation, color, patterns, layering and framed views. Christopher Lloyd was a master of these. Their other principles are a little less tangible and harder to reproduce. Movement, timelessness, spontaneity and intimacy are softer criteria. “Timelessness” means the effect of the garden seeming always to have been in its present state, almost inevitable. It can be a worthy goal but because of the paradoxes inherent in all gardens, by the time a garden is at that stage of ripe maturity it is necessary to prune it back and re-organize it before it collapses into an overgrown thicket.
In a number of the gardens the owners used driftwood or other warped and seasoned objects to provide contrast with the fluidity and spreading nature of the plants. My personal opinion is that this can be overdone, the intended frisson of the unexpected visual clash turning into a tiresome cliché.
Among the nine gardens presented here one in particular attracted me very much: the “textured tapestry” based on the extensive use of grasses. The landscape designer, Jay Fossett, had grown up helping his father install gardens designed by Wolfgang Oehme and James van Sweden. The property led down to the sea and Fossett fostered the movement of the eye to the horizon by undulating masses of grass. He is quite proud of taking much of his inspiration from Oehme and van Sweden.
Barbara Denk’s photographs are superb. They could stand on their own even without a text. Debra Prinzing supplies descriptions and comments as the gardens are disclosed. I am not sure that what they are telling us is especially new or different but it is a very beautiful book.
Copyright © February 2011 Judith M. Taylor
Denk, Barbara J. and Debra Prinzing. The Abundant Garden: a celebration of color texture and blooms. Nashville, TN: Cool Springs Press, 2005.
Find this book in the Arboretum Library catalog here.

Library Spotlight - Vintage Nursery Catalogs

Looking for early nursery catalogs for the region of Southern California? The Arboretum Library has catalogs going as far back as the late 1800s that are still applicable for today's horticulturalists. During your visit to the Arboretum, members and non-members of the garden are always welcome to browse our nursery catalogs in our library's collection!

“Germain Seed Co.” (1907)

Library Spotlight - Library Catalog Updates

Hello, folks!  The Arboretum Library's catalog now has social networking features, including Facebook and Twitter, so that you may share any library material(s) you have found in the catalog, with your friends.  Also be sure to check out and “like” the Arboretum's Facebook page.

Reading the Western Landscape Feb/March 2011

The Reading the Western Landscape Book Group met Feb. 2, 2011, to discuss Tales of Burning Love: A Novel.  Below is a summary of the questions that were brought up for that book and a preview of the book that will be discussed on March 2.

Previous book selections can be found here and future selections here.
Previous Book
February 2011 – Tales of Burning Love: A Novel

Tales of Burning Love: A Novel, by Louise Erdrich; New York: HarperCollins ©1996.  Find it at your local library.
Four women share their secrets after the funeral of their ex-husband. It happens when they decide to ride back together and the car becomes stuck in a snow storm. They all agree he was a good-for-nothing, so why did they marry him? The setting is North Dakota. From the WorldCat summary.

Specific questions for this book include:

What do the narrative devices do to drive the story?

In the mini-reviews on things like or I have read there is lots of “liking” or “not-liking” Jack. Does the story hinge on that? What is a more subtle interpretation of Jack's role in the story?

What did you learn about relationships from this book? 

How does the weather become a character?

If you follow the novel in a concrete, tangible way, many of the activities would seem incomprehensible or incredible. How does this enhance or take away from our understanding of the characters?

Next Book
March 2011 – In a Desert Garden: Love and Death Among the Insects

Discussion on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, 7:00 p.m.
In a Desert Garden: Love and Death Among the Insects, by John Alcock; New York: W.W. Norton ©1997.  Find it at your local library.
From Booklist: Biologist Alcock calls Arizona home, and that is where he tends a desert garden that provides a working laboratory for observing and appreciating insect behavior. Alcock's limitless curiosity about all manner of bugs propels his latest book–beginning with the story of how he converted an unappealing front lawn area into a minidesert environment. Although Alcock makes no bones about mosquitoes that cause malaria and other dreaded pests that color the way most of us see insects, he nevertheless has written an ode celebrating those small creatures. Whether commenting on the fascinating mating rituals of various mantids, spiders, and beetles, or wondering at the camouflagic accomplishments of grasshoppers, butterfly larvae, and caterpillars, Alcock writes with a wry humor that appears as well in reflections on growing vegetables and cultivating compost. Graced with lively line drawings and color photographs, Alcock's engaging, illuminating text offers delightful reading for all who appreciate the natural world. Alice Joyce
For more information about the Reading the Western Landscape Book Group and to RSVP, please contact the Arboretum Librarian, Susan Eubank, at 626-821-3213 or via email.



Arboretum Library Winter 2011 E-News

Hello all      I have several volunteer catalogers who are library school students or recently graduated and we are cataloging and making available lots of items.  This new book list highlights brand new books in the Library as well as great hurdles working through our backlog.   Here is a link to the new books (both children’s and others), magazine articles and websites we’ve cataloged recently.  If you are interested in any of the items on the list, just let me know and I can help get them for you.
Christine Hsiao, my volunteer, and I moved the rare books back into the renovated Rare Book Room.  The Good Family Foundation gave us the money to purchase the shelves.  Aren’t the shelves and books beautiful?Here is a description of the next Arboretum Library project:      “Shall an ordinance be adopted to validate and reduce Los Angeles County’s existing utility users tax from 5 percent to 4.5 percent; to continue funding essential services, including sheriff’s deputies, parks, libraries, street repairs, and other general fund services; update definitions to require equal treatment of taxpayers regardless of technology used; provide public review of expenditure and independent audits, and continue the low-income senior exemption?”     This proposition was adopted in Los Angeles County in 2008.  As you see from the language, it is intended to support both parks and libraries among other things. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors designated 5 million dollars for improvements at the Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden and 1.25 million of that money has been further designated to be spent on the Arboretum Library.  The money for the Arboretum Library is intended to address “deferred maintenance” issues.  This includes a cataloging component to solve cataloging backlog issues as well as library building renovation.     My vision for the building renovation is to open up the space to create a more convivial space where the customers are surrounded by and can engage in enjoying the collections.  The ceiling was discovered to be essentially a “false” one.  It could be opened up to leave behind its current, oppressive, heaviness.  The Arboretum Library needs an area where customers can enjoy reading, be it books or through wi-fi.  I hope for a designated children’s area, as well as a quiet study area, and a place where the Botanical Information Consultant has easy access to the customers.  There will be better areas to shelve our periodicals, our photographs, slides, ephemera, architectural plans and, of course, our books.  Our volunteers will gain appropriate work spaces using the best technology.     I also strongly believe that the space needs to be better integrated into our landscape.  We are, after all, a beautiful garden, with gorgeous views.  I’m wondering now if that means turning the library toward the garden.  Windows would let the customers gaze and be surrounded by that landscape and a courtyard would allow them to interact with it.  I want to keep the front door so very near the entrance to the Arboretum and as they move through that door the view is light and beautiful, showing the western sun as it goes down through our beautiful trees.  Construction should begin in 2012.  If you have any suggestions about the renovation, please feel free to discuss them with me.  I welcome your input.     Here is the latest and greatest from the Reading the Western Landscape Book Group.  Our current book for the March meeting is about the natural history, especially insects, in a Tempe, Arizona backyard.   Here is a link to the books and questions we have finished.  Tell your friends so we can really get this group going.      Here are the Bookworms story time themes and dates for the next few months.  The story time is recommended for children ages 3-8.  This is a free program for members and free with admission for non-members.I Love the Lagoon!Sunday, February 6; 2pmWednesday, February 16; 10amSunday, February 20; 2pmIt’s WildSunday, March 6; 2pmWednesday, March 16; 10amSunday, March 20; 2pmSquawkSunday, April 3; 2pmSunday, April 17; 2pmWednesday, April 20; 10amThe Arboretum Library hours are:Open Tuesday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.Open Saturdays, 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.Open Sundays, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.Come visit!  Remember we are circulating to Arboretum Foundation members.  The circulation period for books is 3 weeks with 2 renewals if no one else wants the item.  You can renew by e-mail, phone or in person.  The circulation period for current magazines is 3 days with 2 renewals if no one else wants the item. Our Botanical Information Consultant (for plant advice) is available Tuesday-Saturday,, or 626-821-3239.
Happy reading!  Susan Eubank, Arboretum Librarian,

Book Review - “Gardening the Mediterranean Way”

We're fortunate to be featuring book reviews by horticultural history author Judith M. Taylor. After a career in neurology she retired to northern California and now “practices history without a license.”  She is currently working on her forth book and is the honorary librarian and book editor for the San Francisco Garden Club. Her website is Horthistoria.
Heidi Gildemeister is a founding member and former president of the Mediterranean Garden Society. This book is a sequel to her first one, Mediterranean Gardening: a Waterwise Approach. To show how serious she is about her subject she lives and gardens in Mallorca, a large island in the Mediterranean Sea. From time to time she comes up for air and travels to places like the Bay area.
Our own Richard G. Turner, editor of Pacific Horticulture, has written a foreword to this book, indicating how difficult it is to find hands-on direction in creating a Mediterranean garden. He has led the way with several impressive symposia at which Heidi Gildermeister was a key speaker.
The climate named for the Mediterranean basin but which is found in four other places, Chile, Cape of Good Hope, California and Southern Australia, consists in mild, wet winters with up to forty inches of rainfall each year and hot dry summers when rain is extremely rare.
The features which distinguish this climate include latitude between 30 and 40 degrees, both north and south of the Equator, and location on the west and south western coasts of continents, where the ocean currents offshore are usually quite cold. Archeology tells us that these regions did not always have this type of climate.
Fossil specimens show that vascular plants which we know nowadays need rainfall evenly dispersed throughout the whole year once flourished in those regions. The olive trees, quintessentially Mediterranean, is a living fossil. While it can survive miserably with no water at all, the tree must be given a little water throughout the summer in order to have a useful crop. Experts interpret this finding to mean that the olive tree dates from that earlier epoch.
Heidi Gildemeister supplies information about how to create your own Mediterranean garden, as well as ideas about siting the property and how to create an atmosphere in the garden. The largest part of her book is headed “Mediterranean Dream Gardens: choosing your own personal Eden”. One might liken this to a series of twenty templates, each one with its own theme. The individual sections are succeeded by excellent lists of the plants which contribute to that ambience.
There is an “Evergreen Eden” in which shrubs and trees are prominent. A “Coastal Haven” deals with the boundary between sea and land. Terracing is the theme of “A Garden in the Hills”. The “Swimming Pool Garden” is self-evident, as is the “Edible Garden”. This is very good way of organizing a huge topic which could easily degenerate into lists and lists with more lists on top of those.
The author comments that for now almost all the plants in these categories tend to be from the Old World. She is not aware for example of a Chilean or Australian garden solely populated with Chilean or Australian plants of the Mediterranean type. That will come one day. Meanwhile here in California we can learn from her wisdom.
Copyright © February 2011 Judith M. Taylor
Gildemeister, Heidi. Gardening the Mediterranean Way. London: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2004.
Find this book in the Arboretum Library catalog here.

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© 2015 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden • 626.821.3222 • 301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007 • Website Design by Kirk Projects.

© 2015 Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Gardens

Phone: 626.821.3222

301 N. Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA, 91007

Site Design by Kirk Projects