Fruit & Tea : Clay & Wood : Earth & Fire

Within the past week, LA has been gifted two beautiful pieces of public art that, in some ways, could not be more different from each other, but that both embody a huge spirit of generosity by the artists who created them.

In the middle of the urban streetscape, in Echo Park, artist and instructor Katrina Alexy gave nearly six months of her own time sitting on a sidewalk on Logan Street, wearing a huge straw hat and piecing together a colorful mosaic mural to celebrate the Echo Park Farmers Market and the healthy foods that can be found there. She used thousands of vintage tiles that were otherwise destined for the landfill. She enlisted the help of the neighbors to create new fruit-themed tiles for the various medallions that were incorporated into the design. She made friends every day she was there, getting to know the passersby, including people that brought her gifts of corn and cushions to sit on as well as words of wisdom, encouragement and thanks.  Regular visitors included kids and abuelitas, the well-to-do and the homeless and everyone in between. Even Erykah Badu stopped by one day. When the mural was finished, it was celebrated last week with a very public unveiling  on the day of the farmers market and included speeches by the artist along with city councilman Mitch O’Farrell and other local notables. A mariachi band added to the party atmosphere.

More on the mural can be found on the Eastsider “Close Encounters of the Echo Park Kind”.


Artist Katrina Alexy



Katrina Unveiling

The Big Reveal

Just three days later, a rogue band of anonymous artists pulled off an amazing caper, installing a lovingly-crafted, Japanese-inspired tea house tucked into a nook in Griffith Park. The structure was built off-site, over a period of more than 6 months, by skilled artists, designers and wood workers. It was erected without permission, under cover of night – but by the light of a full moon – on top of an existing concrete foundation that had been left unused for years. The materials the tea house was built from, very much of the place itself, were considered waste – remnants of trees burned in the 2007 Griffith Park fire as well as felled redwood trees destined for the mulch pile. They were removed from the park when they were considered trash and then returned to the park as beautiful objects that together create a structure much greater than the sum of its parts. The opening ceremony, a sunrise tea service and opera performance, was attended by a small, intimate group of invitees. Sadly, there is already talk of park officials removing the unsanctioned structure, despite how well and how immediately it has been embraced by the community of people who spend time in the park and by the city at large.

More info on the tea house can be found on the LA Times, here and here, as well as on Twitter @GParkTeaHouse. (Please sign the petition to convince the city to let it stay.)

I made no contribution to either project, but I am proud to call the artists who created these amazing pieces my friends. I am grateful to them for their generosity and hard work as well as their vision and creativity. I share their love of Los Angeles and am awed by their commitment to make it a better place for all of us who share this city.

I hope you will visit both pieces of art, to enjoy them and pay respect to those who create them. Then consider ways in which you personally can contribute to our big, messy, confusing and vibrant city. Everyone has gifts to share, no matter how large or small; they all add up into a better place for us to call home.


Hikers Visiting the Tea House


P-22 as a Griffin

P-22 as a Griffin

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The Plants are Confused

This weather is not what we expect in January and it’s not doing us any favors, either. We could really use some rain, but there’s none in sight. Meanwhile, the plants are confused. These Kniphofia, or “Red Hot Pokers” usually bloom in the summer. But when we’re having summer temps in winter, how are they supposed to know the difference? Some plants tell time (or season) by the temperature and others by the length of the day  (or sometimes a combination of both). These are getting some mixed signals.

Kniphofia or "Red Hot Pokers"

Kniphofia or “Red Hot Pokers”

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Acorn in Eagle Rock

I’m so happy to have opened a home and garden shop in October along with two great friends. It’s been a fun, exhilarating, creative (and sometimes exhausting) process. It’s a blast working  and collaborating with other creative people to showcase the artists, designers and products that we love and want to share with others. As soon as we get the outdoor garden center open (by the end of January), it will also be a laboratory for garden ideas and outdoor rooms. We were fortunate enough to get a nice write-up in the Los Angeles Times this week — such a great way to kick off a new year! Please come visit when you’re in Eagle Rock. Check out the Acorn website for more details.


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Fall Fruit


This cactus (a Cereus of some kind) in Silver Lake is covered in bright pink fruit. The birds love it!

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Tropical Paradise

My husband and I both work for ourselves, in various aspects of design and construction, and we are both lucky to have a lot of really wonderful clients who are kind, interesting and talented people. Tom’s roster of clients includes some very notable people, which occasionally makes my own life and work a lot more interesting. This is one of those occasions. In August, Tom spent a few weeks working on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands — that is the island owned by Sir Richard Branson and, as well as being a gorgeous resort, it is also his primary residence. Luckily for me, at the end of August, I was able to join Tom in the islands for the last few days of his trip. We stayed on Virgin Gorda, a short boat ride away from Necker, and I was able to hop over there to his job site and see this amazing place for myself and meet the incredible staff and crew they have there. Even more lucky for me…? They hired me to do a small interior plant-scaping project for them, so at the end of September, Tom and I both traveled back to Necker, both of us with work to do, and this time we stayed on the island itself…. in a private Bali house…. with our own pool. It does not get much better.

Days began with a dip in the pool. We then spent long hours working to help to put the main house back together after being reconstructed, almost two years to the day, since it burned down due to a lighting strike caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. There were hundreds of hardworking people that got this done and we contributed only tiny pieces at the end of the process.  Anyway, another dip in the pool at the end of the day, followed by a delicious dinner, free-flowing champagne, dancing and celebrating. Only to start the whole thing over again the next morning. Sir Richard was so elated to have his house back, that at the very first dinner to be hosted in the great room in over two years, he danced on down the middle of the dining table with one of his guests, nearly hitting his head on one of the massive ostrich egg chandeliers that hangs over the table that comfortably seats 40. It was phenomenal. On another night, we dragged bean bag cushions to the roof of the great house to gaze at shooting stars and the milky way, while hearing about Virgin Gallactic’s plans for commercial flights into space, from the man himself.

But some of my favorite parts of the trip were the close encounters with the wildlife that has the full run of the island: huge iguanas, giant tortoises and fat geckos, flamingoes, scarlet ibises and dive-bombing pelicans, and three different kinds of curious and playful lemurs. I was just visiting, but they get to live there full-time.

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New Park for Highland Park

We are getting a new park in Highland Park! It couldn’t be in a better location. What has been a ragged, fenced off vacant lot, at what is currently one of the “hippest” intersections in this very park-poor city, will finally become green, public space. We don’t know yet what will be inside the park (they are seeking public input), but the amenities that already exist outside the park will also contribute to its imminent success: bike lanes on York to and from the park (and The Bicycle Doctor right across the street if you are in need of any parts or repairs), Cafe de Leche right across the street (for a shot of caffeine or a delicious plachinta to take al fresco to enjoy), a busy art walk on the second Saturday of every month and increasingly vibrant street life all around the area.

How park poor is Los Angeles? According to a 2006 study by the Trust for Public Lands, we have only 4 acres per 1,000 residents (compared to the national standard set by the National Association of Recreation and Parks of 10 acres per 1,000 residents). To make matters worse, about one third of those acres are in large and remote parks — such as Griffith Park and Topanga State Park — that are not easily accessible to most residents, especially those who use public transit. In many parts of the city, there is virtually no open or green space. To help correct this, the LA Parks Foundation is partnering with the City of Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department to build 50 new parks in the city, including this one at the corner of York and Avenue 50.


Some things I would personally like to see included in the park:

  1. Lots of seating of different types: to encourage gathering, relaxing, reading, etc.
  2. Shade, of course: preferably in the form of trees
  3. Water fountains for people and dogs
  4. An air station to fill bike tires
  5. Some innovative play equipment for kids
  6. Low-water and native plantings: possibly as a demonstration garden to show people how they can rethink their own yards and gardens
  7. Bioswales and permeable surfaces that help to keep water and pollution out of the storm drains


Thanks to those who are helping to make this happen:



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Scenes from the Venice Garden Tour, May 2013

The Annual Venice Garden Tour was May 4th — almost a month ago. Yes, that is how long it takes me to download a few photos from my camera. It was a gorgeous day, spent with some favorite friends, with many plants in a full riot of bloom and some good food tossed in. For me, that adds up to the closest thing to perfection I can think of.

Here’s a smattering of images for you….


One of the biggest Agave americana I have ever seen — at Jay Griffith’s studio


Aloe striata in bloom, with Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’ in the background and some Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass) just behind. A nice combination. Also at Jay Griffith’s studio.


Succulents — and a Staghorn Fern — tucked into the trunk of a palm.


More succulents climbing up the trunk of a palm.


Tilandsia — air plants — tied to a grid mounted on a wall. We saw lots of this on the tour this year!


More in the way of Tilandsia + grid + wall.


Edibles everywhere. Homegrown fruits and veggies of all kinds.


A vegetable garden on the parkway (the strip between the street and the sidewalk) with a sign inviting people to help themselves and pick whatever they need for their salad or sandwich.


Beautiful color combination — a purple leaf plum interwoven with a bamboo and backlit.


More color — the plum with various shades of cool green, variegated stripes and grey bark.

And a few more serene photos from the day…





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