A Walk in the Garden with Superintendent Diane Sipos

New feathered friends have moved in!  Thanks to the generosity of Nicole Antoine Finton and her family, a brood of four chickens have moved into the hen house, joining the two other ladies (the last remaining from the original five).  This breed of chickens – Silver Laced Wyandotte – is distinguished from the other two hens, with their beautiful golden feathers outlined with blue-grey tips and full feathered heads reminiscent of big, swooping hairstyles from the 1980s. Their full body plumage give them a regal air as they strut about in their new home.  I extend a big thank you to Josh Johnston for coordinating their move to their new habitat.  To ensure a smooth transition as each brood became acquainted, Josh separated the hens with a partition, creating two separate dwellings.  Over a period of several weeks, he slowly introduced the hens to each other, and eventually removed the divider.  The flocks now coexist peacefully, and the new group has happily settled into their new home.  School children have delighted in seeing the chickens on recent field trips, and we look forward to more visitors getting to know them.  

New hen (right) getting acquainted with the two original hens (left)
(Photo credit: Josh Johnston)

On a sad note, we had to say goodbye to the Blue Gum Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) tree in the Palm Forest. It was the last remaining Blue Gum Eucalyptus tree Virginia and Harry Robinson planted from flats purchased shortly after they moved into their home in 1911.  Almost 125 years old, it had been in declining health in recent years.  Removing the tree was a massive project (the huge stump remains). At approximately 100 feet in height with a crown spread of 75 feet, it took the twenty-person crew six days to remove.  It was very sad to see this tree go, especially since it was such an intrinsic part of the garden’s story.  This majestic tree captured the hearts and minds of so many visitors inspiring awe and wonderment.  As a tribute to its legacy, sculptor John Beaver (husband of Friends member Candy Beaver) has generously offered to create a beautiful piece of artwork from the lumber as a memento.

Entering The Virginia Robinson Gardens, visitors are greeted with a symphony of vibrant colors as they pass the Front Meadow. Planted with native wildflowers designed to attract pollinators (birds, bees, and butterflies), the flowers play a vital role in supporting the health of the ecosystem.  As a certified wildlife habitat, the gardens provide food, shelter, and other vital resources to provide a safe haven for animals and insects. Importantly, the meadow is also an insectary that attracts insects beneficial to the health of the plantings. The assortment of flowers – Lupine, California Poppy, Yarrow, Black Eyed Susan, verbena lasiostachys, Scabiosa, Monardia, Purple Heliotrope, Saliva cv Royal Bumble, Gomphrena globose, Helenium puberulum, Buddleja davidii, Ageratum corymbosum, Salivia cv Big Swing, and Eriogonum fasciculatum to name a few  – do well in arid and drought prone areas.  The next time you visit the gardens, make sure you see the Front Meadow!

Superintendent Emeritus Tim Lindsay explained, “We bought 5 lbs. of wildflower seed from Eden Bros, specially blended for southern California.  The seed nursery is located in central California. They have seed blends for all climate zones in California. To have a wildflower meadow, one should spread seeds prior to the rainy season that begins in November.  Seeds germinate after the first rain. Monitor for invasive weeds and remove them when identified. The meadow begins to bloom in late February through June.”

(Photo credit: Josh Johnston)

The Virginia Robinson Gardens was excited to host the first ever Evening of Elegance and Empowerment event on April 27th for girls from the Our SPOT program. Our SPOT is a free after-school program at LA County parks providing a fun, safe and supportive place where teens ages 12-18 can go, Monday through Friday all year long. Programming engages youth from under-represented communities to explore their unique and collective lived experiences through various recreational programs, visual arts sessions, social action activities, and educational field trips. The Virginia Robinson Gardens is a popular destination for Our SPOT field trips, but the Evening of Elegance and Empowerment provided the girls with an entirely new experience. The journey to this special event began the weekend before when each participant received the personal assistance from a professional stylist, who helped each girl select a dress and accessories, thanks to a collaboration with Cinderella’s Closet, a non-profit organization in Orange County. This unique shopping experience generated lots of excitement for the upcoming festivities.

The fun then continued the day of the event when the girls went to their Our SPOT designated park where professional hair stylists and makeup artists treated them to makeup and hairstyling sessions. They were then shuttled to The Virginia Robinson Gardens for an evening dedicated to empowerment. The evening began with a “mocktail” reception and a gallery walk around the “world” in honor of Virginia Robinson and her many travels, celebrating the spirit of exploration and empowerment which so embodied Virginia’s life.  The gallery walk included various activities hosted by community-based organizations focused on self-expression, including art, gardening and the written word.  They also had fun in a “360” photo both, which is not a typical photo booth.  A “360” photo booth creates a distinctive output as the camera orbits around guests standing on a small stage, creating an interactive visual whirlwind. The program also included a performance from young poets who spoke on the theme of empowerment. The event featured a keynote address by Mercy Santora, Deputy Director from the Department of Parks and Recreation East Agency, who gave an inspirational and motivational speech about empowerment.  The sit-down dinner ended with a “Sound Bowl” meditation, an ancient practice that invokes deep relaxation through the resounding vibrations and sounds from metal bowls. As the girls departed, they were given a gift bag which included a generous gift from the Friends. 

This Evening of Elegance and Empowerment was more than just a dinner, it was the first step in their journey of empowerment, offering them a night to remember.

Finally, on April 30th, the Friends hosted the third installment of the Architectural Lecture Series with guest speaker Erik Evens, who gave an illustrated presentation entitled Architecture and the Geometry of Beauty.  Erik introduced the concept of the Mandelbrot Set which is a complex mathematical formula popular for its aesthetic appeal and fractal (never-ending patterns) structures. Through a visual presentation of stunning images, this talk illuminated the complex processes that generate beautiful forms in the natural world and explored how art and architecture reflect the geometry of nature.  The lecture examined core tenets of classical architecture including the moldings “the building blocks of classical architecture” and the Tuscan, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian Orders, and how they relate to the Mandelbrot Set.  Many thanks to Friends President Lynn Whitaker for bringing the delicious treats of bagels, muffins and fruit, and to Sharon Gart for photographing the event. 

2 Responses

  1. Julia Klein
    | Reply

    The Gardens continue to impact so many lives. I do miss being able to participate in the events, but am so happy to read about all the new activities!

  2. Jamie Wolf
    | Reply

    What a delightful, absorbing experience it was to read these expanded notes. The chicken observations were especially fascinating ! And the thoughtfulness of the preparations provided for the young peuple’s social event was heartening to read about and view. Thank you!

    was heartwarming

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