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Holiday Lights Up Ahmanson Estate

Christmas Comes to Hancock Park

I've been given the rare privilege and opportunity of helping redesign, construct and illuminate the landscaping of the largest property in Hancock Park, the magnificent, historic, 1.5 acre Ahmanson Estate.

Over the next several months I will show you a sampling of what went into the gardens' re-design, construction and illumination. However, this month's newsletter focuses on the extraordinary job Justin Howard of Flaming Flower Productions did in turning the house and grounds into an exquisite "Holiday Fairyland." You might also have noticed his floral designs at the Golden Globes, the Grammys and the Oscars as well as for Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, and for  Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Ari Emanuel and Quincy Jones – to name a few of his clients.

I would also like to give credit to Alison West, principal of Alter Design, who designed all of the outdoor furniture, and to Joel Mark of Joel H. Mark, Photographer, who did these and all of the photographs you will be seeing of the Ahmanson Estate.

I will let his photographs illuminate the night.

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Complimentary Consultation

If you'd like to set up a phone consultation or arrange a site inspection of your garden, now is the time to give a call (323-461-6556) or email me. In addition to my work as a landscape designer and contractor, I love giving advice and have provided garden consultations to any number of folks with great results.

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“A Gardner's Thoughts & Fancies”

Why Trees Fall

Southern California has been struck by ferocious Santa Ana winds, which have toppled century old trees, tossed palm fronds around like tooth picks and sent tree branches crashing to the ground

Since the winds hit, my landscaping crews have been chain-sawing their way through my clients' gardens, working overtime to clean up the mess.

And while there is not much one can do about the wind, the palm fronds or the branches, there is something that can be done about what arborists call "wind sail effect" and "tree failure" that send magnificent oaks and towering eucalyptus crashing to the ground, across driveways, on top of cars or into your house.

Emily Green covered this issue on May 14, 2010 in The Dry Garden blog she writes for the LA Times

I will summarize her suggestions here, but her piece is well worth reading in its entirety, "How to prevent trees from looking like this."

Why Trees Fall

There are two reasons why trees fall in high winds: either their root systems have been compromised or their branches have not been pruned or pruned improperly so that their canopy either acts as a sail or become excessively top heavy.

Roots are everything. When considering why trees fall in high winds, Santa Monica urban forester Walter Warriner states, "The single most important thing to keep trees from coming over in wind storms is to cultivate and protect a healthy root mass."

When trees do blow over, often it's because of circularized roots, the chopping of roots and, most often, the over-watering of roots.

Root health starts in infancy. So, when choosing a tree from a nursery, make sure that the specimen is not root-bound with circularized roots that will grow inward, not down and out.

And don't follow the usual advice, which has been. "To dig a large hole, put the tree in the hole, and fill around the ball of roots with enriched soil.… This may be exactly the wrong thing to do! … The hole full of rich soil may allow the tree roots to get off to a good start, but the roots may take a long time to grow from the good soil into the poor soil surrounding it. Roots may coil around in the hole just as they would in a pot."

Most horticulturists recommend that homeowners use soil on site rather than potting mix when planting a tree. Potting mix should not exceed one-third of the total mix

Keeping the trees well anchored involves respecting the roots, which are not where many of us would expect to find them. "Sometimes you see drawings where the root system is a reflection of the canopy, except underground," warned Carl Mellinger, Los Angeles arborist and former president of the Western chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. "Trees don't grow like that. Instead, most of a tree's roots will be found in the top two feet of soil. A lot of trees fall because someone has cut the roots to install irrigation or utilities, or do some kind of trenching."

Water the grass, not the trees. "I would like to see lawns pulled away from the trunks of trees," Mellinger said. "Everyone should redirect sprinklers away from trees. A lot of trees we have should only be watered four to six times a year and they're getting watered several times a week."

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