Bell gardens landscape maintenance
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Bell gardens landscape maintenance mission was in full swing, as was the tradition in Los Angeles in the 1930s, as the city’s Japanese American community was being forcibly removed to internment camps.
“Everything is being touched up,” said Gilbert Isao Kunishige, whose garden on Venice Boulevard was recently upscaled.
Mr. Kunishige, who said he had been a gardener all his life and that he could grow an elaborate display of hydrangeas and irises from seed alone, paid a landscape worker to arrange the rows of cabbage, squash, beets, herbs, cucumbers and peppers that would soon be planted in his garden.
His workers laid down 2,500 pounds of mulch, moved hundreds of stone walls and dug trenches around decorative elements such as a stone retaining wall, outdoor fountains, a water feature and a cluster of palm trees. The cost: $16,500.
The crowd at Venice and Sunset boulevards Monday afternoon was expected to be close to 100, said Vic. Tamar Kahana, president of the nonprofit group Friends of Garfield Park, which organized the event.
“We’ve been asking people for a long time to tell their stories, and finally this year we got tired of waiting,” she said. “We couldn’t wait any longer.”
The event was organized as a way to promote the Los Angeles Conservancy’s recent restoration of the Garfield Park site, where a farmers market has been held for decades.
The Conservancy owns the Garfield Park site, which lies between Temple and Venice boulevards on the western edge of downtown, on a parcel that once housed the park’s office and administration, as well as the Los Angeles Zoo.
After a lengthy, unsuccessful fight for full-service park status for Garfield, the Conservancy this year was given that designation.
Some city officials greeted the restoration of Garfield with something close to gratitude — an attitude that is starting to change after years of feeling dismissive of the efforts by Friends of Garfield Park to raise money and voice concerns about the site.
Mayor Eric Garcetti has repeatedly cited the progress made at Garfield as he touts his commitment to preserving the community. In an article this month in the Times, the mayor compared the fight for the historic park to what has been happening with Van Ness Avenue, a downtown street that the city renumbered last year.
“They’re fixing it up and getting people excited about Van Ness and the changes in the City Council and the mayor’s office,” Garcetti said.
Tasha Forman, the conservancy’s vice president of conservation and site planning, was equally complimentary.
“We’ve always had, I think, a very healthy relationship with Friends of Garfield Park,” Forman said. “We’ve always appreciated the people that work there and we’ve always appreciated the level of service that they provide.”
Friends of Garfield Park, which holds its monthly meeting on Thursday, helped raise about $60,000 for the renovation of Garfield, including about $35,000 raised for the conservancy this summer.
Friends of Garfield Park has raised money for and managed public art installations at the site. But in some respects, the more than 80 volunteers who showed up Monday night were less interested in what was happening at Garfield than in what they were doing in the middle of downtown Los Angeles.
Jasmine Picariello, 48, held an umbrella and waved as she walked past the crowd along Sunset. She said she had not been to the Farmer’s Market at Garfield in at least 10 years, and said it was about time for the event to move.
“I just want to see it go back to the way it was.... I came out for this, and it’s really nice and quiet,” she said.
Mr. Isao Kunishige of Gilbert Isao Kunishige &, Co. on Venice Boulevard watched as workers from his company planted the garden on his property.
“I don’t think any work here has been touched up for more than 10 years,” he said, pointing to the rows of flowers in the half-finished garden. “It’s hard to find anybody who can remember what it was like.”
Mr. Kunishige’s workers joined some volunteers at Sunset and the foot of Main Street who had come in tented trucks.
Each week, through the middle of summer, the tented trucks spill into several makeshift gardens on the sidewalks and across the street from Sunset. Each garden has an established theme and is coordinated to follow in an aesthetically pleasing sequence.
On Sunday morning, David Miethke, who lives near the conservancy, asked his wife, Laura Haffenden, whether she was interested in gardening. He asked her on a whim, when she said she was, he said he would dig up their back yard. The results were a delightfully laid out garden with dwarf apple trees and flowers such as marig