Walking about mid-city L.A., I notice many stores with planters near doorways or under windows. To have the breath of plants near busy city streets is soothing and joyful. Even the narrowest strip of earth sandwiched between a building wall and a busy sidewalk offers enough space for the planting of vines that happily creep up stuccoed walls, creating walls of living green that transform windowless concrete to homes for crickets that chirp happily at night. Some buildings end completely cloaked in tangled green vines, looking for all the world like magical fairy palaces in a treeless forest, inviting both birds and passers-by to pause and breathe. Green is good for business and good for the environment. Any tired shopper might rather enter a green-clad store than one that radiates heat from glaring glass and polished steel. I know I would.
Every addition of living breathing plants is welcomed at the center of the city, but what I love is the variety of the plants that make the city streets their home and also the fun some have with the mini-landscaping of business properties. Some stores have simple and elegant planters next to doors; others subdued foundation plantings, but the ones that splash into walkways with flowers and even bits of lawn make me happy. For example, this restaurant on N. La Cienaga Blvd, just north of the Beverly Center, invites potential customers with a playful jagged lawn that zigs and zags into the sidewalk. A passer-by walking along, looking down at feet, will instantly look up when that lightning green comes into view, and there will be the window of the restaurant, beckoning, a pleasant oasis.
That little bit of grass, interrupted by casual plantings of bushes and flowers, delights not just because it reminds of country fields but because its jagged edge insists on it being more, a separated reality perhaps. Not meant to fit neatly against the carefully drawn seams of sidewalks, it bounces with its own rhythm, and that rhythm, like any rhythm, invites harmony. I like how this green doesn't seem to scream look at me but rather murmurs sing with me or follow me. Dance down this path, join me, come in. Welcome. Who could resist such invitation?
Of course, water hungry grass may not be the best choice for city streets in a city that ordinarily gets 15 inches of rain per year, and many businesses choose to fill planters with planters with sedum that thrive and bloom in dry conditions. Unlike the tender annual flowers more at home under rain-rich skies, these exuberant rosettes are comfortable against a glass brick wall that absorbs sun and reflects heat.
The various colors and shapes of these stonecrops provide visual interest to anyone who pauses long enough to really look, and the fact that these plump and sometimes rosy sedum appear enough like healthy hearty beautiful roses, they engender hope that we, too, will survive in spite of the increasing heat. Even when crowded thickly against one another, these plants are so cheerful, so gloriously robust, that those of us who live in equally crowded and challenging conditions, struggling with bald concrete and dry heat, are encouraged.
No one likes to shop where plants are left to die. Such lack of attention says something about the management of the store, but then, maybe that's okay . . . maybe it's a good thing to fend off consumers, keep them walking on by. We live in an economy still attached to 1th century ideals of Progress and arecontrolled by the notion that a successful economy expands, but perhaps we need to revise those notions, discover ways to develop an economy based instead on sustaining all that we already have. I love the green that whspers to shoppers come in, come in and buy, but I also knowwe don't need more products to buy, more ways to entice shoppers. We have enough product. We need more gardens.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center, located at the University of Colorado, reports that:
"Higher-resolution Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer-Earth Observing System (AMSR-E) data processed by the University of Bremen showed ice extent on September 5 as falling below the same date in 2007."
When Voltaire's Pangloss suggests to Candide that we live in the best of all possible worlds, Candide replies Il faut cultiver notre jardin. We must tend our garden. Not my garden. Our garden. That garden is our planet, home to us all. Earth is Paradise, the best of all possible worlds, the garden where all necessary for human life flourishes, but like any garden, if it is to thrive, it needs tender and attentive care. Just as the poor hapless ivy dies when left untended, so will our garden, and when our garden dies, no amount of shopping is going to bring it back.
Stop excessive shopping. Plant gardens. Cherish all that grows.