Monday, October 27, 2008

The Inspiration of Trees

"Since I was a boy at summer camp... I have always felt like I was in a church when out of doors. The colors, birds and other animals and fish and the nature around me made me feel as if I was in God's Church.

We even had an outdoor Chapel with a blue sky as the ceiling...... the wind in the trees...

It was wonderful.
I was, and am, very fortunate.
I know that I am richer than most because of that start. No money, But Richer by far.

- George "Gator" Hill

I was not at a church or sitting at the foot of a monument. There is a building inside the gates at 70 Rincon Rd, Kensington- just four miles north of UC Berkeley- a stately mansion with shades drawn- the official residence of the President of the entire UC system. But it was not the building that filled me with awe and made goose bumps rise.

It was the property itself. Situated on a rock-rich bowl overlooking San Francsco Bay, 1200 species of plants call the Blake Gardens home. The diversity in country of origin for the plants residing here mirrors our California population. There were towering trees from Australia.
Rows of our native red-limbed manzanita. Hedges of Chilean bromeliads. Swaths of Mediterranean beauties.

This display captivated me. Just what were these balls on the base of the trees clothed in matching shredded parchment- like bark? Were they growths? A small patch of newsprint peaked from underneath a scrap of bark.

The intrigue stayed with me after I arrived back home. I forwarded the picture to the contact information at the Blake Garden website. Lauri Twitchell wrote back. Quickly and generously.

The tree decoration is a project by Master of Landscape Architecture design student, Erin Murray. Erin believed the immature Melaleuca trees deserved highlighting. She crafted paper mache balls, covering them with bark from another Melaleuca that was sheding, and attached them.

Erin Murray shared this wisdom in the statement which accompanied her installation:

"There is a value in the details of things, but often we let our eyes slide past and don't take the time to EXAMINE what is around us. The purpose of this installation is to INTRIGUE and INSPIRE the public by making them question what is human and what is natural, and how the materials around them can be altered, changed or transmuted into something new. this is achieved by utilizing the bark- in and of itself an amazing material- and attributing to it new characteristics and new forms. Only by utilizing nature itself can you really understand it. "

Information on the Blake Garden can be accessed at

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gator certainly set the tone for your wonderful description of the Blake Gardens. It's almost like walking through those places myself with the pictures you took to accompany your writing. It reminds me of the places I traveled, camped in and lived during my childhood summers. Lake Tahoe and Newport Beach are but two. Aaaah, the great outdoors is still my favorite place. E.