Green Makes Green
By Tony Tomeo
Mar 8, 2013 - 5:30:29 AM

LOS ANGELES—It started back in January of 1998, when more than 30 new trees appeared in the broad medians of San Vicente Boulevard between Redondo Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. No one seemed to know how they got there. At the same time the following year, and in the same medians, a comparable number manna gums (eucalyptus) were added, with about as many more appearing over the next few months in park strips of tributary streets. For the following January, at least as many other trees were mysteriously installed in park strips of residential streets of the western part of Mid City, with several more appearing through the remainder of winter.


Over the years, these mysterious annual planting projects have included mostly park strips, with a few medians and other public spaces, including the medians and interchange embankments of La Brea Avenue at the Santa Monica Freeway.

Maturing tipu trees on South Orange Drive planted by Brent Green.


Most of us are familiar with the now maturing manna gums in the San Vicente Boulevard medians. What we may not know is that the sycamores in the park strips of sections of both Sycamore Avenue and Twenty First Street were two more of these annual projects. So were the purple leaf plums on West Twenty Third Street near La Brea Avenue, and the silver dollar gums (eucalyptus) on a portion of Saint Elmo's Drive, and the California peppers on a portion of West Twentieth Street.


The tipu trees on Orange Drive between Washington Boulevard and the Santa Monica Freeway, and the California peppers on Mansfield Avenue just north of Washington Boulevard are two of the most impressive plantings. Bangor Street has been an ongoing project with mixed eucalyptus trees.


For many of the years that the tradition continued, very few knew about it. The trees simply appeared where there were none before. Someone might occasionally be seen watering or fertilizing the trees. Finally, in April of 2003, residents of the western Mid City neighborhood who knew who was perpetrating these mysterious plantings divulged what they knew.


Landscape designer Brent Green of GreenArt Landscape Design had made a tradition of planting trees in public spaces for his birthday on January 18. The minimum number of trees planted corresponded to his age for that particular year. For example, on his 30th birthday in 1998, he planted 30 trees. For his 31st birthday in 1999, he planted 31 trees.


Of course, these numbers are merely the minimal required complements. In the second year, after the minimum of thirty one manna gums were planted on January 18, more than 35 were added later simply because Brent had them available.


Next winter, at least 45 more trees will be added for Brent's 45th birthday. When that happens, the annual minimum compliments of trees alone will add up to six hundred! There may be 200 or so extra trees as well.


There are no parks or significant public spaces where these trees can really be enjoyed directly. Only those who happen to be fortunate enough to have one or two in their front gardens get to do that. However, these trees beautify our community more than anyone would have guessed when this tradition started so many years ago.


It is so much more than adding shade and greenery to our neighborhoods. The trees add unity. Homes on streets with so many conforming trees look so much more like a neighborhood than like a mere collection of unrelated and separate homes.


Now the neighbors are involved. Brent has organized neighborhood clean up projects with amazing results and impressive attendance. Everyone feels like they can make a difference in the neighborhood in some way or another. One neighbor who was unable to attend a particular clean up event actually brought out pizzas to feed volunteers afterward! Gracious donations to help with the purchase of trees and other resources have been sent from neighbors, as well as people in other states who want to get involved and help with what Brent started.


What Brent Green has done goes beyond Mid City Los Angeles, as an example of what can happen in any neighborhood.

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