New Palms on the Block

August 26, 2009

In the last couple of weeks, some new plants have come to the Robert Irwin-designed palm garden, and a few others have been rearranged. For those of you unfamiliar with the project, a little background—prior to the opening of BCAM, LACMA commissioned Irwin to create an installation of palm trees that serve as a living art display and define the park areas of LACMA’s campus. As part of this project, which will continue to be developed over the next few years, Irwin systematically curated a grouping of exotic and tropical palm species from across the globe. Here are a few photos of the new kids on the block.

 Palm 1

Director of Special Installations John Bowsher told me the Johannesteijsmannia Altfrons palm used to be reserved for nobility. Its fronds were used as umbrellas.

 Palm 2

This palm, Licuala Ramsayi, native to the northern region of Australia, is actually an old friend. It resided in this space when BCAM opened, went to the greenhouse for awhile, and is now back.

 Palm 5

Not all palms can survive “the wind corner”—the open space between BCAM and LACMA West—but this variety of palm, Pritchardia Hildebrandii, should do well. The palms actually align with the sidewalk you see on the other side of the fence and with the two rows of Washingtonia Robusta.

 Palm 6

The center fern in this image is our most rare. It is fifty to sixty years old and not easy to come by at this ripe age.

 Palm 7

This variety, Kentya, is John’s favorite palm. He likes the trunk and the gracefully arched leaves.

 Palm 8

This Bismarckia Nobilis is my favorite palm. I love the silvery blue color. (John says this is why Irwin also likes this palm.)

 Palm 9

Along with the palms, Irwin’s other medium is Southern California’s light, and the species of palms have been specially chosen to gather and reflect the interplay of light and shadow native to L.A. That interplay was really evident here as John and I returned to our offices.

Allison Agsten