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March 2009

Pink Mallow - Velvet Tree-Mallow - Lavatera Arborea

Pink Mallow


The name Malva was used for plants of this family by Pliny and Cicero....the French and thence the English word mauve is derived from Malva, and mauve is the characteristic color of many of the species....the fruit is like a round cheese that is divided into separate portions, each portion being a separate nutlet.  The fruit is called Katzenkase (cat cheese) in German....
Elspeth Beckett
Wild Flowers of Majorca, Minorca, Ibiza


These shy pink mallow are some of the first I've found blooming around town.  Mallows are common and prolific here.  Some are natives to the area, others have naturalized.  They all love our long dry season, the warm summers and frost-free winter nights. 

Because they are so common, they are often disregarded, or neglected.  I often see them at the far edge of a yard, or growing next to an old wooden garage in an alley, or along the banks of Mission Creek, or on a rocky slope up on the Riviera.  

Neglect  suits them perfectly.  They thrive when left on their own.   They unfurl their twisted pink blossoms without pretense, to their own delight; they crowd together on woody branches among velvety green leaves.  

The pink mallows are woody tree-shrubs that have an open form, and grow to ten or twelve feet tall.   They are perennial here, and bloom from March until about October.   They bloom long and in dense masses of pink that  all but hide the leaves and branches.  Hummingbirds and bees love them.  Deer are indifferent. 

A local native, Malva assurgentiflora, the Malva Rosa, or Island Shrub Mallow, has smaller pink flowers whose petals are painted with little watercolor stripes of red.  They are native to Santa Barbara's Channel Islands, and grow unaided, on dry rocky soil with only the rainwater that nature provides.

Tree Mallow are in the same family as common hollyhocks...they are all lavateras.  You can see they are practically kissing-cousins when you compare their leaves, the form of their cup-shaped flowers. 

Mallows are rustic and sentimental.  I love them because they hold no affectations, do not feign to fanciness.   They forswear vanity.  They grow tall and lanky,  with great  joy, it seems.  I take special note of them, because I know they are often overlooked - they are hidden in plain sight.

The pink and green velvet tree-mallows are just beginning to bloom right now.  They portend the playful young joy of springtime.


Gérald Pierre- Un Monsieur Très Doué

Downtown Fountain

Yesterday was “World Water Day”.   People around the world highlighted the need for – and the joy of having clean and abundant water.   Several times during the day, I thought of the water that surrounds me – from my faucets in home and yard, in all the conveniences in the cities of America, and in the verdant fields that grow our food.

I thought of the extravagance of water that we enjoy in the United States – enough to fill swimming pools and man-made lakes, and water parks.  We have so much water, we have turned deserts into the greenest of cities. 

And water spills and splashes in the  fountains found everywhere in the city that I love so much.

State Street Fountain

Yesterday, I also thought a lot about my friend, Gérald Pierre.   Gérald is a young man, a Creole, who was born and raised in Haiti.  I thought about the people of Haiti who long for clean and abundant water.

GP

Gérald is energetic and joyful and creative – he speaks three languages fluently, he paints, dances, and he photographs the world around him.  He is eminently stylish and highly polished, every day. He has a finely honed sense of humor, and a deep joy at his center.  He has an international set of friends - they are all at home, anywhere in the world.  They embrace their responsibility for creating the future.

And while there are lots of people in Santa Barbara who come from other countries, who have several – or many – talents, who are interesting and colorful - not all possess the passion and vision that Gérald has.

Before meeting Gérald Pierre, I knew little of Haiti.   Lately, I have learned a bit more about his tropical and beautiful country.  Haiti's people are strong, independent, and vibrant.  They are full of strength and determination.

They have a proud and rich history.  Haiti is the  oldest black republic in the world - a country formed by slaves who rebelled and expelled the colonial French government. They are also the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.   Despite bone-crushing poverty, disease, malnutrition and other difficulties, the future of this island country will be assured - because young Haitians - like Gérald - will accept nothing less.

Gérald, and others like him, move toward the future with energy and confidence.  Through their creativity, they will engage the world - and they will change it.

Orena Fountain

I know this is true of  Gérald: he  has a mission.  In every picture he paints, through every step of every dance, and through his photographs, he comes one step closer to his dream.

 Gérald plans to share the spirit of his home country and of Haiti's people - through his photographs.  He will use his artist's eye, combined with his technical expertise (he is a graduate of Brook's Institue of Photography), to show the world the glowing beauty and difficult plight of his beloved Haiti - he will contrast what is - with what could be.

Gérald is a goodwill ambassador who will not be restricted by borders.  And while there are many who shout about what is wrong with the world - Gérald and others move forward and do what is right.   And they inspire the rest of us to do what is right, too.

And so, for those of us who have plenty of water, and food, education and medicine, beauty and ease – let us remember those around the world who do not.  Let us remember the millions who long, every day, for a clean cup of water.


Upham Hotel Fountain

So now, you have been introduced to Monsieur Gérald Pierre.   We will watch him help to change the world through beauty.

Thanks.  Merci.  Mèsi.

Visit Gerald's website, here:  Gérald Pierre

Direct Relief International has information about how we can help bring comfort and relief to the people of Haiti. Direct Relief International is a well-known non-profit organization, based in Santa Barbara. They work to bring health care and medical supplies to those in dire need – all over the world. In 2008, Forbes Magazine rated Direct Relief International as 100% efficient in fundraising. Their policy of transparancy and total accountability make them one of the most respected charities in the world. If you would like to learn more about Direct Relief International, or to see how you can help the citizens of Haiti, and many other parts of the world, click here: Direct Relief International