1/25/2007

Disneyland

I'm reading an old issue of Pacific Horticulture. Fall 1996, to be exact.

I'm obsessed with Pacific Horticulture. There are several boxes of back issues stacked in the main classroom where I take most of my horticulture classes. You know I totally raid them. I think maybe 30% of my horticulture education has come just from reading Pacific Horticulture.

Anyway, I'm reading an article about Morgan (Bill) Evans, garden designer of Disneyland. Here are some excerpts:
Eager to explore the world beyond southern California, Bill became a cadet in the merchant marine in 1928 and began an around-the-world trip on the SS President Harrison. This and subsequent journeys afforded him the opportunity to begin lifelong contacts, collect exotic seeds for his father, and visit arboreta in Singapore, Hong Kong, the West Indies, Trinidad, Tahiti, the South Pacific, Australia, Europe, South Africa, the Suez Canal--twenty-five botanic gardens in all. He returned to southern California to study at Pasadena City College and then transferred to Stanford to major in geology. Bill left college to help his father turn the family garden into a nursery business. What he thought would be an interim detour from a quite different career turned into what he calls a "benevolent entrapment that continues to this day."

A benevolent entrapment! I can identify with that!
"[Bill's dad] Hugh Evans was the first to grow hibiscus to any extent in California, and his garden contained 150 varieties, many of which attained tree-like proportions. Outstanding garden introductions emanated from Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. Growing sturdily in their new home were Aster fruticosus from South Africa, the Chamalaucium ciliatum from New Zealand, the Abelia schaumannii from China, the Hiberrtia volubilis from Australia... Other plants tested and introduced to the California garden under Bill's discriminating eye include Schefflera pueckleri (Tupidanthus calyptratus), Chamelaucium uncinatum, Tibouchina urvilleana, thirty-five species of araliads, thirty species of bamboo, twenty-four bougainvilleas and Philodendron 'Evansii', a cross between P. speciosum and P. bipinnatifidum carrying the family name."

Bill got a teaspoonful of Ficus microcarpa seeds from the the director of the Foster Botanic Garden in Honolulu; he was the first to sell that tree in the mainland United States. Heh, heh--whoops! That tree's a big invader now.

The article goes on to talk about how Bill's brother Jack started designing gardens for the Hollywood stars and how this led to a meeting with Walt Disney...
"It was 1954 when Bill and [brother] Jack were called down to the Disney studios in Burbank to meet with Walt about a park he wanted to build. Walt quickly came to the point: "How about you fellows landscaping Disneyland for me?" The schedule was to be rigorous, with the opening set for July of 1955--just one year to transform 80 acres of Anaheim orange groves into a Magic Kingdom.... The master plan was finalized in January 1955. As Ruth Sellhorn, landscape architect for the Main Street, Town Square, and Tomorrowland portions of the project said, "When one considers that no steel framing was started until December 1954, it is unbelievable that this 160-acre project could have been developed in this time."

Disneyland construction quickly exhausted all of the regional nurseries of plant stock and Bill soon searched estates, old gardens, and even city parks to meet the demand for mature specimen trees. Luckily, Los Angeles was building the Santa Monica, Pomona and Santa Ana freeways through tree-lined neighborhoods. Bill describes how they went along the projected roadway and tagged trees slated to be removed. They paid twenty to twenty-five dollars for each tree to the contractor to avoid damaging the trees, then went in as fast as they could to box the trees--some weighing up to ten tons--and give them a home in the new park. Many of these trees ended up in the Jungle Cruise, Town Square, and the Hub, while in Frontierland on opening day there was nothing but five-gallon trees."

Moving big trees:
One of the most striking trees in the Jungle Cruise started out in the Polynesian Terrace restaurant. Bill describes how it was moved: "We had this big Erythrina caffra as a focal point for the patio area. Great flowering tree. But Walt wanted a fake tree there so he could have music and lights. We wanted to save this tree. We couldn't box it; it was too far away from where a crane could reach it. We decided to take a chance and move it bare root. We drilled two inch and a half holes in the trunk, one in a north-south direction, and the other east-west, and put steel pins through the tree. We took a fire hose and washed all the soil off the root system. I took a chainsaw and pruned back the roots to a more manageable twelve feet across. Then it was picked up by the pins and put next to the boat landing. We filled the holes with epoxy and hardwood dowels. It flowered about two months later, happier for the move.

[Note: I'm not sure the tree flowered because it was happy! It could have flowered because it thought it was going to die! "Thought"? Sensed?]
Bill follwed that success by moving maples, oaks, and pines in a similar fashion. Two thousand trees were moved for Walt Disney World in 1971. The largest of these was the Liberty Oak, a fine example of Quercus virginiana with a sixty-five foot spread and a root ball thirdy inches deep and twenty-two feet across. It was carried by the two-pin system five miles from its original location to Liberty Square where it grows today.

Amazing.


Added:

A website devoted to the Plants of Disneyland.

Bill Evans' biography.

3 comments:

mmw said...

I'm obsessed too. Do you have the book?

chuck b. said...

No, I don't have the book. Do you? It's on my wish list. I've never even seen it.

I guess I should say I did not fall under the Hellebores spell of the last issue. But I did pause to wonder if I should try.

Jenn said...

I love to hear stories about saving trees.