Now 32 years
old and listed in several Los Angeles hiking guides
December 9, 2003
In that beautiful early summer evening Amir raised his glass of
wine with a smile to palate his favorite cabernet and with his
ubiquitous sense of humor he said:
"I have to teach you guys how to stop messing around with
cheap wines. You just make me look bad in Hollywood circles and
celebrities. I have a solid reputation out there and you are ruining
it." We then laughed together and drank our wine. Comments
like those always made us laugh and realize why we loved Amir
and enjoyed his company.
was fifteen years ago and we were sitting near our campfire at
Denali National Park in Alaska. This wasn't just any camping
trip. We had jars of caviar, fine California wines, avocados, Amir's
home made bread, smoked salmon, variety of cheese, best after
dinner drinks and Swiss chocolate. That was a well-planned trip,
thanks to Amir's taste, as an alternative vacation to
luxury hotels. We slept in our
tents and watched aurora borealis before we fell asleep.
Tall, grey and handsome, Amir Dialameh knew how to level with
anyone from all walks of life. Amir was never shy or submissive
he complacent or self-satisfied. He had been a leader since childhood,
but he would not rush ahead of you with hasty steps. Once you got
to know him you would realize that this man has many good traits
seldom found all in one person.
He was a
disciplined and determined man. Humble, content, down to earth,
forgiving, charitable. Amir was a master of cleansing one's
soul by association.
A decorated graduate of the Military Academy in Iran in mid 1950's
he was a strong advocate and follower of truthfulness in thought,
speech and behavior, the three metaphysical signs of humanity in
Yet at the same time there was an innocent child in his heart,
a child who was still missing the loss of his young and only sister
decades earlier in Iran of 1951. A woman's kindness could
remind him of his lost sister. Painting was one of his hobbies;
he drew many beautiful abstract images of nature and still
His own favorite was a portrait of his
beloved sister which he drew in 1980's.
Amir came to the US from Iran in early 60's and settled
in Hollywood. He always expressed a deep respect for America the
beautiful. During his college years he followed his favorite habit
of hiking, and the hills of Griffith Park gave him that opportunity
Around 1971 a brush fire burned a substantial portion of the
chaparral in the hills above the golf course and just behind the
Zoo. Amir was saddened by the damage the fire inflicted. One
day he approached Griffith Park authorities and, to their amazement,
asked whether he could get permission to create a garden
on top of the hill behind the golf course.
He was not taken very seriously at first but when he discussed
his plan they told Amir that the ranger station could grant him
a permit but that was it. No water, no shovel no plants and no
Amir accepted with delight.
He carried the shovel and his tools up the hill everyday. Seven
days a week! Soon he cleared the area of debris left by the fire.
New vegetation started to sprout. He planted drought tolerant plants
that he bought at local nurseries. Within a year the garden
grew to a quarter of an acre. The rangers
would drive their trucks on the fire road and visit him. He bemused
them with his perseverance. A few of the young and inexperienced
rangers had their doubts about him but older and senior ones
Finally he became "lucky", as he put it, and the chief ranger
in Griffith Park informed him that they are going to give him
access to water. Amir was delighted and soon
a pipeline was carried all the way from the bottom of the hill
to the top.
This helped Amir's garden grow faster. Another
year passed and it became an acre of lush green drought
tolerant collection. The eucalyptus trees, the liquidambar, ash,
pines, jacarandas, a magnolia and other plants started to grow.
He even tried fruits and herbs but human and animals competed each
time to ruin, stampede and destroy his fruit trees and seedlings.
He jokingly blamed the destruction on "occasional
grazing by deer and rabbits but frequent visits by lawyers and
Within the first four years, the garden attracted the mayor of
Los Angeles, the LA Times, two radio stations and several
Amir's garden became what the LA Times in 1975 called "an
oasis within oasis". TV and Radio stations interviewed him, followed
by receptions in his honor. Soon Amir attracted occasional
volunteers who would pick spots mostly to plant a tree in the name
of their lost loved ones.
Three mayors visited his gardens on various occasions
during the last 32 years, each handing awards and praises.
Amir later reflected on some of these high level visits and humorously
come here and approach me to run for the president of the United
States but each time I decline, I just don't have the time."
Amir never accepted gifts or monetary donations in any form and
shape. On two occasions in 70's when some charitable persons
sent him money to spend on plants, he returned them with a thank
you note. Amir's motto was: "In the land of the free, plant
If you visited his garden you would hardly could tell
who was Amir and who was a visitor; he was not pretentious.
He was not the owner, the man in charge or the founder, he was
Amir, the man with the sense of humor.
Twice the garden was engulfed in brush fire since 1971. Each
time Amir was there for quick to the rescue, to salvage and rebuild.
He put more volunteer time in that garden than many organizations
would in their lifetime.
The LA times once asked Amir, "In the past fifteen years how
many times have you been away from the garden?" Amir knew the
by heart. Two
weeks vacation each year, and once he did a three-month cross country
hike followed by a short trip to his native Iran. Those were
the only times he was away from the garden for more than two
weeks in any given year.
Amir's Garden is now 32 years
old and listed in several hiking guides.
Many knew Amir by his smiling face, his brisk sense of humor
and energetic manners. He loved to bake bread and give to friends.
He cautioned people about wastefulness, and believed people
should avoid being envious of other or carry resentments in
life. He felt everyone should look inside thir own soul and
find answers and not just follow the crowd.
Occasionally some visitors stole plants from the garden but he
always recalled with smile and generosity, "they need them
in their backyard, so they come and get it from here and perhaps
sell the surplus in their garage sales."
Some drunken kids once attacked him in the middle of his garden;
his wallet was stolen and his his nose was bleeding, but again
he kept his sense of humor and devotion. He said, "so much for
Sundays, I am not going there on Sundays anymore." And he kept
promise. He went Mondays through Saturdays then after.
Several years ago the park gave him additional access to water
and the main pipes got changed to a much thicker and powerful one
and he and his volunteers installed bird sprinklers and expanded
the garden to almost current five acres. If you were down the hill
or in Glendale and wanted to know whether Amir is up in the garden
or not you would just look for the large US flag. If the flag was
up Amir was up.
In Christmas he decorated the garden. He installed
beautiful and comfortable benches and he drew abstract images with
lively colors on them. He created steps all the way to
the bottom of the hill, an extremely difficult project.
In a city where Iranians have flourished financially
and socially for the past 40 years, Amir kept to himself and led
a simple life.
On many occasions he made comments to close friends that "when
I am gone what I have is going to go to the boys and girls camp
right there, can you see it down the hill?" And in fact his
family is currently implementing that wish.
Indeed there is a Boys Camp down from his garden and the camp
staff brought children up the hill for the grand finale of lunch
and tour of Amir's Garden. Those tours always ended with
a surprise bird feeding. Amir would take peanuts out of
his pockets and stretch his hand and just yell "Speedy... Speedy"
and there came a blue jay or two to sit on Amir's hand and grab
peanuts, a scene that made children cheer and applaud for Amir.
Amir was every child's role model. Yet he cautioned people
not to try to be like him. He knew well that very few could
put up and tolerate the difficulties and endure obstacles that
faced in his 32 years of voluntary work. His sense of humor
soul kept him in balance.
If you ever go to Griffith Park make sure you know where you
are going ahead of time, as it's known as the largest city
park in the world. Find the golf course and if you park near
fences outside of the golf course there is a hill behind
tall trees on top. Find the steps among the grass and
beyond the bushes and start walking up. Ten minutes later
you are in Amir's
Garden. You can also park at Mineral Wells picnic ground
just behind the golf course and hike the fire road up to Amir Garden.
green water tank is there as a landmark half way to the top.
If you are thinking to plant a flower or a small tree in the
name of a loved one, just take a small shovel and your
up the hill and find a good spot to plant it, no questions asked. And
if Amir were still around he would most likely tease you by yelling:
"Please, make sure to go back down empty handed; don't
snatch a souvenir or a sample." And then you would
Amir Dialameh passed away on October 27. He was in his early
70's. There will be a memorial at his garden on Saturday, December
at 10 a.m. Wear your casual clothing and comfortable shoes and
walk up to the Garden.
Please see a collage of images from his
garden at this website address. Click on Amir's
What does he who plants a tree?
......He plants cool shade and tender rain.
And seeds and buds of days to be,
......And years that fade and blush again;
He plants the glory of the year,
......He plants the forests' heritage-
The harvest of a coming age;
......The joy that unborn eyes will see-
These things he plants who plants a tree.
Farrokh A. Ashtiani is the founder of PersianParadise.com
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