The Second Annual Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards
It came and went. Unless you stay involved with local architecture and landscape happenings, you might have missed the September 28 Santa Barbara Beautiful Awards at the Granada Theater. The hard working folks at SBB are “doers.” They raise money for planting park and street trees, educating youngsters, and recognizing quality design through their monthly awards.
When your out-of-town guests enviously effuse about the beauty of this little slice of the coast, you can pass a bit of credit to SBB. Their annual awards event is all about shining a well-deserved spotlight on the property owners, designers, contractors and care-givers who care enough to nurture beautiful projects to enhance our community.
Out of necessity—but more likely to preserve their ability to fund worthy projects—Santa Barbara Beautiful does not have an evil twin who rants and spews about the aesthetic blight perpetrated upon the community. If they did, I’d certainly lobby to be the prez—make that benevolent dictator.
This secret cabal would root out and expose those who plant and tend the landscapes we are daily subjected to. Whether through innocent ignorance or utter lack of appreciation for quality design and maintenance, there are those whose gardens, trees, and commercial landscapes deserve to be pilloried. My first act as Fearless Leader would be initiating public stockades at Plaza de la Guerra—tastefully landscaped, of course. But I digress.
At my blog last year, I initiated the first Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards. It’s time for round two. I’d love to say this diatribe is offered tongue-in-cheek, but the images you are about to see truly put my knickers in a bunch.
My criteria to enter the panoply of past recipients are simple: Offensive to the eye, and/or flying in the face of resource conserving/sustainable principles.
My comments, though cheeky, are intended to be instructional.
Category One – Most Bone-headed Location to Plant Ivy
I’ve been in the green biz for years. I don’t think I’ve seen a more ridiculous place to plant, and then spend years trimming into submission, an uglier patch of Algerian Ivy (Hedera canariensis). Imagine the hours spent keeping this potential monster at bay. This is the plant that can assault and devour a hundred-foot tall palm tree. I’m not a fan of paving the planet, but ridding us of this chlorophyllic insult and setting a couple of well-placed stepping stones sure would make it safer to get out of your car. Time to call Point Mugu Naval Air Station for the precision napalm strike.
Category Two – Most Artistic Pruning
Step one: Find a plant that is genetically predisposed to grow twenty feet tall and ten feet across.
Step two: Plant it under the roof overhang, two feet from your wall, and a foot from your walkway.
Step three: Prune to reveal the graceful inner branches (forever).
I give you Hollywood Twisted Juniper (Juniperus chinensis ‘Torulosa’). It might cost a few bucks to have it removed and replaced with a right-sized plant, but I wouldn’t have to stifle my gag reflex while I walk Biff the Wonder Spaniel.
Category Three – Most Serious Underestimation of the Power of Bougainvillea
Look it up in your Sunset Western Garden Book. Bougies get huge. You put it in a tiny location and you have to hack the hell out of it. It blooms at the tips. You just whacked it back to Hackensack and cut off the tips to keep it from eating your pet badger. Now it can’t bloom. Remember—you bought it for the pretty flowers, “Mmmmmm, pretty flowers!” Now it’s ugly. Rip it out and throw it in your greenwaste container. Get something smaller that will look nice and fit in the space allowed.
[bougie hack job]
Category Four – You’re Dead; Time to Move to the Next Plane
I couldn’t make up my mind, so let’s use the buck-shot approach. Some plants go dormant and lose their leaves, which sometimes turn brown first. That does not apply to these neighborhood eyesores. How’d you like to live across the street? Really, once a plant is dead, it’s not particularly pretty and does not enhance your home.
Second runner-up: Damn near dead…
First runner-up: Damn near deader…
And the winner is: Damn near deadest…
Category Five: New Member of the National Juniper Preserve
When I lived in the San Fernando Valley in the 60s, thousands of homes addressed their landscape needs by carpet bombing their landscapes with cheap junipers. Plants that grow fifteen feet across were placed three feet from their neighbors in five-foot wide parkways. Do the math.
Again, there were countless worthy candidates around our neighborhoods. This front yard oozed to the top of the mound. Judging from the laser-like precision of the pruning, I’d guess fume-belching gas-powered hedge trimmers are the weapon of choice. At least it doesn’t need irrigation. Perhaps some gray blocks of Styrofoam would reduce the maintenance and produce the same effect?
Category Six: The Other Man’s Grass is Always Browner
I expend a lot of keystrokes ranting about lawns. I’m not 100% anti-lawn. If it serves some recreational purpose, is conscientiously tended – push-mower, organic fertilizer, efficient irrigation system – there’s really no substitute. Then there’s this one. Too steep to irrigate or mow, it inexorably submits to Darwin’s laws. [Business name pixilated to protect the innocent tenant]
Tune in next year. I’m sure there’ll be plenty more worthwhile candidates.