Monday, September 13, 2010

2010 Not So Beautiful Awards

Dateline: Dallas, TX, Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm sitting in room 511 at the Hyatt Regency, air conditioning set at a comfortable 72° while the remnants of Tropical Depression Hermine blow through. This is the week I attend the annual symposium for the Garden Writers Association, a professional organization dedicated to communicating the beauty of gardens in words, pictures, television and interpretive dance (good, you're paying attention).

I'm paralyzingly freaked out about the hot, muggy weather ahead. I spent much of last year's symposium touring gardens in Raleigh, North Carolina, feeling like a wet sponge in a microwave oven. At the end of the conference they announced that this year we'd be in Dallas, where it would be "hot, hot, hot! But it's a dry heat." Sure, and armadillo road kill tastes like truffles.

I tell myself that I'm just delaying the inevitable, but for now I have a good excuse for not leaving this vegetable crisper of a room: Ed needs this article by noon, tomorrow.

Why Now?

September is when Santa Barbara Beautiful gives out their annual awards for exemplary architecture, landscaping, public art and signs. Since 2008, I've been giving out my own Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards to help balance the ledger. Aside from the delirious endorphin rush I get from taking sarcastic shots at the f'ugliness that some people pass off as gardening, I also seek to enlighten readers to a better, smarter path that leads to more sustainable landscaping.

Category I: The Sisyphus Award

He's the mythological dude who spent his entire life (including federal holidays when lots of people get three day weekends) pushing a big muthuh of a boulder up Mount Ararat, only to have it roll back to the bottom, ad nauseum.

That's what's going on in this Chapala Street parkway strip near my house. Like clockwork, the plant janitor teaches the plants who's the boss, after which the lantana flips him the single digit salute and grows back to its intended size.

On the bright side, someone is getting a paycheck and putting shoes on their kid's feetsies for this perpetual dance. On the dark side, it looks really stupid. If you want to grow lantana (or any other woody ground cover that grows four feet across) in a narrow planter, space them four feet apart and at least two feet from the edges. They'll actually end up looking like plants and you won't be in a perpetual, fruitless struggle.

It gets better, a lot better and a lot weirder, too. Right this way...


Fred Hoffman said...

I totally concur with you: what were people thinking when planting an evergreen shrub a foot or less from the house foundation? Where was it going to grow? I especially enjoy those homes here in Sacramento with camellias, trained as standards, positioned directly in front of living room picture windows. Nice view of the leaves from the couch!

scottweberpdx said...

haha...those are good...and sadly, things I see all too often around here as well...maybe I'll take a walk and snap some photos...

Julie Orr Landscape Design said...

I once had a client who would spend hours giving his street strip Lantana a 12" flatop.

Your picture is great and brings home the point: plant the right plant for the right space. When in doubt, ask a professional who has seen your site.

very sarcastic said...

hahahah good luck to that guy - it is a never ending battle trying to control plants that are the wrong size for the space. See it a lot in Sydney, Australia..