Friday, August 31, 2007

Nominations for Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards

It’s about time for Santa Barbara Beautiful to issue their awards for all the great commercial building, residential, and landscape projects that continue to make our hometown such a fabulous place to live. SBB is all about shining a well-deserved spotlight on the property owners, designers, contractors and maintenance personnel who make the extra effort. We owe SBB a debt of gratitude for continually raising the bar and for providing funding to worthy beautification projects.

Out of necessity, or maybe kindness, they do not have an evil twin organization to rant about the aesthetic blight perpetrated upon the community by folks who plant and tend some of the landscapes we are daily subjected to. These are the tortured trees, chaotic colors, and hacked hedges that make me want to fly over with a napalm drop and put us out of our collective misery.

Here are my two main beefs…

1) People (out of ignorance, not malice) put plants in places they have no business being planted. If a plant is genetically imprinted to grow twenty feet high and twenty feet across, don’t put it in a 6” deep window box. That casts the die and assures unnecessary butchery for the live of the plant. Worse, some folks consider the pruning of a plant to be an artistic endeavor on par with avant garde sculpture.

2) Just ‘cause you own a smelly, obnoxious, gas-powered, pollution-belching hedge trimmer doesn’t mean you have to use it on every plant in the garden. And if you do whip it out, how about creating a somewhat natural form out of the plants you assault?

So permit me to offer the 1st Annual Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards for Absurd Horticulture. I’m seeking your nominations. Here are the guidelines and a few pictorial examples to get you started. Leave your nominations as comments at the end of this post…

Category: Best Use of Inappropriate Technology To Perform Needless Work

This award will go to the Plant Janitor who has apparently never visited a real garden or ventured into the natural environment. Note the avoidance of the term “gardener” as this lofty title is reserved for those who recognize that plants are living things, that each has its own particular growth habits and cultural needs, and that, when properly selected and placed, can exist quite well with no reshaping from anyone, thank you very much.


Category: Most Absurd Location To Plant A Bougainvillea

Most Bougies fall into the category of aggressive, thorny, don’t-mess-with-me brambles that will take over a football field if left alone. Their allure, however, is their delightful color, imparted by bracts (not actually flowers) that range from purest white to copper, red, purple, and pink. It’s that beautiful color that makes folks plant them anywhere, regardless of the torturous abuse needed to subdue them in the ridiculous spaces we force them to occupy. It’s NOT a freakin’ petunia folks! Furthermore, when you slice them and dice them, you’re cutting off the tips that produce the color. Smooth move! So lemme know where the most absurd examples reside.


Category: Abused Plant Most Likely To Be Featured In A Dr. Seuss Illustration

How far can a plant janitor stray from the inherent form of a plant before we lose all connection with Mother Nature? How misguided and unobservant does one need to be to create the Twilight-Zone tableaus we find dotting the landscapes of Santa Barbara. When does it make more sense to throw some plastic coat hangers in a furnace, pull them out and shove them in the ground? You know they're out there—now go find them.


I think that’s enough to get you started. If you think of other categories, send them along and maybe we’ll try another round. In the meantime, while you’re looking for candidates, keep your eyes on the road—wouldn’t want to lose a REAL gardener.


Anonymous said...

Fun blog --- but what's the name of the plant that looks like a bunch of poodle tails, massacred as the grammar "You know their out there—now go find them."

Also, how DOES one prune a bougainvillea? Explaining what's right along with pointing out what's wrong would be helpful, especially for those of us such a myself who inherited a bougainvillea probably planted where it shouldn't be, at the edge of a house by the driveway.

These (constructive) criticisms aside, many thanks for your efforts to improve Santa Barbara!

Garden Wise Guy said...

GWG here: thanks for the spell check--something always slips through my eagle eyes. The "poodled" plant was a Lavatera bicolor (Bush Mallow) which is a lusciously gorgeous shrub with mauve flowers. I guess someone was terrorized by one such plant as a child and is now taking our their vengence on the local population.

What to do about YOUR bougie? First decision is whether it should continue to live on in that location. Sometimes the best decision is to yank it out and replace it with a plant that can grow there without causing problems or work.

It's always a balancing act between the impacts it creates by being the wrong plant for the spot, and how much you're willing to "manage" it. If the greenwaste is being recycled and the result of the pruning still results in something aesthetically attractive for your particular garden, no harm--it's your call.

If you are going to keep it and prune it, please avoid shearing it into a "perfect" shape and instead use hand-pruners to selectively shape it. Find the branches that are going in the direction you DON'T want them to go, and remove the entire branch at it's junction. That way there are no stubs left to regrow where you don't want the branches.

Hope this helps and thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Thank you.I like bush mallow and didn't recognize it.

The bougainvillea is very large, must be quite old and I don't prune it into anything near 'perfection' - finding perfection actually to be no pruning at all. I would prefer it wasn't there and don't like the purple color but it definitely has a life of its own and I respect that.

However, I guess I am doing okay by taking out large branches (it's beyond the capability of hand pruners) that might provide nests for rats. I was concerned by such heavy cutting --- and it is hard to dispose of all that thorny material in the green barrels.

Btw, it looked from edhat that you are soliciting photos or suggestions of examples of pruning malpractice. Is that so?

Unknown said...

I'm not in Santa Barabara, so I can't add anything to your list... but I have to say that I literally laughed out loud at the term "Plant Janitor." I see way too many "landscaping professionals" in our area who would be more correctly called "Plant Janitors" not to steal that term for use here, too. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm not in Santa Barbara either, but I am in California... and I have a couple woppers! Do you have an email that we send pics to?

Garden Wise Guy said...

Kim: you can send your "entries" to my e-mail at the more the merrier!