Small Stuff

Probably, because I’m a Landscape Architect I get annoyed by ugly stuff in the landscape. I mean the small commonplace stuff, visually unappealing yet considered normal because it’s all around us. I’d like to think that most of us would appreciate beauty in the built environment if more of its potential could be on display. But, what about the small stuff?  Things like litter, graffiti or even ugly lawn headers that mysteriously rise out of the ground but just left year after year. But my gripe today is the attack on landscape plants at the hands of the Mow n Blow brigade.


How many shrubs and ornamental grasses are scalped each day by the fleet of power busily trimming them into tight little balls, squares, pyramids and other ridiculous forms! It doesn’t have to be that way! With training, crews can learn to prune and thin properly and create balance and beauty with the plants we allow them (and pay them) to take care of. We only need to demand it! I understand that a row of shrubs might be selected as a hedge but how absurd to turn a Flax, Fountain Grass or clumping bamboo into cubes or tabletop a mounding Mexican Sage just before it blooms! I see it all the time. No wonder folks don’t even care about landscaping if the forms they see are only green versions of those they’re surrounded by in the city! I took this pic at a local bank to illustrate my point.


However, I believe we should nurture an appreciation for beautiful landscapes especially if we are fortunate enough to have a backyard to develop as a retreat from the city and a place to relax and entertain. And, here in California we can take advantage of outdoor living practically year round!


Four and a half years ago Lois and I moved into our current home. The two upper pics show what the backyard looked like then. You could still see the stamp of the maintenance crew everywhere: the hedged Olive trees, the hedged Pink-breath-of –heaven against the house, the hedged Rosemary, Lavender and even the hedged flax – egads!! I couldn’t wait to change things up. So, I began with a plan and an objective of creating a garden with a strong sense of design but allowing plants to develop their natural form. Don’t get me wrong, this does require pruning but done correctly, after all, it takes some effort to keep things “natural”.  The lower pics show the garden as it looked a year and a half ago. Notice I thinned the Olive trees, removed the hedges and replanted with material that was left to grow to their natural form. Looking down the backyard you can see how the garden is maturing. It’s remarkable what thoughtful planning and planting will do and it’s really neat to take part in the changes the garden takes, to use quality materials (not header brds) and let the plants tell you how they need to be pruned. We love our garden and spend lots of time there – it’s our escape and our second home!