Sunday, August 23, 2015

Why Did They Do This?

 We went to the rock store to look at rocks as a possible edging for the front slope.  Across the street was an interesting commercial landscape.
 A xeriscape edged by artificial turf. 

 Why did they do this
 The Stipa (Nasella) tenuissima got a haircut, too. 
 Plants were supplied with drip tubes, so they were getting some irrigation. 
 The plant palette was small considering the amount of area, but it worked well.   

Agave americana
Aloe cameronii
Aloe vera
Bougainvillea, probably 'San Diego Red'
Dasylirion wheeleri
Lantana montevidensis
Stipa tenuissima

There were also several mature Liquidambar trees undoubtedly planted several decades before the recent remodel.  In addition, there was a lone Phoenix roebelenii, perhaps from another remodel.  If you ignore the artificial turf, for a commercial landscape it is really quite good.  Eventually the Lantana and Bougainvillea will build up and be sheared into cubes, but that won't happen for a few years.    
 Don't blame the designer for the artificial turf.  This city may have mandated some percentage of turf but when asked, allowed artificial. 
 Trimmed those bunches, too.  Were the workers knowledgeable enough to want to reduce reseeding, or did they think that looked better? 
 My guess is that the Agave chopping was so they could get at the drip tubing.  There were irrigation flags around, which landscapers here use to mark irrigation areas needing attention.   
 Metal "Agaves" in pots by an entry door
 Unless they are really metal...uhh..err...em...Hyacinths?!? 
 If you are going to do that to an Agave, americana is a good choice.  In our area it is a rampant offsetter than quickly forms an unattractive mass.  In other colder or drier climates it is better behaved.   
Hacked like this, it looks strangely cool.       
 Decomposed Granite vs plastic lawn. 
 The design looked better on the area fronting a side street because that area had no strip of plastic lawn.  The green of the "lawn" was unnaturally vivid and a strange contrast to the muted, bluish, bronzed, and grey-greens of the xeric plants
 On the area fronting the main street, a wide swath of stone meandered around the trees.  They must be blowing fallen leaves out of the stones for quite a while in late autumn. 
 Formerly the area was probably Bermuda grass and junipers, a standard late 1970's combination.  Across the street was this:
At the rock store, we picked up a few sample stones to consider.  The samples are smaller in size than what I was thinking of using.  (Small samples were easier to carry home).  The one on the right...
 ...seems very similar to what can be found on our property by digging.  Using stone of a color very similar to what is found in the area looks more natural than something exotic. 
Whether or not stone would make a good edging, I'm hesitant.  We would use larger stones, and not just an edging of one, but a strip of several of them wide...but it wouldn't look right, would it?  Better than artificial turf, perhaps, but not by much.  People would be thinking, maybe:  why did they do this? 

29 comments:

  1. Be interesting to find out the thinking behind all of that.

    The agave with hyacinth like blooms made me laugh!

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    1. Hopefully there was thinking involved. Sometimes you have to wonder. Yes the flowers are funny. Just search for an image, Mr. Artist!

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  2. Very phallic, that last pruned A americana. Possibly the one advantage to pineapple-ing all those southern California palms: maintenance folk have learned about growing tips and when to preserve them.

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    1. Well, so is the Washington Monument, come to think of it. Now, if the maintenance folks could just learn that grasses and Phormiums don't grow back from the tips, and if you shear Coleonema pulchrum into a ball every month, it never blooms.

      The HOA crew here carefully raked up and threw out the mulch I bought and spread on the HOA area, because mulch is "messy looking". I have yet to forgive them, however hard I try.

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    2. Mulch is "messy looking"?? How about dry, cracked ground: very neat, I guess.

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    3. Oh god. As a whole, I feel southern California was blessed with a pretty forgiving climate but pretty unforgivingly ignorant gardeners. This is the not the paradise I was promised, etc.

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    4. Yes, mulch is litter. Sigh.

      I think it is easier to be a lousy gardener here because the climate is so forgiving. It is people in harsher climates that really know how to grow things. Because if they don't figure it out, it dies. Here it is so much easier: mostly only a matter of watering correctly.

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    5. Exactly this. A hobby for people who more-or-less demand perfection, but are too lazy / unskilled to find their niche elsewhere. And then when the magical climate makes your dumb ideas look clever, you start to get cocky. Or, at least, that explains why and how I do it.

      Then again, creating and maintaining an efficient irrigation plan and schedule here is a full-time job and, apart from a tiny bit of predictable frost or summer dormancy, there's no downtime.

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    6. Now, now, we're trying, we're working on it. The skills come with time and practice. The love of plants is just as much there. That counts, too.

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    7. Oh no, I'm just listing my own bad habits and inadequacies. Skilled gardeners are all alike; every unskilled gardener is a special snowflake with REASONS.

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  3. The metal plants could be Eucomis. Does that grow there? I do that to my Stipa about once a year, because it gets so tangled it looks like a little girl's long hair after a wash, and I can't untangle it by combing my hands through. It still reseeds. But I've never butchered an Agave like that. I gasped.

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    1. Eucomis! That is what I was trying to think of--thank you! Hyacinth was as close as I could get.

      Here most maintenance crews cut grasses that should be cut to the ground into the "shaving brush" shape. I have no idea about Stipa--it's not meant to be cut to the ground? Most grasses here are said best cut flat with the ground before spring growth begins.

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  4. The landscape looked great from the distance, close ups - not so much. I do love your stone edging idea.

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    1. You don't think it will look weird, stone edging? You are the one with the sense of style and design, not me.

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  5. Stones as edging is well worth a try, given the multiple potential problems at the bottom of a slope in your situation. My sense is that you'd want to 1) study images of successful use/placement; 2) start with a bigger supply than you'll end up using, and 3) try and re-try positioning until it looks right. That last part might not be a ton of fun, but at least the stones will be unaffected by it, unlike plants.

    For inspiration images, do either the Huntington or the LA Arboretum desert gardens have areas where the technique is used?

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    1. Those are good suggestions, thank you, Nell. The Huntington has some cemented in rock borders, but of the volcanic rock type. I will have to look next vist to see exactly what they did. For some reason, I only look at the plants. Now why is that?

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  6. We're starting to see more use of artificial turf around our neighborhood. It always startles me.
    Is the rock edging to help stop erosion? If you used two lines of them, can you plant so that mature plant shapes and sizes work to soften the "necklace of rocks" effect? I know you are unlikely to have billowing green foliage, but just breaking up the linear effect would go a long way toward enhancing the look, I think. Maybe even use some of that Delosperma you're so fond of... ;-)

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    1. There you go, thank you, that's exactly what I want to avoid: the Wilma Flintstone necklace of rocks.

      The goal is to stop the mulch from being scattering into the street by the Towhees. A tidier look.

      Artificial turf in your area? That would startle me also.

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  7. I wish every landscape came with an explanation of the thinking the designer had. I look at so many yards and locations and just stand with mouth ajar. Seeing here in the Phoenix area so many desertscapes butchered, it makes me sad if I start paying attention.

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    1. Yes, but, it is a learning opportunity. I try to focus on the learning and not on the sadness...and sometimes the design started out fine, but the maintenance pushed the design off into the weeds.

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    2. I've made so many "learning opportunities" and every gardener friend was very kind and didn't judge. Good point Hoover

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  8. The goofiness of commercial landscapes never ceases to mystify. Your prediction of the cubed Lantana and Bougs is all too accurate.

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    1. Residential, too. A few doors down, the Bougies have been buzzed into light-bulb shapes. 'Splain!

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  9. I still can't accept the artificial turf - and, as you noted, the contrast with the DG just made it look worse (more fake in my book). The Agave hacking was horrid but I have to admit that I cut back by own Stipa tenuissima earlier this year to remove the seedheads because I didn't have the time to properly comb them out by hand before hosting a group of friends in my garden. I'll never make that mistake again. Two months later the plants looked horrid - like old shaving brushes. It took me another month or more to finally get around to clearing out all the dead interior growth and my hands, although gloved, will take longer still to recover.

    I inherited some small areas bordered with rocks with our current garden. They bugged me at first but I've gotten used to them (meaning I haven't done anything about them). They remind me a little of the concrete rings people used to put around trees. If you stagger the rocks in irregular sizes and numbers, the effect may be more pleasing to you.

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    1. There's a place for artificial turf, but that wasn't the place.

      Thanks for the comments on the Stipa, it's not maintenance free then (besides removing seedings). You can't just cut it down to the ground like the purple Pennisetum? You need a big giant comb. Wouldn't that be funny? "Honey, I'll be outside combing the grass."

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  10. As commercial landscapes go, it was not bad at all. It killed me to see the agaves hacked up like that but I suppose they're as common as fir trees and sword fern are here. There was an interesting look about them to be sure.

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    1. A. americana is very common and very weedy here. In a year or two they will have grown back considerably, and offset like mad.

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  11. I thought that last pruned Agave looked pretty cool...almost like a sculpture.

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