The Ruinous Wind and Crystal Court Garden Show
The wind decided to rise up, the humidity decided to plummet, and together they conspired to tear this piece of Eden apart. It looked like New Orleans on Ash Wednesday, minus, thankfully, the Chinese-made beads lying in puddles of vomit in the gutters.
"That rose looks good," Beloved said, just as the wind ripped the flower off the plant and sent it flying down the street.
The only thing to do was make the trek to a local garden show held at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa. Since we went early, very early, the traffic wasn't too arduous. This show is nothing like the garden shows in San Francisco, Chicago, or Philadelphia. It's modest, it's small--it's the hinterlands. It's also the one within driving distance, so we go.
We went straight to the small group of display gardens on the bottom floor of the shopping mall. "Display gardens are a way for garden designers and landscape architects to advertise themselves and show what they can do and what their work is like. There were just a few displays. Since the financial collapse in 2008 this small show has gotten a lot smaller. I remember at the show in '07, at the height of the housing bubble, there was an Aquascapes guy with a full "koi" pond (a water garden with koi in it). He'd also brought along chickens, macaws, and a Victoria Crowned Pigeon, which is about the coolest pet bird I've ever seen. He had people ringed around his display four deep. I wonder how many people re-fied their way out of the house thanks to that display.
These display gardens are expensive and an incredible amount of work to plan and construct. They are also devilishly hard to photograph. The miserable photos which follow are the best of the bunch. Sorry, I did try. Considering shutter speed was 1/2 second, I was amazed that any of them were near focused.
This was a sculpture garden, I guess. All I could imagine was what it would be like to sit here on a 90 degree day in summer. Woof. Hot. My attention was caught by the contrast between the 18th century cherub and the Giacometti type figures. All I could think was: odd. I know I was intended to think: "a playful contrast between old and new garden sculpture!" but I couldn't do it. Playful would have been the peeing version of the cherub peeing on one of the pseudogiacomettis.
Demonstration garden success seem most easily attained if the center of the construct is some sort of sitting area. A straight garden of plants involves...a lot of plants. You have to move a lot of plants, borrow a lot of plants, arrange a lot of plants. So I understand why the displays don't always have a lot of plants. However almost no plants at all isn't much to look at. It looks like it would be really hot in summer.
In contrast to the first, this one was delightful, and it was done by community college students! Bravo kids! Well done. This looked like somewhere you wouldn't mind lounging around:
Plus there were plenty of plants. McMediterranean, but McMediterranean is good.
An interesting geometric variation on a standard pergola up above:
We thought it was the best student garden we'd ever seen.
This next one had a completely inappropriate planting scheme for Southern California (Hostas!) although it was a beautiful inappropriate one. It was well done, elegant, just slightly out of phase with the dominant water thrifty vibe so overwhelming the past few years. Maybe different is good, except watch it on the Hostas. People who do not know can get the idea that they will grow here.
The next one was again centered around a sitting area. I loved the laser-cut steel panels overhead as a shade structure. Focus on the wonderful shadow patterns it would cast (instead of how bad the photo is):
Kind of a significant pillow situation:
Nice Agaves, though:
There was an Asian style garden, but Not Zen. You have to have the right house for this. You absolutely have to. It don't work with a red tiled Spanish stucco house, at least not as far as I know. Nice, for the right house.
This next one was essentially a pile of rocks and plants. No sitting area. It happened to be very, very well done in that I loved the plant selection (Coprosmas! Aloes!). It looked great. My photos were failures, but I got a good shot of the design. Nice, eh? No pillows needed.
This next was a "water thrifty cottage craftsman" garden. It gave good ideas for a lawnless suburban yard. I think this was also a student effort, and a very good one as well. Emphasis on plants, with a lot of them California natives. There are so many small yards in this area. Providing an example of what you could do with one of them was helpful. Well done, students!
They did manage to slip in a pillow:
Then there was something about "out in Africa", which was a few grasses and a lot of pillows.
Didn't like that one so much. What has Africa to do with Orange County? Here it is on paper, any better?
The last one also had a sitting area I don't remember anything about, nor did I take a photo of it. I was just looking at the beautiful succulents and cactus.
However, the one-of-each puzzled me a lot. That's how non-designers plant. One of each, PBG (personal botanical garden). If there had been say just 50 'Blue Glow' and a couple of Ocotillos I would have been enthralled. It just occurred to me that not a single display garden had a vertical wall of plants. A Major Trend and it wasn't there. How about that!
After the displays, there were the plant vendors. One whole section of TC orchids meant as Mother's Day gifts. We skipped that part. Two dollar succulents. I didn't skip that part. I also got a couple of plants fairly impervious to wind from a Mexican mom-and-pop grower. We also managed to get to a seminar/book signing by Dave Fross of Native Sons Plant Nursery. It was about reducing your lawn. He was good. The best joke was the remark he made about a decades-old photo of him and his younger brother playing in the hose on the lawn when they were little kids. Fross was getting splashed by his brother holding the hose, and Fross had a rather strained look on his face. He said he was actually scolding his brother about wasting water.
It was still windy when we got home. I can't face the mess yet.