Mid Century Retro-Modern Ranch House Landscape

Above:  Just wondering, what's with the lone Agave that's mostly on the driveway?  Two landscape lights now point at nothing.  Older Street views show there were a couple of Agaves in this planting strip as well, now gone. 

A garden-buddy tipped me off to a fine new climate-appropriate front yard project nearby and I went to see it.  

This is not that project.  I admired the fine, thoughtful, appropriate one next door, then like moth to flame, this blogger went straight for the white gravel next door. 
This low slung ranch-style house circa 1960 has been given a recent remodel in the mid century modern style so popular at the moment. 

I found a google street view image of the property from 2007.  It looks as though it had been recently updated then as well:
Two renovations on, a patch of '60s-era Ivy remains.  Funny how things get left.

As much as I love Alluadia procera--just...no...not here.  It's not a plant with clean lines at its base, and large specimens at the Huntington show a need for steel supports.  An Aloidendron (Aloe) barberae, but out from the home, closer to the block wall-lette would have been better.  (and what's with those wall-ettes?  Are they too proportionally skimpy?)
Just.  Not.  Right.  The Aeoniums need some love, too, after that hot summer.
I think this is Agave tequiliana;  Gentry thought its separation from A. augustifolia as a species was only nominal.  Thrilling blue color.  This bit almost works...
...however,  Agave tequiliana suckers prolifically, always a problem unless you want a cattle enclosure, or, you know, tequila.  Meticulous removal of suckers a must in a minimal landscape, and precise placement of plants required? 
The coral orange of the Euphorbia agrees with the orange edges of the Aeonium, but the pots placed as they are doesn't work for me.  You artistic design-gifted people--how would you have done it? 
Please hide the light cord under the gravel.  Please.  
A minimalist landscape demands excellent maintenance, doesn't it?  This needs love. White gravel, dirty, is even worse than white gravel, clean.
The color of the door is pretty, and the metal thingy on the wall is cool.  Sanseveria was a good choice for the planter, but maybe not that Sanseveria.  The planter's edge painted the same grey as the roof, that works.  Some things work here, except everything has to work in this kind of styling.
The lesson for me here is that a minimalist design must be absolutely nailed in every detail, and exquisitely maintained.  Minimalist that is too minimal looks cheap.  Sleek should be sleek.
The blinding white paint blazes like a spot light in the neighborhood.  A ranch house in a neighborhood of ranch houses is not an Eichler.  It's a Mom wearing a Lady Gaga costume to her daughter's soccer game.  Another reno in this house's future.  Mid-century Modern won't be "in" forever. 

All in all, fascinating.  What do you think? 


  1. Fascinating, good word choice.

    Agreed about the need for clean tidy lines with this kind of landscaping. There is so much here that is almost right. I think the 3 containers of Euphorbia need to be much closer together, they're so spread out they loose their impact and look like they're being used to hide something. I love (LOVE) that huge patch of blue Agaves, but even I get a little queasy at the amount of upkeep it will take to keep it in bounds.

    1. Yes, almost right is not right. Tough to do this sort of thing. At least they aimed high!

      Beautiful blue blue on that species of Agave, but work to keep it looking sleek. Six Mr. Ripples would have been sweet.

  2. If they would replace that glaring white paint with something mid-tone (perhaps gray) and replace the awful white rock with decomposed granite or another non-white substance, it would go a long way to making this better. In fact, just replacing the white rock with an evergreen mat-like ground cover would soften the appearance and bring emphasis to the modern large cement pads.

    1. Good suggestions. The large walkway to the front door is quite nice, and worth emphasizing.

  3. Other than the door and the large plant up front (a Dasylirion?) I don't like it much at all. I have an aversion to white gravel (perhaps because I grew up in a mid-century house with a white gravel roof that deposited rocks on the areas below after hard rains). The huge agave are impressive but out of scale to such a degree that they have an ominous presence - they make me wonder if the owners hate their neighbors.

    1. Yes, Dasylirion longissimum. White gravel roofs: my Mom & Dad used to shake their heads when they saw them. Coming as they did from the frigid upper Midwest, they found those roofs baffling. However, white roofs do reflect heat...a good thing in a hot summer.

  4. I think white marble belongs on statues and in kitchens as a counter top, but not as chips in the garden. It shows off everything that falls on it.


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