When Adam Lambert comes on the car radio, the channel is quickly switched. Facebook sure, MySpace, not so much. What was in favor yesterday might be frowned upon or unacceptable today. Sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the changes.
Gardening and landscape design is much about fashion and trends, overlaid by what is socially acceptable. Colors evolve from “hot” to “not” in a matter of a couple of years. Pottery styles are always evolving. Products brands come and go faster than a pot of blooming tulips. Of course our gardens also reflect a certain level of what is acceptance within our community.
Unlike the colors of flowers and finishes of pottery, some garden traditions and practices are not fashion driven, they’re a result of different influences. Change is difficult for some people. A few will resist, ignoring or misinterpreting what is happening around them. Nonetheless, some activities and traditions in our gardens are well past their time.
Many archaic gardening rituals are blatantly wasteful and inconsiderate. They ignore the new reality that our gardens and our gardening practices ought to be thoughtful and respectful of our resources and our environment. Although some will resist, these outdated practices should be buried forever.
Leading off the list of obsolescence in a garden might be thirsty, water guzzling things. Big, green, lush lawns in full display at the front of a house says to the community “We don’t care, we’re going to use as much of your precious water as we want”. Sprinklers gushing and mower blaring, this is a scene from our past, not our future.
It’s impossible to deny, water-wasting plants are out; but plants adapted to our climate are in. One of the most popular questions today around nursery aisles or at landscape design meetings is now “how much water will it need”. Great question – keep asking.
Today, chemicals in the garden are like illegal drugs. Natural controls are in, ladybugs are in, tolerance is in. Organics in a garden are now the standard, rather than the exception. Turf Builder, Miracle Gro, Super Bloom, Snarol and Ortho are done, hardly hip any longer. Addictions to malathion, diazinon, orthene, dursban, ammonia sulfate, 2-4-D and metaldyhyde have been cured.
Ignorant clock-driven irrigation controllers are going the way of eight-tracks and VCR’s . . . and not soon enough. Smart controllers that control your irrigation system by constantly reading the changing weather and adjusting irrigations accordingly are the new standard.
Resource hogging hardscape materials are becoming akin to fresh peaches in winter. It’s just not worth the cost; in terms of travel, fuel, carbon and so on. In its place are more natural and sustainable materials such as natural stone, decomposed granite, permeable concrete and local gravels. Broken concrete, called ric-rac, isn’t going to the landfill any longer. Now it’s being re-used and is a prized component for garden paths and retaining walls. Imported marble from Italy set in mortar, not so much. Re-purposed, iron stained, mortarless concrete slabs from up the street - right on.
Yup, tightly clipped hedges are out. The green waste, the noise, the air pollution, and the cost of the monthly maintenance aren’t worth it anymore. Loose, relaxed plants that naturally grow to the correct dimensions are the new norm. People are fed up with six foot plants clipped to three foot plants. Instead, people want three foot plants in a three foot space. Duh.
There’s lots more . . . too much for this space. Home grown vegetable and fruits are in, succulents are in, native plants are in, mulch is in, birds and butterflies are in, even bugs and lizards are in. Low maintenance is in, local is in, texture and foliage is in.
In the meantime, ignorant gardeners and landscape designers who have resisted these changes are out. The days of the stakebed truck, noisy dirty lawnmower, gas blower, backpack sprayer and fertilizer spreader are done. Society has spoken and enough is enough.
Likewise, landscape designers and nurseries that have resisted these changes and still approach their work the way they did ten or twenty years ago are no longer relevant. They’re disco singers; you might enjoy a tune every now and then, but you’re never going to buy one of their albums.
Adjusting to these new realities not only make you part of the “in” crowd, they make your garden easier and less costly to maintain. That’s definitely “in”.
Ron Vanderhoff is the Nursery Manager at Roger’s Gardens, Corona del Mar and his profile can be seen at www.themulch.com/community/609-ron-vanderhoff/profile.
Questions from Readers July 23.
You mentioned the Plumeria Society last week. When and where is their next meeting.
Jill, Huntington Beach
Just up the street Jill. The South Coast Plumeria Society will meet at the Murdy Community Center (Goldenwest and Warner Avenues, HB) on August 7, 1:30 to 3:30 PM. This meeting will be a big one, it’s their annual plumeria flower show and it always draws a huge crowd.