Good With Bad

Most people, even some landscape architects, regularly see odd plantsmanship.

Gestures to the past, fear of native plants, bad precedences, “giving the ‘client’ what they want”, or inadequate time – all culprits. I’ve been guilty of one or two.

This is the same development, most likely by the same designer. (and I think I know who) From 3/9/2015 –

east Asia’s photinias get huge, but this is a small space

On alkaline soils, add calcium leaching from wall footings, desert sun, and xeric plants on the same irrigation valve, and that’s the result. Photinia easily grows to 8-10′ tall and wide; keeping most plants at less than 75% of mature size brings painful issues, in time.

My foot is size 9-1/2, so I don’t stuff it into a size 4 shoe.

Pinus mugo is a gesture to cool, wet places

It helps to glance at climate data and photos of Mugo’s home (the mountains of central Europe), and that of arid Albuquerque (right behind those plants). Then, imagine the effort it takes to grow those exceptions in the desert.

Baccharis x Starns isn’t…20′ away, same slope…any questions?
50 feet away, Jasminum nudiflorum and Vitex agnus-castus
Dasylirion wheeleri, Chilopsis linearis, Agave parryi

There’s a cue…what works universally should be the bones, but don’t use what hates life – gesture or curiousity. What’s to be curious about, anyway?

an excellent combo, blue-green and red

Its cool enough for ‘Harbor Dwarf’ Nandina to be red, while Dasylirion wheeleri has its ever-present look. I’m not sure this was intended, since that combination isn’t seen elsewhere along the streetscape.

Very nice; that idea can be adapted where one gets some winter. I’ve seen evergreen plants with winter berries used as key area color, too.

What causes you to wonder, “what were they thinking?”

5 Replies to “Good With Bad”

  1. The red yucca I saw “trimmed” today at Target…that is when I thought “What were they thinking?!”

    Yes, that is crazy. A coworker once expressed concern that red yuccas would damage women’s dresses, so not to use them in certain projects. The HOG!


  2. Maybe there should be a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Plants SPCP. I have been playing with the idea of photographing the worst of the worst commercial ‘plantings’ near my house. One of the contenders created an incredibly steep slope and then instead of building a wall or a rock garden they covered it with a red mulch. They added in a few small plants here and there with an expectation I suppose of having the roots hold the soil. The slope offers a perfect visual demonstration for what erosion looks like. The red mulch is always sliding onto the white sidewalk below. If I taught 4th grade science I’d take the class on a field trip to see. The small plants haven’t taken off after a year but the garbage they collect sure has. And. Yes, there is more. That red mulch that was placed a year ago shows no sign of decomposiiton. I shudder as I imagine: what could be IN that red stuff that has teh quality of repelling all life?

    I remember a website called “Plant Amnesty”…only neded are local chapters for special issues!

    I’m just glad to be able to photograph good with some of the bad, since that was not the case a decade ago. Your red mulch must have to do with someone forgetting mulch’s purpose, and wanting it to retain its color. Organic mulches = improve the soil / drainage and insulate roots…inorganic mulches (like in desert sw) = insulate roots and hold in scant moisture. All based on plat types used and their needs…red must also deter roaches, etc. Like coating apples w/ alar so they are shiny and sell more!

    Thanks for stopping by; I just found your blog.


  3. I’ll fess up. I have some strong emotional ties to a few plants around the garden, including a green rose that I dug up from the garden where I planted it in my early teens. It’s in a pot. I forget to water it. It hates the life I provide it. So I understand part of the drive to be surrounded by the familiar. A person in my family who shall go nameless loves hydrangeas, but the nursery folks warned her against attempting them in hot inland Southern California. Her hydrangeas look as bad as my green rose. Ah emotional attachments…

    That is true, and probably the case with the LA who designed that streetscape…or even more likely, the contractor who installed it. He’s originally from Orange County CA, and more than one person says he got rich from sheer quantities of brown gravel and photinias! Long retired, I would be surprised if he doesn’t have a pet or child named Red Tip or Fraser, as he counts his twenty dollar bills.


  4. The red tips! After two winters here in EP and not being able to keep anything alive in the “dead zone” in front of our house (between s/w and curb), I opted to buy 2 of these plants (1-gal.) and stick ’em on opposite ends of it. The reason: 1) frustrated at “not having something classy out there”; 2) being a native of D-FW, I knew this plant well (NEVER have I seen one 20′ tall!), aware of its many usages, and (if they would grow in the dead zone) knew that keeping them trimmed wouldn’t be too much of a problem; and 3) being an old retiree but still with a teenage daughter to raise, knew that I would LOVE the thought of sitting here in the front study [converted garage] some night shortly before 11 p.m. and not having to worry about if anything was going on with the couple parked out in front, ’cause the Photinia bushes are so dense no way I’d ever be able to see anything anyway, even any if I was tempted to take a peek! Btw, this is our 3rd spring with them and they’ve hung on, are about 3 ft high now and GORGEOUS-looking! Thus I refuse to accept anything but an attaboy on my decision!

    I’ll give you an attaboy, when I see some photos! But glad it’s working out, but that’s good fortune, or your green thumb. In Albuquerque, last week I drove by some 15′ Red-tip Photinia trees, so given some more room and water, they are nice…10-12′ the norm there, unless they get iron chlorosis and die a slow death like my picture. You’ll have to invite me over, if I don’t get a photo.

    Always a witty, well-written blurb you craft, Mr. Bodine!


  5. What were they thinking? Many original landscapers/homeowners in my neighborhood planted Red tip photinia under their front windows requiring year round trimming to keep them low since they easily reach 20′ in our climate. Plant native dwarf yaupon next time! I’ve trimmed it once in 20 years…..

    Miles of Abq, Las Vegas, So Cal, even parts of El Paso, have new neighborhoods with that exact thing…red tips planted under 2′ high windows.Dwarf Yaupon…talk about tough and the right size…must use. I just forget about it, since it’s common.


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