Saturday, December 28, 2013

Taste rears its critical head again!

Many Californians will know of the city of La Quinta near Palm Springs, known as one of the top golf destinations in the USA. Fewer will know that the city's name comes from the La Quinta Hotel that was built around 1926, long before the city was established. It was designed by Gordon Kaufmann, built by William Morgan and opened in 1926 as a desert-getaway. It originally had a series of Spanish style casitas amongst 45 acres of fruit trees and over the years has hosted many Hollywood celebrities. Frank Capra is said to have written the screenplay for 'Lost Horizon', sitting by the pool in 1937!

Just yesterday I visited the La Quinta resort as it is now known. It now has 796 casitas, suites and villas, 41 swimming pools, 53 whirlpools, 23 tennis courts, conference facilities, shops and restaurants. My friend Jim had been told that the gardens were a 'must visit' venue, so there we were. Amazingly, despite huge expansion it retains much of its charm with numerous small whitewashed adobe dwellings, set amongst landscaped grounds with the mountains towering behind. Fruiting citrus are everywhere, although quite why they paint the trunks white, I have no idea. So amazingly were numerous beds of roses, with some of the best blooms I have seen here in the desert. Lovely old-fashioned roses with a real scent.

The landscape is very traditional with green lawns and numerous displays of bedding plants which in this climate feature a curious mix of pansies, petunias, snapdragons and geraniums for winter display. A huge Christmas tree was surrounded with an expensive looking bed of red poinsettia. And this is where the whole question of taste crops up again. As we approached the central area with shops and restaurants, the intensity of bedding doubled with a Disney-like spectrum. None of the beds had a logic, colour scheme or theme - there were just lots of them! Running through the centre was a ribbon-like water feature edged with more bedding plants. I remarked to my friend that it was amazing but totally tasteless which drew a look of absolute shock - I had dared to criticise! Yes it was fun but was it either good horticulture or tasteful design? I think not. I'm sure it gives many visitors a lot of pleasure but as a professional,  I am a horticultural snob! It was gross!

Later in the day, I got my comeuppance for being so negative. We stopped by a shop with some brilliantly coloured Mexican pottery. I loved it all - naive and colourful, so I bought my partner Philip a rainbow roadrunner sculpture (a local bird he loves) and proudly handed it over on my return. To my astonishment his instant response was 'It's gross!'. The poor roadrunner has now been 'promoted' to a home in the garden. But it all comes back to the big question of what's good taste - mine or his!


  1. Enjoyed this post, especially since it looks warmer than here! Citrus, roadrunner art (I agree with you, and in NM, one would never disrespect anything roadrunner!) and those roses make up for the tourist-candy flower beds. Just something that snowbird meccas have to do...same in So Cal and Phoenix...

  2. Traditionally a one to one mixture of white latex paint and water is supposed to help protect the citrus bark from scorching in the desert sun.