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!