Friday, May 9, 2014

Bordering on Boring

Back in December some of you may recall me writing about A Two Mile Border, a huge landscape scheme under construction here in Palm Springs. Well the first phase is now complete and whilst it is certainly an improvement on the long ribbon of grass and straggly snapdragons that it has replaced, it is sadly very disappointing. The hard landscaping is of a high quality with some random natural stone paving and plant pockets. There are rocks but nothing dramatic. Then there are some cast concrete retaining walls, beautifully crafted as curved segments but all the same. Whilst repeating a landscape element is a good principle that gives rhythm to a scheme, after a mile of repetitions every few feet, the scheme becomes tedious to say the least. It would appear that this scheme was designed for a short border and then repeated over the whole mile of this first phase. A bargain border design maybe?

Sadly the planting does little to relieve the tedium, as the palette of plants is also repeated frequently along the entire length. Now usually everything in the USA is big and plants are normally no exception. Garden centres are full of very fairly priced specimens in huge containers. But sadly, all the plants here seem to be minimum sizes, with little impact and will take several seasons to mature. The list of plants used would appear to be mainly Californian natives which is predictably, environmentally correct. But whilst Palm Springs is in the middle of the desert, this scheme leads from the airport to the city centre. It is not remote desert! If visitors want to see the desert in all its glory, they go to Joshua Tree National Park, not a city centre border even if it did cost $2 million.

In fact two of my observations are no doubt linked. Small low specification plants were probably used because these native species do not have a high demand, are not readily saleable in garden centres therefore are not produced in larger sizes. Put simply, they are not good garden or landscape plants.  

Those who oppose desert planting often say it is boring and lacks colour. When carried out in this rigid fundamentalist way, I have to agree. Its totally uninspiring. I do not see why some of the many other low water usage  but colourful landscape plants could have been used to create a wonderful, kaleidoscope welcome to visitors arriving in this desert oasis. Phase Two is yet to start and I hope that the city who are funding the second phase will be more adventurous.

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