well endowed landscaping

Here’s a little weekend quiz: Any guesses as to where I took this picture?

Does this second photo help?

Clue #1: It’s in Los Angeles.

Clue #2: It’s a university campus.

Clue #3: The school colors are echoed in the flower colors of the landscaping.

If you’re not into universities and their colors the answer is USC, the University of Southern California, where the planting color scheme features the campus colors of cardinal and gold. If you were to ask me for my opinion I’d offer that they’re probably fine colors for football uniforms but a little strident for most garden situations if they were the only colors you used. But the entire campus was vibrating with new plantings of red salvias and yellow-orange marigolds, with a few leftover winter plantings of pansies in similar colors.

I mentioned the plantings to one of the campus regulars I was up there to meet with. Apparently USC has an endowment (by what was probably an enthusiastic alumnus) to supply bedding plants in the school colors.

From the themed seasonal color, to the lawns, to the hedges, to the fanatically clipped creeping fig around the Romanesque windows, to the trees planted in regimented rows, it’s so not my philosophy of gardening.

Trees (and campus buildings) providing cooling shade
A flowering canopy, dozens of feet overhead

But for an urban campus set where the warm season is just that, the tall trees provide welcome shade and the many benches set in the plantings make for opportunities to sit and hold conversations. And the style of the landscape seems to come straight out of a tradition of how a campus should look: neat, orderly, with a sense that many things of worth come from Europe.

My parents met on this campus way back when. Looking at the comfortable but formal plantings, I think I that can understand them a little better, the attitudes where they came from. Lifting my gaze to take in the tall sycamores, the mature magnolias, I know that many of these trees were here when my parents attended the campus.

But as far as the team-themed bedding plants–Were they here then? I’m not so sure. I’ll have to ask my father about them, though it’s not the sort of detail he’s likely to remember.

A few plantings flaunted colors other than the official school ones. The trees and lawns featured green, of course, and here and there you’d find a non-conforming cluster of plants. I end with a couple final shots of those.

Another renegade planting that didn't get the cardinal and gold memo...

Acanthus mollis, not a sign of cardinal or gold

11 thoughts on “well endowed landscaping”

  1. Those top photos remind me of a Shell gas station in town that used to have the most beautiful display of red and yellow flowers that reflected the colors of their logo. They are not colors I would ever put together in my own garden, but I had to admire their dedication and creativity because it was one of the best displays in town!

  2. aloha,

    i enjoyed your post and i think its good to include school colors into the grounds you walk and the plants you see, i actually think formal gardens tend to work cohesively with college campuses, it is less fussy and nice and neat, just right for college settings.

  3. “neat, orderly, with a sense that many things of worth come from Europe.” I loved this line. I feel like that has been a general gardening philosophy in the US for quite a while, but that is thankfully changing. Not to diss neat, orderly or Europe, but I like something a little wilder and home-grown.

  4. I always enjoy your travelogue style posts! I haven’t been on the USC campus since I was a freshman at UCSB. And believe me, that was well before I’d developed the slightest interest in horticulture! Nice to revisit from a different perspective.

  5. I think they actually look really good. But I’ve always kind of had a thing for commercial plantings. Our local university does the same. Their colors are red and white. It is really nice to show loyalty by planting the same colors.

    Thanks so much for the info on the greenhouse. That north wall tip is excellent. I haven’t had to heat this one yet except with a brooder light. I hope it doesn’t cause problems but we’ll see. Should be fun. I can just imagine a greenhouse full of orchids. Wow, it must have smelled heavenly.

  6. Sheila, it’s interesting that there are landscape details that look like something you’d have at home, while others look corporate or something a big institution like USC would use.

    Wendy, the plantings made me smile because they seemed so over the top.

    TM, if you acknowledge the foliage, I was also thinking of the displays featured red/yellow/green rasta colors–maybe not at all what the donor intended!

    Noelle, there’s a guy here in town whose house, car, clothes–everything he can colorize–are the blue and gold colors of the town football team. Well, there’s being a fan, and then there’s gonzo enthusiasm. I guess there’s nothing that I’m that infatuated with.

    Noel, there’s definitely a “look” that seems to go with a lot of institutions of higher learning, especially the older ones. USC’s look seems to have a lot to do with that style.

    Brad, UCSD, where I spend a lot of time, has a lot of open space that isn’t what I’d call wild or native, but its flavor is definitely looser than the traditional college landscaping style.

    Susan, thanks! I enjoy posting about places that I find interesting, and I hope to be able to visit a few more neat places while it’s still high spring.

    Tina, good luck with your greenhouse. I know you’re really curious and it must be really exciting for you! I think some adventurous gardeners could have some fun with commercial plant color combinations, only using unusual plants and/or natives instead of the bedding plants that seem to be the only plants used for plantings like these.

  7. I’ll bet they’ll look great as they fill out and get blooming more heavily, even if the limited color palate is a little overwhelming.

    I’m always in favor of more flowers in the landscape, so it’s nice to see all these, tho I bet you and I could both come up with creative ideas in other ways to echo that theme around campus without having to corner the marigold and salvia market.

    Those old trees are pretty swell, though!

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