Tag Archives: plastic

landscaping horror: where diy meets wtf

One of my friends recently turned me on to Regretsy, a blog that gathers together some of the more unfortunate objects that earnest DIYers have made and posted for sale at the Etsy craft site.

I really like Regretsy’s tag line, “where DIY meets WTF,” and I’ve borrowed it for the subtitle of this quick post on a new garden space that went up in my neighborhood, a bit of landscaping horribleness that seemed perfect for Halloween.

I thank John for noticing it first and pointing it out to me, knowing how well I’d appreciate it. “It’s on the right as you head down the hill. You can’t miss it.”

Ah, what a wonder: plastic grass-colored indoor-outdoor carpeting, one of my personal favs…placed naturalistically between the sidewalk and the side fence…

But it gets better! Ever six feet or so, next to the fence, the designer has planted big red silk roses. I’m sure they were meant to coordinate with the red curb.

A garden made out of dead things emulating live ones. Zombies. Plastic roses. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

One of the dangers of having lovely flowers next to a public walkway is that someone might want to pick them.

One of the roses planted in this plastic lawn. Note the price tag still attached.

Could this be the latest avant-garde garden designed by Martha Schwartz, who’s incorporated plastic plants into her designs, as in her [ Splice Garden, at Cambridge’s Whitehead Institute ]?

No, sadly, probably not. But I will force myself to say something nice about it: At least it doesn’t require watering, except maybe to hose off the dust.

on the road: cornerstone sonoma

The big garden destination for the Sonoma County weekend ended up being CornerStone Sonoma. Imagine a giant garden show with totally unrelated demonstration gardens lined up next to each other in their own stalls like some big horticultural petting zoo. But instead of nice-but-not-so-interesting gardens assembled by local landscapers, you have some really striking spaces put together by some of the bigger names in the landscape architecture field.

Cornerstone Flying Fence

Finding the place isn’t hard–Jenny was along for the outing and had brought her GPS. We followed the nice, polite directions of the GPS unit until we got close. The CornerStone literature says to look for the white picket fence as a sign that you’ve arrived. This is CornerStone’s take on a white picket fence, and it’s good preparation for what you’ll find there.

Cornerstone shopping yardphenalia

Like many destinations in Sonoma, Cornerstone combines wine tasting opportunities (4 vineyards), with chances to get a bite to eat, and places to shop for gifts or things for your garden. How are you set for some rustic architectural details to set into your landscaping?

Cornerstone mermaids

Maybe your koi pond needs some mermaids? (John wanted one of these very badly.)

Cornerstone flowerbeds 1

The facility has some pleasant lawn spaces with flowerbeds of cooling purples and blues and whites that were being set up for some social event.

Cornerstone Oehme va Sweden 1

But what sets this place apart are the main gardens in the back. And of all of them it’s hard not to love this one by Oehme & van Sweden, the Garden of Contrasts.

Cornerstone Oehme va Sweden 6

Big, sturdy agaves contrast with soft grasses that move in the wind.

Cornerstone Oehme va Sweden 3

As the seasons change, plants move in and out of prominence in this planting. Here are the last California poppies of the season planted in the grasses.

Cornerstone Ken SMith Daisy Border

This one might be a little harder to love–or at least it was for me, Ken Smith’s Daisy Border. From the astroturf to the plastic tubes to the plastic flowers, there’s nothing alive in this “planting.” But I suppose it’s naturalistic in the sense that some of the daisies in this border look pretty good, while others seem the worse for wear because of what the elements (and probably small visitors) have done to them. Who ever has a border where every single plant is meticulously well-groomed?

Cornerstone Greenlee river of grasses

John Greenlee created a soft, rolling planting that consists entirely of grasses, his Mediterranean Meadow. People do all-grass plantings all the time–call it “lawn.” But it’s a brave thing to do a garden with all sorts of contrasting grasses. Here a low river of fescue runs through the plantings.

Cornerstone Greenlee mixed grasses

Taller, stiffer grasses (edit: or are these restios?) line the “banks” of the river.

Cornerstone Greenlee mixed grasses 2

I wish this scene photographed better than it did. The foreground features soft seed heads of a short grass, with a more architectural species planted on the top of the low mound.

This and so many of the other gardens were bubbling over with all sorts of ideas you could repurpose in another garden setting. I’ll share more scenes from CornerStone in the next post.

avoid, or embrace the inevitable?

Today I want to talk about a couple things that seem inevitable: Garden plants will die; and, concrete hardscape will develop cracks.

Strategy 1: You could try avoidance, developing ways to get around those facts.

You may have heard of the recent garden at the Chelsea Garden Show designed by James May of Britain’s Top Gear automotive program. The plants (and insects) were all made of plastic modeling paste. It was totally artificial. A garden that will never experience death—but neither will it ever experience life. (And what would you call a “garden” like this? Landscape or hardscape?)

If you want to avoid cracks in concrete walkways or patio covers, you could avoid concrete altogether. For instance, you could employ alternate materials like decomposed granite or one of the attractive alternative paving systems highlighted over at Steve Snedeker’s Landscaping and Gardening Blog.

Or you could embrace what’s going to happen anyway.


Some plants look attractive after they’ve passed on for good or just for the season. To the left are some plants at Piet Oudolf’s Chicago Lurie Garden as they appeared this past February. Picking structurally interesting plants like those can keep things looking good, even in the presence of things in the garden that may be dying. This is a big and rich topic that I’ve touched on occasionally in my posts, and I’m sure to return to in the in the future in more detail.

And how do you embrace cracked concrete? I was over at Pruned, where this brilliant winner from the 2009 American Society of Landscape Architects Awards was highlighted. The project by CMG Landscape Architecture of San Francisco played up the natural tendency of concrete to crack, as well as the tendency of plants to colonize those cracks.

Crack garden(Photo: Tom Fox)

The recipe:

Take one piece of cracked pavement.


Apply a jackhammer to widen the cracks. (Photo: Kevin Conger)

Planted crack garden

Amend the soil, and then place plants of your choosing in the enlarged cracks. (Photo: Tom Fox)

Total project cost, with homeowner labor: $500. The final results are surprising, and so is the final cost, particularly when you consider it’s a project involving professional landscape architects.

a mountain of plastic pots

I had a mountain of unwanted plastic pots, mostly in the 3-5 inch size, leftovers from when I was growing more than just a few orchids around the house. The pots were used, a little old, but basically functional. I couldn’t part with them–who knows when I’d need them? After a couple years of goading from John, a couple hundred of them went to the landfill last fall.

Then I heard about the Missouri Botanical Garden having a great idea. They’ve started up a program to recycle those unwanted leftover plastic pots into something useful.

Garden pots and trays have been recycled into landscape timbers, useful for building retaining walls and landscape borders. Each timber measures 7-inches X 9-inches by 8.5 feet long, weighs 280 pounds, and lasts for up to 50 years.

Well, yeah, Missouri would be a little far to go next time I have a pile of pots I need to part with. But I’ll be a little more diligent in looking around for more sustainable solutions than dumping them!