Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Passe Plants

I was going through old photos this evening, and ran across this one taken in 1975, a few months after the landscaping was installed at a new house I had purchased. The photo had faded to an odd color as photos of that era seem to do, but what struck me was how passé all the plants are today--at least here in Arizona. Not only the old-school plants, but the other elements like the railroad tie border, rooftop air conditioner, unnaturally colored granite, as well as the red lava rock used as mulch.

The plants no longer used much in desert landscaping that are shown in this photo are unsterilized Olive trees (considered an allergen), Oriental arborvitae (fine when young, but really ugly as they aged), Tam Juniper (woody and sparse as they aged), Pyracantha coccinea or Fire Thorn (high maintenance), Morning Glory (declared invasive and banned), Mulberry tree (another allergen and messy), California Pepper tree (incredibly messy) and some of the Eucalyptus trees (messy and subject to limb breakage). There are many more, but I listed these because all but two of these plants appear in this photo. The Mulberry and California Pepper tree were in the back yard.

Another reason all of these plants fell out of favor is that they all take moderate to heavy water, and over the years, homeowners who had desert landscaping in the front yards preferred more zeric plants. (Many folks still like to have a lawn and more tropical plants in the back). Very few people planted cacti in those days, but now, it's common, along with native trees and plants. The current trend is to place and use plants are they would appear in the desert. Another change is to use plants that are from Australia. Many do very well here and are low water use.

For those of you who are old enough to remember back several decades, are there any plants in your region that fell out of favor? Any landscape elements? What's new and different now? I'd be interested in hearing about them.


17 comments:

Lancashire rose said...

Isn't that the truth. Now the grasses are back in favor again but they dropped out for a long time after their big moment during the Victorian era. I call it that era because I grew up in England! If only we had had the resources years ago that we have today.

Suzanne said...

Really interesting post! It's so true that landscaping (as does interior home decorating) change and develop over the years. The photo illustrating your points was great! (My least favorite tree is an olive tree and people planted so many of them in our town in the 70's and 80's.)

Darla said...

thanks interesting, I'll have to think about that question.

forest said...

Here in Albuquerque, it seems they used a lot of the same plants as you mention (except California Pepper tree and Eucalyptus)...and still do. Mulberry is now illegal within the city limits, as are allergen producers male junipers, Italian cypress, and invasive pests russian olive, siberian elm, tamarisk, ailanthus. Although many people are using the same plant palette as 30 years ago, there has been a push toward using more native species.

perennialgardener said...

Isn't it funny how differently we garden today compared to 20 or 30 years ago. I'm sure people got tired of high waterbills & trying to grow things in their region that just were not right for that climate. Things that some people grow as annuals in their summer gardens prefer my cooler springs & fall. Like petunias for example.

Pudgeduck said...

In our old neighborhoods the China berry tree was found in every yard.

Dee said...

What a neat post! I swear sometimes our minds are thinking the same thing- I just posted and made a comment about using native low water plants in my main front area! I swear I didn't read your post until afterwards!!!

I have one of those terribly messy Olive trees! My home goes back to the 60s- so its not a wonder!

nancybond said...

How interesting - I never gave much thought as to trends in the garden, though I realize they exist. But I've never considered how out of date some of my previous gardens would seem now. Oh well, if it's green, it's okay by me. :)

Anne Fannie said...

Good Morning Aiyana
I lived in Arizona for almost 10 years. I remember it was so hot that I couldn't get anything to grow there. I gave up on everything. I think the local landscaping was lava rocks! We have a vacation now in Parker on the Colorado River and we invested in fake grass, so it stays greens all year long!
Happy Blooming Tueday!
Love, Ann

Jean said...

Interesting as always. Everything changes doesn't it? Even the popular plantings. The only thing I know about my rain lilies is that someone said they were zephyranthes grandiflora. I hope that helps. Jean

the pleasures of homemaking said...

Fun to see the photos and read everyone's comments! The drought in the SE has definately changed what people plant in the past few years.

Manuela

Sweetie said...

Your post is very interesting and provides something to think about. We have had such a dry summer in PA that next summer I am going to put a lot of thought into planting flowers that require less water.
Sweetie

beckie said...

Aiyana, this is a very interesting post. We've talked about the overuse of some plants now such as 'stella d'oro's' in commercial plantings and I know there are a lot of 'brsdford pears' planted here also. But way back, they seem to have liked box woods and junipers. So many houses have the'moustache' look as Mr. McGregor's Daughter has described it. It's good to see people thinking about conservation though and planting accordingly.

Shady Gardener said...

Well, I thought I'd left a comment here. You have given us a lot to think about when it comes to styles in design as well as plantings. Nice post!

Pam/Digging said...

This is a really interesting subject, Aiyana. I guess I'm a young enough gardener that I can't come up with a contribution regarding Austin or even North Carolina, where I used to live. All I can think of is the low-growing junipers that everyone used to use. But your post makes me wonder what in my current garden will seem dated in another decade or so.

Jean said...

I've gardened for decades, most of them in Austin, and I know for sure that the trend there changed from the fairly typical plant pallette of waxleaf ligustrums, chinese elms, and begonias to all kinds of native Texas plants. The change was really remarkable. Now that I live in another state, the concept of plants native to the area is new to most folks, including the plant nurseries. It's a struggle for me.
Thanks for such an interesting post!

Aiyana said...

Thanks for all the comments. I guess plant fads have gone on for centuries. Victorian gardens had a lot of great plants that were deemed old-fashioned and 'quaint', but those gardens evolved into cottage gardens, which are popular today. In early Arizona, people wanted to make their new homes look like the lush, verdant oases they had left 'back east'. With lots of water, that's easy to do, but then water became precious and conservation was called for, leading to the Xeriscapes of today. Victory Gardens were necessary and popular during the two World Wars as part of the war effort. Victory Gardens are again popular as food prices and food safety issues raise concerns.
For the record, a few other plants that have lost favor in Arizona in the last 30 years are Japanese Privet hedges, Mockorange, boxwood, ivy, and various plants that take heavy soil amendments and other additons to make them grow.
Aiyana