Santa Barbara Not-So-Beautiful Awards
by Billy Goodnick
Why is it the term "a bunch of do-gooders" has such a snotty ring? I might be a little more sensitive than the next person, what with my last name, and all, but when actual do-gooders do good, I think that's good!
Mr. Goodnick being interviewed on the red brick carpet at the Santa Barbara Beautiful Awards. (Sept 20, 2009)
My favorite dudes and dudettes in the white hats are Santa Barbara Beautiful, a non-profit organization that provides money for street trees and fills students' heads with green ideas about the environment. And if that weren't swell enough, they hand out awards for exemplary projects that make Santa Barbara truly beautiful.
Last weekend, under a spreading Ficus macrophylla - sans village smithy - a few hundred SBB board members, judges and award winners mobbed the Music Academy of the West, sipped local wines and masticated micro-munchies. After a bit of gab and greet we hied to Hahn Hall to honor the honorable. [Full disclosure: I've been reading a book about alliteration-could ya tell?] The event was featured in last week's Edhat, so I won't pull my Bureau of Redundancy Bureau routine - just check it out.
Get To The Point
For the past few years, I've taken it upon myself to peel back the fetid cloak of darkness and draw your attention to a parallel alternate universe of hideous and paralyzingly misguided landscapes ... a realm so evil and disturbing that parents rush to protect their children from the Boschian vision. Despite the personal joy I get from ripping to shreds these misguided landscapes, my intent is to give my readers useful information-I just like to spew a little bile while getting there. Previous award articles can be viewed here and here.
Category I - Just Cuz You Own Power Trimmers...
I am always happy to find examples of Wrong Plant/Wrong Place. But I almost locked up my brakes driving along La Cumbre Road when I spotted this disturbing scene.
Not only did someone put waaaaay too many white Lantana montevidensis in this tiny tree planter, but the gardener shears the snot out of them, with no regard for the resulting ugliness. And I'm guessing the owner pays him for it. Hint: take all the plants out and replace them with new ones that fit comfortably within the space.
Category II - Fugly Is In The Eyes Of The Besmircher
As if Algerian ivy weren't already as welcome as Hannibal Lecter at a vegan picnic, this thicket nearly knocked me out. If you look up the mature size of the ivy Hedera canariensis in a plant book, it says indeterminate. Indeterminate as in "don't let the dog get too close or you might not see him again." It never stops growing.
Which explains why it's been hacked back to Hackensack. Adding insult to injury, if you wait too long to trim it, you end up cutting into nothing but deadwood. Don't worry, though. You can control it with a well-placed napalm drop.
Category III - The Other Man's Grass Is Always Browner
I'll dispatch this one quickly. 1) Don't plant grass unless you use if for recreation-it's too resource-intensive for our climate; 2) Don't plant grass on a steep slope-the water runs off before it soaks in and it's a bitch to mow; 3) If you ignore either of these rules, ask yourself why you'd want to look at the resulting war zone-this is not anyone's idea of curb appeal.
Category IV - Never Misunderestimate Creeping Fig
Not unlike our good friend, Algerian Ivy, creeping fig (Ficus repens), if given enough time, will consume a house, a lethargic elephant or a block wall and carport. Once again, a hapless gardener need only look around Santa Barbara to find examples of how out-of-hand this self-attaching creeper can get. It once covered all four stories of the city garage on East Ortega Street. It is now in the process of being ingloriously stripped from the walls of the historic Carrillo Recreation Center, where it has weakened the mortar between bricks. One simple bit of advice: Never plant this scourge.
Category V - The Rodney King Award
"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?"
Not in this case. Before some numb-nut decided to put a rose bush in the middle of a patch of English ivy (Hedera helix), he should have thought about 1) Ivy, as aptly illustrated in Category II, likes to creep, climb and cuddle with anything nearby. 2) Roses have thorns.
The designer might have considered what happens when the gardener has to clear the ivy from the branches of the rose. Though the imagery of blood-red roses dotted with human blood might excite Ann Rice, I'm thinking there might be smarter combos in the garden.
Category VI - Deader Than A Texas Armadillo On The Sam Huston Highway
Maybe it's just me, but the tawny leaves of a dearly departed juniper don't count as fall color. It's dead. It's been dead for a year. It's not coming back. Can't get over it? Find a grief support group on-line.
What's that? It's not dead-it's just resting? Didn't work for Monty Python-not working here. Put a chain around the poor wretch, tie the other end to a trailer hitch, put the pedal to the metal and let's make Santa Barbara more beautifuller.
That's my list for 2009. If you have candidates for next year's rant, leave a comment. It's never too soon to start thinking about this prestigious honor.
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Billy Goodnick is a nice guy who knows a lot about plants and garden stuff.
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