PRAIRIEFORM

Everyday excursions in the urban landscape

Form trumps flower

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VIEW OF THE LA COUNTY ARBORETUM: Form, texture, color

One of the best ways to figure out what plants to use in your garden or landscape is simply to go to your local arboretum one season, take photos and notes of the plants that catch your eye, and then to return each subsequent season to see how the particular plants evolve over time. The benefit of this approach is that you will know what your plant will truly look like once it’s found a fixed spot in your landscape. Sounds exceedingly obvious, but the year-round form and evolution of a plant is rarely one of the criteria people use when figuring out what to use in their landscape.

Too often, we are seduced by close-up photos of brilliant flowers (this recent Arroyo Monthly article a case in point), never to actually see what the overall form of the plant is and what the plant looks like when not in bloom. California Poppies make a wonderful display in spring, but post-bloom, they take on a horrendously ratty look and must be pruned back ad nauseum until the following spring. Nonetheless, PRAIRIEFORM has seen all too many a landscape that consists of little more than perennials that take on a none-too-delightful weedy pose when not in bloom.

PRAIRIEFORM, as the name implies, is interested first and foremost in form – the form of the overall landscape, but also the form of each indvidual plant (such as these Karl Foerster grasses growing in the Zenith Avenue Landscape). We favor plants whose form will provide lasting interest throughout the seasons. Form, texture, and foliage color are the muscles of a landscape, the flowers merely fleeting highlights and accents. Think about how you can use plants with strong form and foliage to provide these muscles, and how the more ephemeral perennials can be tucked in to pop out intermittently as temporary accents but never as the dominant element of the landscape.

The story behind a near-postcard-perfect streetscape. . .

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SECOND STREET BETWEEN MAIN AND LOS ANGELES STREETS

This tiny one-block stretch of verdant goodness in the heart of Downtown LA is a rare find in this city. At one time in the not-too-distant past, this street was set to be widened, the row of trees within the parkway (or, “boulevard,” if you are from Minnesota) to be removed. I am still a bit incredulous that it wasn’t widened, given the cards stacked against it. Street trees are not under the jurisdiction of LA City Planning, nor are streets and sidewalks in general. In the City’s General Plan, City Planning simply set all Los Angeles streets to desired widths, and DOT and Public Works have since then enforced these designations by requiring road widenings to match the required street widths. Any attempt at narrowing a street or not widening a road now causes quite the kerfuffle, as DOT and Public Works are simply not keen on giving up their power of enforcement.

The good news is that LA City Planning, in conjunction with the CRA, and a host of urban design and transportation consultants, have been working to revise Downtown’s street standards so that future road widenings don’t occur, and, in some instances, so that over-widened roads can be narrowed, as is the case along Grand Avenue at Olympic, where a future park might be placed.

Godspeed, narrow street.

Parks First hearing canceled. . .

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. . . check back soon for the rescheduled hearing date.

Parks First LA

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Under Proposition K the City of Los Angeles will be generating $25 million annually to go towards the acquisition of land for new parks, maintenance of existing parks, and towards other park-related items (yes, so vague, I know; click on link to see the point-by-point low-down).

One of those new parks might be located in East Hollywood off of Lexington Avenue, near Sunset, and tomorrow would be an opportunity to show your support, if you are so inclined and can swing it. The Prop K Steering Committee will be meeting tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. in the CAO Conference Room on the 15th Floor of City Hall. It is agenda item number five.

Agenda

For more info, contact Glen Dake at gdake@packbell.net .

Plant of the week

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WATSONIA

Yet another plant from the wide, wide botanical world of South Africa. Hardy to Zone 9a (although, people say the bulbs have withstood frost), winter-blooming (in California), growing to 3 1’2′ to 4′ high, and a complete hummingbird magnet, Watsonia will send out its electric-colored flowers for weeks on end. Since they are bulbs and thus have a somewhat ephemeral quality, plant these tucked in with other plants that have a bolder, more lasting presence in the garden, such as Deer Grass , or Alkali Dropseed. Deadhead spent flowers and cut back any ratty-looking foliage as spring turns to summer, particularly as winter rains subside and plants go dormant. Will need some supplemental water during dry winter years for best results.

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