When maintenance becomes butchery

Hacked-up Liquidambar styraciflua

For those who aren’t familiar with the territory of landscape in Southern California, we will let you know this: Almost every landscape is tended to by hired gardeners. Some know a thing or two about plants; many do not. What for newcomers comes initially as a godsend – the opportunity to have a green landscape year-round – quickly becomes a burden. And so enters the hired gardener. That the gardeners are generally underpaid and without any sort of horitcultural background translates into a very limited plant palatte that can look good and survive under their care. And when it comes to trees, the cardinal rule of never lopping off the leader trunk (as this is essentially the spine along which the tree grows) is broken every day, by the hour.

PRAIRIEFORM is not in the business of forcing people to take an interest in tending to their own landscapes; it is, however, in the business of working with skilled gardeners who can ensure that your landscape is cared for properly. An exquisite landscape design means nothing if the subsequent maintenance on it is shoddy at best, especially because one of the most rewarding, soul-satisfying aspects of a landscape is watching it evolve across the seasons and through the years.

Man is not a bird; grass is not a hedge

Badly hacked up Pennisetum setaceum

Maintenance is that not-so-glamorous part of landscape design that no one wants to think about, but it is perhaps the most important part of the entire design process. Shown above is what remains of what just two years ago was an exquisite-looking, brand-spankin’-new landscape (no, not designed or orchestrated by PRAIRIEFORM, mind you). The dying, brownish clumps you see in front are what remains of the Pennisetum setaceum (aka Purple Fountain Grass), which the hired gardeners attempt to sculpt into a hedge every week. The accent is on “attempt,” as grasses simply cannot be hedged. The designer in charge of this landscape never bothered to let the subsequent gardeners know this.

Pennisetum setaceum in its proper, unhedged glory

Above is shown the normal form of this particular Pennisetum. Flowy, wispy, cascading, full of movement and slow evolution across the seasons. It is because of those qualities that PRAIRIEFORM favors grasses so much in its designs. It is also because grasses are by and large quite low maintenance. Aside from a little water here and there, and a good dose of sun, grasses can be left to their own devices for much of the year. Only once annually do they need to be pruned, which entails little more than a cut-to-the-ground chop before their growing season begins. That’s it. Had the owner or designer of the above landscape known this, they could have saved quite a bit of money in maintenance costs, and could have spared everyone the eyesore.

PRAIRIEFORM works either with your existing gardener to ensure that they maintain the newly design landscape properly, or offers you recommendations for gardeners who are knowledgable about specific plants and their care – including grassses. The end result is a landscape that endures, evolves, and grows up into something beautiful, the way it was intended to in the first place.