Gardening of any kind is a noble endeavor until you push it beyond reason because you can, then spread the word. We often wonder about the regional vernacular versus modern and non-site specific planting ideas that demand excessive winter heating and maintenance. What water savings these arid zone succulents provide is offset by energy consumption to heat the greenhouse all winter.
Another recent example was a beautiful old Los Angeles Spanish bungalow relandscaped for drought. The solution was two massive raw poured concrete walls separated by a row of identical plants between them. It made the home site look like two different lots from the street because the building and architectural walls were so visually disconnected. Yet still it got attention for this incongruous approach that someone probably mistook for cutting edge design.
America is lost in an architectural landscape crisis because there is so much effort to change the look and feel of our gardens right now. The influence of European modernism on design is forcing that style onto beautiful traditional homes and gardens. This gradually blurs the great American garden styles that evolved in tandem with this architecture. In a way modernism contaminates these beautiful historic neighborhoods. Change is not always good here, and sometimes our best efforts to do the right thing have unexpected, and sometimes very dangerous results.
Having been in California horticulture and landscape design for thirty years, I can safely say garden design can date a home. Not too far in the future all that concrete and corten and gravel will lose its appeal. Sure you can relandscape, but you may need a jack hammer, heavy equipment and a cutting torch to return it to Mother Earth so you can start planting again the traditional way.
Maureen Gilmer is an author, horticulturist and landscape designer. Learn more at www.MoPlants.com