by germinatrix | May 2nd, 2010
Why IS IT that in a city like Los Angeles, with a fantastic climate for gardening, tons of garden talent, and a lovely venue, our Garden Show is SO LAME?
It is really kind of shocking. And sad. But whose FAULT is it?
The Designers? Having done this particular show, I know that most of these designers are at the beginning of their careers, and are working with barely anything in the way of funds. They have to go out of pocket to get the plants, the containers, the hardscaping materials, and if they are lucky they will turn around and install them in clients gardens shortly after the show. They can borrow from vendors, but garden shows are hard on plants, and it is the PLANTS that makes these gardens successful. When I did the shows, I used easily 4 times the plants as the other designers did – I layered and layered making sure that there was not even a hint of black nursery pots to be seen. But the plants would always end up looking worse for the wear (super hot sun, lots of people fondling flowers and leaves, haphazard watering), so it was hard to convince nurseries and growers to lend them.
It would help if the venue could work out sponsorship deals with local nurseries and growers other than the one BIG cheese – Monrovia. I’m not sure how it works now, but from the dearth of plant material, I’d say the designers could borrow from Monrovia, and then would have to provide any plants that Monrovia doesn’t grow on their own, out of pocket. I believe the show provides decomposed granite and mulch, but other than that, designers are responsible for their own hardscape materials. That’s fine – this is where you use ingenuity to figure out how to get alot of bang for your buck. But if we are looking to garden shows for inspiration, do we REALLY need to see 2×2 pavers set in an everyday grid pattern? COME ON! If you are going to use pavers, do something WITH them that we don’t see all the time. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE pavers – I use them in clean grids all the time – but a GARDEN SHOW should give us new ideas, new points of inspiration! RIGHT?
One garden in particular rubbed me the wrong way – and it was because of a lack of editing. In defense of the garden, it was the APLD (the Association of Professional Landscape Designers, LA chapter ) project, so I imagine it was a collaborative effort – but this garden suffered tremendously from the need to show ALL the goods, ALL at once. There was a big puzzle house – which would have been enough. But there was more – an edible “nook” with hay bales as a couch (tricky tricky – and already done beautifully by designer Jay Griffith. Don’t mess with what the master has already done better), a “Wooly Pocket” wall (don’t get me started on the wooly pockets. I WANT to like them, I do – but they’re ugly. Sorry. They totally look like plants were shoved into felt shoe organizers that hang on the back of your closet door.), and just to capitalize on the vertical gardening trend a little more there was a tiny succulent “wall” thrown in for good measure. And I’m not even mentioning the firepit, the fountain, and another nook under a cluster of citrus trees* (in MY opinion, that would have been enough – a cozy planted nook under citrus trees – beautiful.)
*Funny how I just mentioned stuff while claiming not to mention it – the magic of blogging!
But for all the wrong-way rubbing the APLD garden did to me, it was the best of what was there. And that isn’t saying alot. One garden was basically a pile of mulch with a wooden platform floating in it, and a spiral plant stand oddly off to the side. Another garden was obviously a design sponsored by the TerraCotta Association of America. And yet another must have been a meditation on “The Circle”, with swoopy loops of hardscape giving me vertigo when I stepped inside.
San Francisco has nothing to worry about – the Los Angeles Garden Show is NOT giving it a run for it’s money. And it’s a shame, because it should. The show should attract some of the big names in local garden design, and it should give the up -and- coming designers a hand with logistics and support. It is in everybody’s interest to make this a venue that showcases what the local design community has to offer. I’m not happy to be snarky! I would LOVE to gush and ooooh and aaaah!
But I just can’t.
What I CAN do, however, is show you a real coup of design that I saw that day. Color, form, texture, all rolled up into a miraculous ( albeit LOUD ) package:
XOXO Your Germinatrix