Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Oh my Gosh....(another)Calamagrostis.

During my recent visit to Colorado and Wyoming, I noticed an overabundance or use of certain plants. I can speculate on how certain plants become popular in different regions of the country. Recommendations from experts, like extension agents, nurserymen, architects and such can play a large role. Botanical gardens offer views of plants in comparable landscape designs. Views of plants in magazines, newspapers, and even blogs can format our thinking also. I suppose viewing plants in landscapes in your community plays a strong role also, especially plants that succeed....

Well there was one plant which I strongly like, Calamagrostis acutifolia 'Karl Foerster'. I grow it in my own garden (9 plants as a matter of fact). I like this cool season grass as it blooms early in the year, will grow under trees(though not flourish), and has a great vertical growth habit. But...I swear when viewing Colorado/Wyoming landscapes they were everywhere (along with russian sage). I literally got sick of seeing them. There must be a Johnny Foersterseed going around planting these suckers. In commercial as well as residential designs, this grass was in every design.
(Shown in the background at the Cheyenne,Wyoming Botanical Gardens).

I thing back of past gardening trends and abundance of certain plants that were popular in my geographical areas: high school days: railroad ties, phitzer juniper and yucca. college days: Bradford Pear, Crape Myrtle, Boxwood, Procumbens and Blue Rug Juniper. Yaupon Holly multi-trunk tree form, Dwarf Yaupon Holly, Red Oak and Chinese Pistache trees. Recently Atlas Cedar, Deodora Cedar, Japanese Maple 'Bloodgood', Red Barberry, and Crape Myrtle. Can you think of others in your area or times in your life?

32 comments:

  1. Overused, fads & cliches in landscapes here...too many. All a sign that so many just copy others without any conviction or passion.

    Some in Abq - blue atlas cedar crammed against a building, aspen clumps, 3 potentillas-boulder-yucca, 3's of anything, or gray-brown for 8 months called xeriscape-eco-sustainable-native. And Karl Foerster Grass = yawn to me, too. Time for a blog post on this topic, lest I go find a responsible party at some uppity downtown/UNM area eatery!

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    1. For someone who's so slim, you sure eat a lot...he he.

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  2. Ha! You might be a garden geek, if you're grabbed by that title.
    Those trends do come and go, don't they?
    I grew up in Dallas...so, of course, Japanese ligustrum, red tip photenia..and crape myrtle everywhere.
    You see some of those things here. This neighborhood was started back in the '70s. The photenias are trees now. But, these are invasive and lot of those things are being ripped out. Crape myrtle is not so bad, though. The challenge now is to find something the deer will leave alone. So, that is the trend here.
    They come and they go. If you're lucky, you don't plant something you can't ever get rid of.

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    1. I can't believe I didn't have photinia on my list. And their dreaded leaf spot. I've seen some 25' tall.

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  3. Lately, Knockout rose and Spirea.

    Johnny Foersterseed! That's a good one.

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  4. Those grasses would have been a welcome sight when we lived in Cheyenne even if overused. I remember a few cottonwoods, spruces, some holly hedges, and not much else. The weather is so hostile there that I'm impressed anything at all will grow!

    Ivy as groundcover is one I remember.

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    1. True, the wind is the thing I remember.

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  5. Hey Greggop,
    You must have been busy lately because I don't see you trolling all over the garden blogosphere? Cute question because I see a lot of similarities except my childhood was with eucalyptus and bottle brushes. Ironically overused plants are still Bradfords and bloodgoods, river birches, dwarf alberta spruce, stella d'oro and red knockouts (don't people;e know there are other colors?) My latest columns have focused on overused plants. Had fun with your little exercise. Best

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    1. Good to hear from you again Patrick.

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  6. My garden buddy told me in California where she grew up, the curbside tree of choice was the Liquidambar or Sweet Gum. Currently, I've got three HUGE Sweet Gum trees in my front yard that I love and refuse to part with. She cringes every time she sees them because they bring back childhood memories of her bare feet stepping down on the seed pods.

    It seems like the 70s was all about Nandina domestica. At least in my neck of the woods. I think Sunset Magazine had a lot to do with it since it seemed to be one of their signature plants.

    Somewhere in there Photinia made its debut and bullied anything similar out of the way. Then some kind of dreaded foliar malady put the kibosh on that grand idea.

    Five or so years ago hardy bananas, palms and Phormium seemed to be all the rage but then a few severe winters kind of put the chill on that idea.

    More recently, I think the Knock Out roses that someone else mentioned, along with the ornamental grasses that you mentioned seem to be the going thing.

    Although we tend to think of trendy plants as overused eyesores I think the premise is, if it's pretty, functional and low maintenance, it works. And if it works, plant it everywhere.

    Great post, Greggo.

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    1. Yes, Nandina. I think we need more varieties of nandina. he he. Or knockouts.

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  7. I hardly ever see good ol' Karl out this way, so he still looks great to me! (Although I don't grow him. I'm in love with 'Sioux Blue' sorghastrum nutens for my verticals instead.) ;-)

    Stella d'Oro daylilies are the absolute worst offender around here. (Followed by daylilies in almost every other color of the rainbow. Argh.) And nobody seems to like the red knockout roses--it's all about the pink. I guess I live in a weird little area of the world, since they're not as enamored with the red!

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  8. So true--I'm remembering places where I've lived and visited, and they all had their prominent plant themes. I agree with Blackswamp Girl--I'm so tired of Stella d'Oro Daylilies! I wasn't crazy about them to start with, but then added on top of that, people have planted them way too much. On the other hand, Lilacs are in every garden here, but I will never grow tired of them!

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  9. I'm tired of shrubs that look like a geometry lesson - spheres, squares, and rectangles. Perfectly round shrubs look like either green meatballs or alien life pods. I'm really tired of purple barberries planted with chartreuse creeping jenny. It always looks like the 'landscaper' puked in the front yard.

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  10. Oh yes...now THERE is a meme that would be fun...garden fads & trends! I actually used to hate 'Karl Foerster', thinking it SO overused (and it still is). Then, on a lark , I planted some because I wanted a grass that got tall earlier than my mostly warm-season grasses did. Wow...I kinda fell in love. It may be used a lot, but I don't feel at all guilty about using it...it really is unique for a grass in that it provides such a reliably upright exclamation point. I would grow Sorghastrum in a heartbeat, but they don't do well here in the PNW, as a rule (too cool), and tend to flop :-( I'm mostly tired of every landscape around town with their mix of Nandina, Mahonia and Carex...if you can find a house in Portland without at least 2 or those 3, I'll buy you a steak dinner ;-)

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    1. Agreed , I like Karl in my garden. But, it its so overused unfortunately.

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  11. Greggo,
    Nice post and I'd have to say the red knockout roses are the latest trend here in Houston. With lantana and vincas they form this year's landscape triad. The landscape Begonia era is gone due to the drought. I'm not tired of any of the new triad since any flower makes Houston more attractive to visitors.
    The only shrubs I get a little tired of is Indian hawthorn. They were everywhere about 10 years ago and now they have faded away for newer perennials.
    David/:0)

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  12. It seems hawthornes were big in san Antonio also ten years ago along with pitts. N. ow theyre moving up to Oklahoma.

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  13. In my corner of the world there are no overused trends -- they've all been eaten by deer. Take my word for it, there's no such thing as a deer-proof plant.

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    1. There and everywhere. Don't you wish you had the patent or rights or even a few cents off every plant.

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  15. When I visited Oregon years ago, Bergenia was everywhere. I can't get one to thrive in Ontario...but that's OK. There, Bergenia was a groundcover. In many places it was used instead of "lawn" and looked just like my lawn does today...brown due to drought. Come to think of it you've helped me a lot. I'll get rid of my pathetic Bergenias (yes, three of them) and have space for something wonderful!

    By the way, I ousted the hedge of 8 golden spireas when we moved here 15 years ago and planted Calamagrostis Overdam with dark Heucheras and Euphorbias. May be a tired theme, but I still like it, especially when the Verbena bonariensis blooms with it. There are MANY ornamental grasses that I love. Mea culpa.

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  16. Overdam's a good choice with the dark Heucheras. I sure it's breathtaking in you climate. They would burn up here I'm afraid. I like the parent Calamagrostis acutifoila in a larger space. I drove by a commercial property in Oklahoma City today and I swear there were over a thousand Karl Foerster grass plants in one place. Wheh!
    Bregenia's don't seem to "fit" in most landscapes. Thanks for dropping by Marie.

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  17. This is an awesome post, Greggo! Salvia greggii is so overly planted and abundant here and I've never been a huge fan as most will allow it to get leggy and scraggly looking. Mostly the red/hot pink variety is used to extremes. But you probably know this being a Texas traveler. After last summer's horrid temperatures and drought, I finally broke down and planted one...but I did at least go with purple! And, I actually like it <3

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    1. Yes, S.greggi is named after me.

      Not really. he he. I do however get scraggly looking. Yes, I know about greggi and I have even considered trying here in Kansas. I learned in texas how to grow and make it shine. Mostly judicious pruning. There is a variety with glossy foliage but I can't remember which one.

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  18. Nandinas and Otto Luyken laurel are too plentiful followed by red Knockout roses. Then there are the same old, same old daylilies and bedding plants! I do like Karl and wished he would be happier in my garden. I would love to see it planted here instead of the miscanthus that's everywhere. gail

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  19. I love my white crape myrtle. So there.

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  20. We use it on commercial sites here too.Looks good and lasts a long time.

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  21. Ha, ha! I so get this post! Wherever I am living, I get to the point of being a "snob" regarding the plants that grow very easily and are part of the commercial, most residential and even botanical garden landscapes. When I lived in Portland, OR I rolled my eyes at azaleas, camellias, evergreen trees and rhodies. Now that I live in Boise, ID I covet anything evergreen and to have a beautiful Rhodie! Anyway, its the same story here 'Karl Foerster' is over-used as well as 'Overdam'. Also barberry, red shrub roses and physocarpus. I never see crape myrtle though and I've found one that is hardy to this zone so I think I'll be getting it this fall to be 'different.' :)

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Thanks for leaving any comments, they are always welcomed. Sorry I had to add word verification as spam was becoming a huge problem. Greggo,