Satellite dishes, tater tots, fish sticks, soldiers, flat tops, gobstoppers, corks, oil tanks and trip hazards are just some of the many but less objectionable names that my colleague down south and I have developed for what should be good shrubbery, trees, vines or whatever that so-called gardeners got to with their hedge shears. Tater tots are usually Heavenly bamboo shorn into stout cylinders. Fish sticks are the same, but taller, narrower, and often composed of Podocarpus macrophyllus. Corks are commonly breath of Heaven, but could be just about anything shorn to be somewhat cylindrical, but narrower down low, and wider on top. Trip hazards are ground cover plants like creeping California lilac or creeping cotoneaster, shorn into absurd low hedges next to sidewalks. Gobstoppers could be just about anything, but tend to hang over the curbs in parking lots, ready to impale a radiator grill with a gnarly stub. You can use your imagination for soldiers, flat tops and oil tanks. You probably can not conceive anything more absurd than what my colleague and I see on our job sites.

‘Garage sales’ are probably the worst. They are a variety of plants that were probably intended to function as a practical landscape, but instead got shorn collectively into a large thicket of mixed foliage that rarely gets the chance to bloom. Bougainvillea, New Zealand flax, jade plant, pampas grass, wisteria, fruit trees and even the occasional century plant; anything goes! If the so-called gardeners can reach it, they will shear it.

The original satellite dish was a carob tree in Westchester. I first saw it in the early 1990s, when some homes that had a bit of space to spare were still outfitted with huge parabolic satellite dishes, before the much smaller ones that can be mounted on roofs were invented. This tree had a normal trunk that went up into a remarkably flat ceiling under which no foliage was allowed to hang. This ceiling was only about seven feet above the lawn below. Above that, there was a remarkably symmetrical but low dome of very tightly shorn foliage that looked something like a downward facing satellite dish. This dome was perhaps twenty feet wide, but less than four feet from top to bottom. So, with seven feet of clearance above the lawn, the entire tree was no more than twelve feet tall, barely higher than the eaves of the home behind it. I really wish I had a picture to share. Who puts so much work into ruining a tree?! Maintaining it properly would have been much less effort.

Earlier, we discussed renovating overgrown shrubbery as small trees. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/overgrown-shrubbery-becomes-small-trees/ . The satellite dish was the exact opposite of such useful procedures. What is the point of planting trees and then not allowing them to develop as anything more than abused shrubbery?

The pair of satellite dishes in the picture above are Japanese maples. Their canopies are about the same depth as that of the carob tree in Westchester, but are only about half as broad. What is the point of planting Japanese maples if they are not allowed to look like Japanese maples? They look ridiculous. What is worse is that someone puts significant effort into making them look so ridiculous. They would be so much prettier if pruned only very rarely, and only for clearance above the driveway and away from the building behind. Such pruning would have been less work than shearing these disgraced trees just once.

Even more effort goes into humiliating the plants in the picture below. The fish stick to the upper right is a wisteria vine that is not allowed to bloom or climb onto the trellis that was built for it (which is not visible in the picture). The trip hazard to the lower left is some sort of lavender that is not allowed to spread out over the bare soil as it was intended to do. The cork in the middle is a New Zealand tea tree that can never develop the gracefully irregular canopy and sculptural trunks that it would be pleased to display. It is just a cork.


28 thoughts on “Horridculture – Satellite Dish

    1. Pizza! My colleague and I made up names for some of the more creative specimens as we encountered them. We saw more than one pizza in San Jose if you can believe that. They looked so ridiculous that they were impressive. They were impressively ridiculous. We sometimes referred to the pruning style as ‘diner is served’ because it looks like how a waiter in a fancy restaurant caries a tray of food. Trees that had deeper canopies (from top to bottom) might be called ‘hockey pucks’, ‘biscuits’, ‘the big cheese’ or ‘Halston’ (referring to a pill box cap, not the gopher).


      1. Lol!!! Love it! I think hockey puck is a great description for the ones near me. This same neighbor also has what I assume are shrubs that have been pruned to have multiple mini hockey pucks at varying heights all around it. Kind of looks like a brached clothing tree!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. They do not deserve it. It is just what some people do. In some cases, it is not horticulturally incorrect. It just looks really REALLY bad, and makes one wonder why.


    1. There are some in Los Gatos that are shorn into cubes. They were originally a green laceleaf cultivar. I sold them many years ago. One developed suckers that dominated the scion, but it dosen’t matter. It is all cubed anyway.


      1. I do not know who the gardeners is. I remember the landscaper who installed them. He does not do landscaping anymore, and probably never should have. He was one of those who got bored with his primary career so did landscaping. (I mentioned this sort of thing in an earlier rant.) However, the Japanese maples would have worked well for that particular application if they had been maintained properly.


    1. Not many would admit to that. I just dislike working with bonsai because it is more art than horticulture, and I am no artist. (I know that horticulture is important too, but still, it is too artistic for me.) Bonsai is impressive if someone else does it, but like so many other forms of art, it is not for everyone.


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