Taking It To The Streets

Tipu tree is the topic for tomorrow.

No matter how unique the individual gardens are, conforming street trees really unify a neighborhood. Streets of tract homes are typically planted with a common street tree that is complimentary to the architectural styles of the homes, and is complaisant to the difficulties of life at the curb. Neighborhoods of mixed architectural styles sometimes have difficulty finding a tree that suits every home, so often select two or more options. Older neighborhoods are not quite as selective about conforming street trees because so many various trees get mixed in over the years.

Before selecting a street tree, it is best to inquire with the particular municipality about designated street trees. Home owners associations generally install their own trees where needed, with little or no regard for the preferences of individual residents. Some urban neighborhoods (that are not home owner associations) are nearly as selective, requiring individual home owners to maintain a specific street tree or trees. Others do not require street trees, but limit selection for those who desire them. Selection is very often limited to only a single species.

There are of course many rural and unincorporated neighborhoods without limitations for street trees, and neighborhoods where limitations simply are not enforced. However, selection should still be limited to trees that are appropriate for curbside planting. Such trees should have high branch structure so that they can be pruned for clearance above the largest of trucks that can use the roadway. They should be reasonably clean, and not produce anything that could be messy on cars parked below. Roots should be complaisant with concrete curbs and sidewalks, particularly where space is limited. Foliage and bark must be resilient to harsh exposure and enhanced glare (from surrounding pavement).

London plane (sycamore) and crape myrtle trees are the two most common street trees planted by landscapers, and are the most commonly pre-designated street trees, but are actually not the best of choices. London plane is popular among landscapers because it can survive the neglect that landscapers are notorious for, but has aggressive roots that eventually damage concrete, especially since landscapers waste so much water and keep the soil saturated. Crape myrtle is remarkably colorful both in bloom and with fall color, and has remarkably complaisant roots, but does not get tall enough for adequate clearance, and often gets infested with insects that drop sticky honeydew on parked cars.

This was the topic for yesterday.

Six on Saturday: Beat Box


It sounds more compelling that way, like the old song by Art of Noise in 1984. It was . . . unique for the time. I suppose it still it. Brent introduced me to that Beat Box when we lived in the dorms at Cal Poly in 1986. Otherwise, to me, the name would have suggested a shallow wooden box for storing root vegetables in a cellar, or a crisper drawer of a refrigerator – a box for beets.

Well, I am just beeting around the bush to avoid sharing the unsightly pictures of my beat-up and neglected planter box downtown, which, incidentally, features neither beets, nor bushes.

The last update was only six weeks ago. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/08/18/six-on-saturday-out-with-the-old/ There has not been much improvement. I manage to remove the litter that accumulates. The condition of most of the plants is unfortunately natural for this time of year. It will not last long. For now, it is what I have to share.

The main problem now is that the common houseleeks, which are the most prominent perennials, naturally looks very tired. I would have no problem with it in my own garden. I know that they look great for most of the year. They look like they do now only in late summer. They recover immediately as soon as the rain starts in autumn. I do not know what is so great about rain, or what rain does that the irrigation does not do. I think that it coincides with cool humidity. Warm aridity is probably what causes the houseleeks to fold up and shed much of their foliage the way they do.

1. Common houseleek was grown from two tiny cuttings that I acquired from the garden of a friend’s deceased mother as we were emptying her home in Monterey. They arrived with a bronze common houseleek, another unidentified houseleek, an unidentified aloe, and, of all things, a bearded iris. They grew like weeds, and are now the most prominent features in the planter box. They would not have been my first choice, but once they started to grow, everyone liked them. I sometimes consider cutting them back so that they regenerate as lower foliar plants; but most people like their height and sculptural stems. I will instead groom out some of the superfluous grown to display their stems better. Once the rain starts, and they regenerate new foliage, they will look exquisite! For now, they look like . . . this.P80929

2. Bronze common houseleek was planted between the two common houseleeks, and at the same time, but never gets going well. As soon as it tries to grow, someone takes the top off of it. It would be an excellent contrast if it gets the chance. It really looks bad right now, but like the others, it will fluff out with the rain. The third smaller houseleek is right below it.P80929+

3. One never knows what might be found in a roadside planter box or landscape. Besides the concrete slurry (that was dumped by a tile-setter working in the adjacent building) and big puddles of vomit (such as those commonly found outside of downtown bars), I have found discarded bicycle parts (that were replaced by the adjacent bicycle store), baggies of dog poop, loaded diapers, small bags of trash, and a variety of dishes, glasses and flatware from neighboring restaurants. This disfigured fender is certainly not the strangest item to appear in my planter box, but is one of the largest.P80929++

4. Two nice urns outside of the adjacent bicycle shop always look so much better than my planter box. They are filled with nice potting soil, and get watered more generously. The big houseleek in the closer of the two urns was removed from my planter box when it got too crowded. I would have planted a matching pair, but the farther of the two urns had been temporarily removed to make room for a sign. Now that it has returned, it is outfitted with a big aloe from the planter box. The aloe was cut back when the tile on the corner of the planter box where the aloe is located was repaired. I was not there when it happened, but I am very pleased that someone in the bicycle store salvaged the severed bits of aloe. I would have been annoyed if they had been wasted. They are quite large now. It would be excellent if they bloom soon. Most aloes bloom in summer, but this species has tried to bloom at really odd times . . . except in summer! The floral stalks in the planter box have always gotten broken off before they bloom, so I do not even know what the flowers look like. If they never get the chance to bloom, the foliage still looks great.P80929+++

5. The adjacent tree well really did not look this bad after I pulled up some of the debris that collected in it a month or so ago. It now looks as nasty as it did during my previous update. I know the bit of housleek looks really nasty, but it stays because I expect it to recover once the rain resumes. Nasturtiums grow here too. I will sow seed for ‘Jewels Mix’ nasturtiums in the planter box only because nasturtiums do not regenerate there as reliably.P80929++++

6. This second tree well that is just west of that in the #5 picture above had a nice magnolia tree in it a month ago. Only this pile of chipped stump remains. The sidewalk, curb and road pavement will be replaced soon. Street trees will be added later. The magnolias were so pretty, but were too impractical and messy. I am impressed that they did not do more damage than they did during the half century that they were there.P80929+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Concrete And Jungle Can Be Compatible

80620thumbConcrete is one of the most common of landscape materials. There are probably more landscapes that include concrete of one form or another than there are landscapes that include lawn, and most landscapes include lawn. There are more landscapes that lack shade trees than there are without concrete. We do not notice it much because, once it is installed, we do not do much to it.

Concrete gets poured into our gardens as a liquid like slurry of cement and sand and gravel aggregates that cures into a stone-like solid. It is not ‘cement’, but cement is the component that binds it all together. Almost all modern concrete is reinforced with steel of some sort to prevent it from breaking as easily as old unreinforced pavement does. It can be as permanent as we want it to be.

Concrete is used to pave patios, driveways and sidewalks, and gets molded into stairs, curbs, and the foundations and slabs for our homes and garages. The visible surfaces of concrete can be colored, textured or outfitted with stone to look better in the landscape than simple bare concrete. It is relatively ‘low-maintenance’, but should sometimes get swept or blown if debris accumulates.

Concrete is a versatile and durable material, but is no more perfect than anything else in the garden. It inhibits percolation of moisture and gas exchange in the soil below. Because it is inflexible, it fractures if displaced by roots or settling soil. Glare from paved surfaces can enhance sun exposure enough to roast sensitive foliage and exposed bark. Certain foliar debris can stain concrete.

Concrete limits plant selection. Conversely, the presence of mature trees limits the location and quantity (surface area) of concrete to be installed. Trees with aggressive roots or big trunks should not be planted so close to concrete that they will have no choice but to displace it. Root barriers help with mid sized trees, but are not always effective forever. Dogwoods,Japanese maples and other plants with sensitive foliage or bark, are more vulnerable to exposure if concrete around them is also exposed.