Motion As A Landscape Element

60120+Landscapes appeal to our senses. The colors and textures of blooms and foliage are visually appealing. Floral fragrance and foliar aroma appeal to the sense of smell. Fruits and vegetables can provide flavor. Wind chimes, fountains and birds visiting bird feeders might add a bit of delightful sound and motion. Yet, the motion of certain plants in the breeze is rarely considered.

Weeping willow is famous for the way it blows softly in even a slight breeze. Unfortunately, it is also famous for thirsty roots, structural deficiency, and getting too big too fast. Mayten can do the same on a smaller scale, and in drier situations. California pepper is somewhere in between, since it can eventually get too big, and might have structural problems, but takes a while to do so.

Some of the various eucalypti have softly pendulous stems as well. Lemon gum and red ironbark are two of the better known specie that know how to blow in a breeze. Silver dollar gum is nice too, even though it is not as pendulous or as dynamic in the wind. Eucalypti that get too big for home gardens can be seen blowing in the wind in larger landscapes, such as parks or on freeways.

Two of the best trees for motion in the wind are not as popular as they used to be. European white birch that was so popular in the 1970s has become considerably less common that the less pendulous (but brighter white) Himalayan birch. The elegant and formerly popular Chinese elm has been replaced by modern ‘improved’ cultivars with stiffer stems, like the Drake Chinese elm.

Almost all bamboos, most big clumping grasses, and many palms are ideal for taking advantage of breezes. Mexican weeping bamboo really is comparable to weeping willow, but on a much smaller scale. Taller bamboos can catch a breeze on top even if lower foliage is sheltered. Pampas grass, although certainly not for every garden, has both dynamic foliage and dynamic blooms.

Of course, plants that move in a breeze can only do so with a breeze. They can not do much if sheltered by larger trees or buildings.P81222++++


Santa Ana Winds

P71221+They have been a part of life in Southern California longer than anyone can remember. The Santa Ana Winds have been blowing down from the high deserts to coastal plains long before people arrived in the region. They are arid and usually warm before they leave the Great Basin and Mojave Desert, and they get even warmer as the flow downhill through mountain passes. That is what makes them so dangerous during fire season. Wind alone accelerates wildfire. Warming arid wind desiccates fuel, making it more combustible before wildfire arrives.

Santa Ana Winds are so regular that they affect how tall trees grow within the regions of the mountain passes where Santa Ana Winds move the fastest. Tall Mexican fan palms that grew up straight where sheltered from wind near the ground innately lean with the prevailing wind as they grow up and become more exposed. Those closer to the narrow canyons lean the most. It is something that arborists recognize everywhere around the Los Angeles Basin. They can tell how strongly the Santa Ana Winds blow in any particular neighborhood by how Mexican fan palms lean.

Santa Ana Winds can be strong enough to break tree limbs, and blow trees down. In the past few days, they have been making quite a mess in the Los Angeles region; although not as much of a mess as they are making in conjunction with the Thomas Fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties, which may already be the biggest wildfire in the modern history of California.

Overnight, Santa Ana Winds blew this California pepper tree onto a swimming pool in Los Angeles. Tree services, landscapers, gardeners and those who enjoy gardening will be busy cleaning up such problems for the next few days, as Santa Ana Winds continue.