Don't do this

It's so much easier to be a critic than to be a force for knowledge and goodness.  Plus it's fun to point out others' mistakes while revealing none of your own.  In that spirit, I offer two things you should strive NEVER to do in the garden.

First up is crappy topiary that looks like tuna cans then we talk about dangerous and strangely shaped trees.

I can't recall if I took this photo or not.  It is representative of many gardens in the Los Angeles area.  This gardener apparently has only one tool - a hedge shear.  A level or plumb bob would have helped this look less crappy and less like it's sliding downhill.  It still would have made my don't do this list, but at least it could have been level. Look at the hedge-shaped plant against the house.  That caved-in look at the bottom is a problem that is addressed with proper pruning technique, applied over time.  Now it's just a mess.  What are they trying to hide up there anyway? The siding?

There's some lava rock rings around the entry stair plantings.  Maybe they were thinking about bar-be-que or maybe they went slightly insane at the big box store one day.  Also, there's not enough of the rock to appear committed to actually doing anything other than providing a place for the crab grass to grow that's hard to get to with the string trimmer.

Second up is planting trees where they don't belong.  I don't think that I took this photo, but it perfectly illustrates the problem with planting inappropriately sized trees.  If a tree says it grows to 50' tall, why doesn't the home owner LOOK UP and see what it's going to run into?  That's a first step.  A second step is to think about how wide it's going to be.  A third step would be to look at what it will shade.  But mistakes happen - either yours or someone else's.  So if you happen to own a tree that's ill suited for its location then you ought to TAKE IT OUT instead of letting the utility company do your pruning for you.  If a tree is old and large it is NOT valuable by definition.  Value comes from its benefit and if it's the wrong tree in the wrong place then it's the opposite of valuable.  And then you end up with something that looks like a pickle or a giant 60s-era chair or an enormous jelly bean suppository.   Where's the main trunk go up in the tree?  Does it dog leg to the left?  That doesn't look structurally sound.  Oh, your house is underneath that cantilevered growth too?  Too bad.  You lose.


  1. You have to admit, for that first garden, that at least the lawn looks great.

  2. Six months after the fact but I’ve come back to this bookmarked page MANY times.
    Adjoining neighbour inherited a garden with a lone evergreen planted forty years ago in the middle of the front garden. A dwarf it is not-currently pushing 40 ft. It does two things-sheds needles and kills grass. And contrary to popular belief does not keep the house cool as it is a North facing house and the tree is on the North “lawn”. Neighbours to the left have a thirty yr old deciduous that they refuse to prune out of sentimental reasons. It is quietly eroding their roofing tile. Both trees are eyesores. Root systems running amok. I fantasize about raging brush fires and crazed gardeners with pruning shears reducing them to mere stumps.