UNITED STATES—Landscape design and gardening trends change like every other sort of fashion. Several fads of the past were quite practical and justifiable. Many were not. Whether justifiable or not, many merely became old fashioned. Some evolved into a more contemporary style. Others were not so adaptable. Planning for a landscape is easier than planning for fads.
For example, plants seem to be disproportionately small within a new landscape. That is because someone planned for them to have sufficient room to grow. Shade trees should eventually mature to be proportionate to their respective spaces. In fact, all plants should mature accordingly. However, overly trendy queen palms can become passe at any time.
Many home gardens contend with fads from the past that are awkward to accommodate. Strict symmetry that was very common long ago has become more than old fashioned. It is now considered to be unappealing. Relaxed asymmetry is now common and popular. Of course, this is an advantage as aged trees of symmetrical rows begin to die randomly.
Time marches on. Fads get left behind.
Queen palms that became popular in the 1990s are getting more expensive to maintain. Only professional arborists can groom them as they get too tall to reach from the ground. Queen palms at rear fences of backyards were a fad. Sadly, most utility cable easements are above such rear fences. Palms that encroach too closely necessitate costly removal.
Living Christmas trees was another fad that caused serious problems later. Most of such trees were either Italian stone pine or Canary Island pine. Many found permanent homes within confined home gardens after Christmas. They seemed to be so docile while small and potted. The problem was that both species grow too big for compact home gardens.
Sustainability is presently a fad that actually has potential to be beneficial in the future. It only needs proper execution. The results of fads may linger long after the fads are gone. Many trees that are fads now could survive for centuries. No fad demonstrates that more accurately than sustainability. That which is truly sustainable can evolve with future fads.
Highlight: Norway Maple
The botanical name of Norway maple, Acer platanoides, means ‘maple like a sycamore’. It resembles Platanus X acerifolia, which means ‘sycamore with maple foliage’. Platanus X acerifolia is London plane (‘sycamore’), which serves similar purposes. Norway maple lacks the irritating foliar tomentum of London plane. It has more aggressive roots though.
Norway maple was likely never a fad but was common as a street tree during the 1950s. It naturalized as in invasive exotic species in parts of the Pacific Northwest. It is not such a nuisance locally. Most domestic trees are sterile or almost sterile cultivars. If their roots were more complaisant, they could have been ideal street trees. Their shade is splendid.
‘Schwedleri’, with bronzed foliage, was likely the most popular cultivar originally. Modern cultivars are darker bronze, golden, variegated or simple green. Their deciduous foliage is not so impressive for autumn though. It turns somewhat brownish yellow. The palmate leaves are about five to nine inches wide. Defoliation is efficient. Re-foliation is quite late. Not many Norway maples get more than 40 feet tall within the mild climates here.
Tony Tomeo can be contacted at tonytomeo.com.