Traveling back each year to the place I grew up, I notice changes in the commercial and residential landscape: bookstores that have gone, chains that have moved in, friends’ families who have moved away, the spreading of the suburban perimeter. I notice new traffic lights and speed bumps while driving through the old neighborhood. But until the birth of Urban Plant Research, I largely took for granted the strangeness of American suburban landscaping and the role plants play in setting the tone of this environment. This time I began to look.
Among tidily-kept lawn-shapes and bush sculptures, rock gardens and cement-scapes, here and there I found an errant wildness, like this lovely tree spouting fiery plumes from within the confines of a nondescript roof.
Traveling to California from New York in November is like traveling back in time in the season. At Thanksgivingtime, Stockton was in the peak of fall. Most trees were brightly colored and roses were still in bloom.
I collected some multi-colored leaves for my mother’s Thanksgiving table. She helped me identify them as Evergreen Pear.
And these as Chinese Pistache.
Together my mom and I walked on our usual route through the neighborhood, around North Lake. (Well, I guess you wouldn’t say we walked around the actual lake, but we walked around the houses that border the community’s man-made lake.)
We looked at the way birch leaves turn bright yellow starting at their edges.
We lamented trees that had become victims of over-pruning, like this one with its shock of branch-hair standing on end.
We inspected strange tarantula-like ferns.
And we celebrated little anomalies that broke the obsessive neat & trim standard, like rogue villages of mushrooms. Yes, I know mushrooms aren’t plants, but they sure are cute!