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Re: So many broadleaved evergreens for zone 7/8 never used.

Message from Mike coastal CT

I see it as two parts:

I agree… the “big box” stores, which are only interested in mass produced, basic (and VERY durable) plants, helped create the cookie cutter/tried and boring landscapes/gardens you often see in the USA (from coast to coast). The local nursery (with often generations of knowledge) has been pushed out and replaced by the big box stores.

The other part of it ….in terms of how climate (or a few very rare winters) might dictate what is often grown where ….. IMO, has little (maybe nothing) to do with this problem. Although I’ve been to most areas of the USA, I’m definitely most familiar with gardens/landscape here on the East Coast. From the dry tropical scrubs of the Florida Keys to the towering pines of the semi-boreal northern Maine coast, I’ think I’ve been through nearly every area from I-95 east to the seacoast-lol.

I have some time to kill…so let me elaborate in terms of the Middle Atlantic region (by this I mean the zone 7 areas on the East Coast)….and how I see it:
The middle Atlantic states seems to be able to support a near endless amount of BLEs, Yuccas, Cactus, even some palms long term …and the occasional severe winter (at least what is termed a severe winter here in zone 7) has little long term impact on this I think. Just in my travels through old historic gardens in cities like Trenton, Baltimore, New Haven, Wilmington, Del, Newport, even parts of NYC itself …I’ve seen countless examples of very old and large BLES, Yuccas, cactus, scrub palms…as well as other century old trees (Oaks, Redwoods, Sequoias…etc.).

The real culprit IMO is tradition and perspective:

The tradition of the temperate garden in the Middle Atlantic (and I suspect this is true in several other areas as well)….with the rhythm of Spring (bloom), summer (green), fall (orange/red color, fading to leaves flying), and winter (dead-looking bare trees) is culturally what is the default landscape here. Up until recently - this consisted of formal looking, rectangular-shaped planting beds, low height/ low density tightly-pruned foundation plantings, conservative plants that lacked any bold or interesting shapes or patterns, and an overall sense of northern European looking landscape. The plant material used in many of these landscapes almost always was the same “default” mix: (often negatively referred to by the more modern landscapers as the “Default Boreal Landscape”): Alberta Spruce, Common Juniper, and Japanese Yews for walkway or foundation plantings, a sparse mix of conifer trees like Black Spruce, Northern White Cedar, and Eastern White Pine, and of course the required Maple trees. This is not to say every landscape is like this….but more than half the time this is what you would see in this zone (and there is nothing wrong with any of these plants of course).

It is also fair to say….that this is now changing, especially along the coast: Since increasingly the coastal zone is a place for vacations and holidays, many newer (and older) homeowners and landscapes seem to be moving away from the formal European inspired landscape style which seems more and more out of place with the modern architecture, bright colored beachside builds, and the relaxed atmosphere of beach/coastal communities along the middle East Coast. Traveling (again close to the coast) from eastern Virginia across the Atlantic coastal plains of Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and some of the beachside communities of Long Island Sound (NY and CT), you increasingly spot more broadleaf evergreen trees and shrubs, palms, bamboos, more native cactus, and yuccas - along with bananas, elephant ears, and cannas in the warmer months. So I do think it is changing, but it has a long way to go before the plants/landscapes of this region of the USA reflects the climate its in IMO.

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