As someone who is accustomed to four seasons, many of the plants that thrive in the Southern California climate (with irrigation, obviously) feel fantastical to me. Jacaranda trees that rain purple, giant succulents and birds of paradise. Flowers that never seem to stop blooming. Fluffy bottle brush trees. Most days I feel like I’m walking through a Dr. Seuss book, or maybe Alice in Wonderland.
Around here, the home owner’s association takes care of the landscaping for the public areas, but there are private yards and patios where people manage – or ignore – their own plants. My favorite are the happy hibiscus that reach up, up, up to 15 feet tall when given free range.
The neighboring apartment complexes and city parks also hire landscaping crews to trim, mow and blow the greenery into submission. The men with power tools are very systematic and efficient. Because of this, it took me months to realize that a uniform green hedge we walked by every day was also hibiscus. It wasn’t until I spotted a lone flower, stubbornly blooming at ground level while every other bud had been blasted away, that I realized how different the same plant could look. A compact wall or a tall fountain – it just depends on how it is treated.