Spring Home & Garden Show

March 9th, 2011

I headed out to San Diego to check out Ryan’s entry in the Garden Masters Exposition at the San Diego Spring Home & Garden Show.


I got all my fancy camera equipment together to take some killer photos and then…forgot my battery. Because I am dumb. And a loser. And a terrible blogger. Please please please excuse the crappy iPhone pictures. I was in a bit of a pickle and it was the only camera I had that actually worked.

Ryan’s entry was super modern but still very lush. I dug the plant selection and easy breezy walk through set up. I wish I had somewhere to put these gravel and wood steps…so simple!

The lighting throughout the event was very “theatrical”. It was like a garden bordello in there.

Gotta love a hard troweled stucco wall that looks like concrete, though. I would also like to find a place for one of those babies somewhere. Maybe a ten foot tall one to block out the crazy cat guys house…

Look who won all the fanciest ribbons! Ryan really took home more prizes than anyone else…and you will see why in just a moment…

We showed up at the very end of the event and they finally turned off the bordello lights and turned on some basic overheads. Thank you regular lights, now I can see the plants.

Ryan loved handling these big bushy balls. Just saying.

Overall, I thought he did a great job. It was a good mixture of organic and geometric planting with an interesting water feature and great little fire pit area. Totally that comfy SoCal modern backyard deal that is so nice to hang out in and totally water friendly. Definately my fav design of the show.


Now folks, onto the other entries that caught my eye (if by caught I mean made them bleed).

This pissed me off. Little stupid flowers (only two kinds total) and Tommy Bahama folding chairs? It was like a big F.U. to viewers and the other designers. Totally ridiculous.

Let me count the ugly.

  • Neon green random panels? Check.
  • Mosaic surfboard shower? Check.
  • Creepy voyeur wicker chair? Check.
  • Random empty planters? Check.
  • Random eastern statues? Check.
  • DRY RIVERBED? Check.

(Dry riverbeds may be one of my bigger pet peeves.)

I liked this bench thing and the galvanized tank fountain, but overall it was a little random and strange with the plantings and layout and totally all green all the time.

AstroTurf. ‘Nuff said.

Baby sneakers with plants in them walking through the landscape? GAG. GAG. GAG.

Oh yeah, this was a horror show. Curly white wrought iron with a wedding themed “bush” (check out the “whimsical” bride and groom on top) and a poofy flower bench. Please gouge out my eyes.

When in doubt, put a bird on it. Or a spitting frog fountain. For fucks sake.

Also, how many people want to sit on a pillow in a bunch of pea gravel? All I can think of is gravel in my pants.

This was almost OK until you saw the wave mosaic masonry work and the creepy balls of glass fire pit.

Ah, sharp and horrible slicing cheese grater squares to step on to get to the most depressing sitting area ever. The fence looked like it was smeared with poo.

Oh awesome, another huge dry riverbed. The most pointless thing in all of landscaping.

Check out that cool fire pit! Too bad there is a total disconnect with that fanciful wrought iron gate. What happened? Design seizure?

Oh perfect. Plastic fucking turtles on a dry riverbed.


Ok, now I may be a little grumpy (or a lot grumpy) but I drove an hour and a half to check this show out and my camera had no battery and it started raining and I’ve been really sick – so I’m grumpy. Shut up. It happens.

I appreciate all the hard work that goes into an event like this, but honestly, it seemed like a lot of folks were just completely phoning it in. Seeing as these landscapes were intended to be professional examples created in the hopes that they will win awards and entice new clients, some of the choices were just weird. I’m pretty sure someones dream landscape wouldn’t consist of folding Tommy Bahama chairs, or maybe people really do love plastic turtles and wave mosaics. Who knows. I’m being a grumpy snob.

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  1. elisabeth on 03/09/2011:

    omg – so funny! I laughed!!! That is so what garden shows are like – hmm everywhere – well, they are in Aus and NZ and the UK!!!!

  2. L on 03/09/2011:

    At some point (yeah, about the TB chairs) I had to start appreciating the ugly,. Buy the plastic snake-and-turtle vignette, it was totally “THAT is so ugly, it almost rocks”.

    Yeah. sick.

    Hope you feel better soon.

  3. BmoreKate on 03/09/2011:

    “Or a spitting frog fountain. For fucks sake.” Genius. Hopefully your eyes have stopped crying lava from all the ugly. Ryan’s entry is stunning; love that stacked wood wall, yum!

  4. the vintage cabin on 03/09/2011:

    Unfortunately I think a LOT of people (probably the majority of North Americans and most people in England, actually) love things like plastic turtles, dry riverbeds and spitting frog fountains. I don’t blame you for spewing vitriol!

  5. MB on 03/09/2011:

    Man, you are grumpy today. Ok, some of it was ok but if I drove over an hour for that I would be grumpy to.

  6. ModFruGal on 03/09/2011:

    OK. At first, when I saw Ryans stuff, I thought the whole show was going to be awesome like that, and that made me happy, then jealous and cranky. Now I see that the rest of the show sucks as hard as the one here, and that somehow made me feel better. That’s not nice of me, so I’ll shutup and head back into my hobbit hole. Go Ryan!

  7. Tami on 03/09/2011:

    Ugh. MY skin was crawling too. I think those cheese grater square thingys are used to create ADA-approved permeable walkways. They’re supposed to be buried in and to stabilize the gravel.

    Good thing Ryan was there to save your eyeballs. His plantsmanship is outstanding.

    Dry riverbeds ARE lame, unless you use them to draw off, hold, and infiltrate stormwater. I suspect that where you are they can be useful for those occasional downpours. You could always run one to your property line with the cat guy . . . .

  8. john on 03/09/2011:

    You never fail to disappoint. Hilarious! Unfortunately, I think you have successfully exposed the extreme lack of design sense among most “landscape designers.” A lot of “designers” are just folks with a shovel, a few plastic turtles and really crappy taste.

  9. rivka on 03/09/2011:

    I loved your post and the photos were fine (considering what they had to shoot…that’s a LOT of rocks.)

    I feel bad that I like that pointless flower bench.

    Thank you for a funny, delightful post. I always wondered what went on at a plant/flower show.

  10. mike on 03/09/2011:

    I feel the same way. You have one or two grand designs that rock harder than the melvins at a nursing home talent show, then a whole slew of wannabe dorkstore rejects that watched a diy show on how to add a surfboard and a panel with birds on it and expect people to be awstruck with the ingenious use of plastic turtles on rocks.

  11. Erf on 03/09/2011:

    The bad is really, really bad. I am actually shocked that people would enter such crap. My girlfriend often sends my craigslist posts for old toilets, and then chides me about using them as planters. I’m surprised, actually, that there wasn’t a toilet planter next to those shoes. Talk about a pet peeve. I know it’s a silly waste of snobby energy to get rageful about a toilet planter, but it happens every time. Theres not accounting for taste, I know, but COME ON!

  12. Laguna Dirt on 03/09/2011:

    what is with those garden shows? and these are the best of the biz? no way on those baby sneakers. i just don’t get all the schmaltz!! (good humor, though!)

  13. CLdesigns on 03/09/2011:

    I peed a little, you are so funny. You sound just like me and my design-snob friends when we go to these stupid shows. Usually there are one or two good pieces of real design, the rest is just plastic bullshit. I mean really – plastic turtles and baby shoes? barf. Do these people really make a living putting this crap out into the world?? I too despise dry river beds. My neighbor just put one in their front yard so now I get to look at it every f-ing day when I pull into my garage. super.

  14. Natalie on 03/09/2011:

    Aaaaaaaaaaah the WEDDING ONE. THE WEDDING ONE. I saw that and dry heaved. It was like part of TLC had spilled over into real life.

    Completely agree with you about those stupid blue chairs too – I really liked the flooring there (probably going to replicate it as a path, I have tons of crappy looking concrete blocks in my yard), but everything else was just… I mean why even bother right? I didn’t realise it was supposed to be an actual thing, I thought they might be filling space.

    Things I liked: Ryan’s wood wall divider thing, the cool Japanese influenced bench with a firepit (I have a dining table very similar to it made by the chap from Lorimer Workshop, now I kind of want to replicate it in my side yard) and some of the various plant placements. Big fan of New Zealand Flax and Chalksticks. There were some great examples of succulents, which was part of the reason I went there – I replanted my aloe vera yesterday in tribute.

  15. marisa on 03/09/2011:

    oh for fucks sake is RIGHT. holy cow, batman.

  16. Jack on 03/09/2011:

    Ok, I don’t normally comment, even though my wife and I read your blog every day.

    Our favorite post of yours by far was the one involving the stuffed chicken(truly genius, hilarious and creepy all at the same time). But this is now the favorite, for fucks sake.

    We only wish Ryan could come to Kansas and design our landscape.

  17. Lori on 03/09/2011:

    Yep, the bad is really bad. Thanks for the hilarious write-up. Made my morning.

  18. kim on 03/09/2011:

    you are a grumpy snob who happens to make me laugh out loud! sorry you had to suffer through this terrible show. landscaping inspiration is hard to find even in our Northern CA climate.

  19. Jay B. on 03/09/2011:

    Camera battery left back home? Sounds familiar to me. Actually, it keeps happening to me all the time. I’m not sure why, though. But those are nice pictures anyway, really – I mean, the photos are ok, I’m not talking about their content. The stuff on the pictures is… weird. Very weird.

  20. Ashley Weber on 03/09/2011:

    i can one up this.. my neighborhood is full of dry river beds with tiny BRIDGES going over them! WTF? 1. this is Arizona the riverbed has no purpose 2. Who the hell is going to use that midget bridge?…

    oh wait theres one more: tiny fake wells with no water in them..seriously? maybe we just have too much hope for water? whatever it is, my dog walks are filled with visual pain.

  21. Alice Q. Foodie on 03/09/2011:

    That is pretty funny – I am sure Ryan’s exhibit was the only one worth seeing. He’s actually a friend of mine’s brother in law, and I’m thinking about hiring him to do some work for us!

  22. Clair on 03/09/2011:

    What are the trees Ryan uses- looks like a eucalypt or acacia?

  23. Angie on 03/09/2011:

    No wonder Ryan won so many awards, I mean look at the comps! Folding chairs, plastic turtles, snakes, homemade Converse planters.

    All that is missing is a shopping cart filled with succulents, maybe a tub filled with some brewskies. Seriously, these are suppose to be professionals (or at least I’m assuming want to be taken serious).

    I love your bloggy ways, Iphone and all. 😀

  24. SqrRtDsgnSt on 03/10/2011:

    Nice work. And thank you for saving me from myself. I REALLY liked Ryan’s the best, but thought guilty about hating the others as much as I did. I just thought that’s what the norm was in good’ol Del Mar. But your assessments made me realize that some designers just do suck, and somehow get rewarded/awarded for their lack of effort. Except for the empty beach scene. Who the fuck would actually pitch a tent on a flagstone patio, anyway? I’m now subscribed to your words or wit, so keep them coming. Thanks again..

  25. ck on 03/10/2011:
  26. Helen on 03/10/2011:

    Great post. The other work is totes hideous. It’s legitimately insulting and offensive. Congrats to Ryan!

  27. modernhaus on 03/10/2011:

    Ryan totally raised the bar on this garden show…two years ago he did a beautiful living wall and what did we see this year? Weird designs but with little succulent “living walls” plopped on top.

    It’s kind of amusing to watch this young up-and-comer schooling these huge landscape outfits….

  28. Shawna on 03/10/2011:

    You are right. These landscapes are terrible. Your “grumpy” comments are exactly what most of us would be thinking as we toured the show.

  29. kelly on 03/10/2011:

    I enjoy your posts. Can you please not drop the f-bomb??? It is not classy at all.

  30. LZ on 03/10/2011:

    “looked like it was smeared with poo” made be laugh so hard!

  31. The brick house on 03/10/2011:

    Looks like someone hasn’t read a lot of posts…

  32. KellyGreen on 03/10/2011:

    In the third to last picture of Ryan’s design, there’s a mound of bushy clumpy grass with an agave in the middle of it… could you ask him what kind of bushy grass that is?! I want it.

  33. juli on 03/10/2011:

    i laughed thru this whole post! love it! ur commentary that is, and ryans stuff, everything else, comical.

  34. Molly on 03/10/2011:

    I am choking on my PBJ. I need a pat on the back and a tissue for the tears of laughter rolling down my face. I was totally in shock and awe that designers are doing this sort of work. I mean my 70- year-old neighbor would put all that clutter crap in your yard for free! I thought CA was supposed to be all cutting edge and crap. I just went to an awesome Home and Garden show here in NC. Way way more impressive. BTW You are not a grumpy snob, you just know what looks good!

  35. Gloria Graham, AKBD on 03/10/2011:

    Yuck. Just in case you wanna get one, those Tommy chairs can be found a Costco (high end design source). Sorry Costco, I really love you.

  36. DJE on 03/10/2011:

    I like spitting frog fountains. I have one in my garden here in Buffalo NY. Do most people hate them? Maybe its because I’m completely self absorbed but I just assumed everyone loved my spitting frog fountain. :\

  37. CindyE on 03/11/2011:

    Hi – this is my first comment here! OK…I live in Southern IL and I thought we simply could not be outdone – pathetic wishing wells, silhouettes of “granny” bent over in the garden, resin “baskets” the size of an old Buick. But this…in San Diego, CA (oh my)…this is bad. Those baby shoes, that bride & groom, odd plastic stuff…very weird indeed! I mean, what really happened here?! Look forward to reading more – Thanks!

  38. Jorge Soares on 03/11/2011:

    funniest post, you do grumpy better than anyone. one of these days i will take a day off from being nice and get some inspiration from this

  39. Ryan on 03/11/2011:

    Wow… where do I start? So ill just answer a few questions…

    @Claire, The trees are: Acacia stenophylla (Shoestring Acacia) and Eucalyptus citriadora (Lemon-scented Euc.)

    @Kellygreen, The grass in the photo is called Carex texensis, or Texas Sedge. Depending on where you live there is definitely a Sedge that will make a great lawn substitute. Its not super awesome for rolling around on, but it does the trick for those slopes or hard spots to irrigate conventionally.

    Just a note, I was told that the gentleman responsible for the “tommy bahama” display will not be invited back next year.

    For a some better shots of the garden, type “Falling Waters Landscape” into your facebook search

    Morgan, you’re aweful 🙂

  40. bianca of terri planty on 03/11/2011:

    i am bummed i didn’t go. poop.
    but man you sure captured the magic!
    ryan’s stuff looks hot. there was a lot a crazy too!

    i will argue with you on dry river beds! they do serve a purpose! and look cool when done right. the problem is a lot of people make them look shitty.

  41. jeannette on 03/14/2011:

    the pix of the evil are possibly more awesome than the pix of the good.

  42. Tami on 03/14/2011:

    I hope some day to have a chance to write ‘I peed a little, you are so funny.’ You totally have the best audience.

  43. Barbara on 03/14/2011:

    Ryan, a true artist…always inspired and 10 steps ahead of everyone else…

  44. Tracy W. on 06/28/2011:

    I’m eons late commenting on this post, apologies – but I wanted to mention that the dry river bed under the truly repulsive mosaic surfboard shower actually served a purpose, unlike 99% of all other dry river beds. Its so the water can drain away without causing issues, without the need for expensive and problematic plumbing. They are also used for seasonal drainage – gullies that are dry most of the time, but turn into minor maelstroms during thunderstorms. Those, I don’t disparage. I agree with you on the pointless ones – but every once in a while, they actually serve a purpose.

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