Today I biked around the Berkeley flats (map) snapping photos of sculpted trees and shrubs. I started the day looking for Japanese style front yards complete with poodle trees, manicured lawns, and rocks, but quickly gave that up when I realized there were so many other types of sculpted trees and shrubs that ranged from quasi-tasteful to laughable. About 5-10% of houses had sculpted plants, and could be crudely divided into three categories:
i) sculpted trees/shrubs that interacted with a house;
ii) the iconic “poodle” tree;
and iii) manicured shrubs used as markers, barriers, and borders.
The shrub barriers were my favorite. How amazing that one can transform a living thing into something so calculated and practical; something both very human and inhumane. Their flat tops and rigid right angles did not care what type of plant was crammed into the shape. See below 2 plants cut into 1 hedge. They were little suburban sentries standing guard against those who wished to stray from a sidewalk or cross a boundary between public and private spaces.
[see more images on my flickr]