Dyed mulch and other Roland Park garden sins

2b

June 18, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Devra Kitterman, a professional landscaper and Roland Parker, has kindly sent a few gardening tips to her neighbors. Actually, two pages of tips, single-spaced. It's sort of a gentle warning to homeowners, particularly "newcomers to the `hood," who might be tempted to turn their woodsy yards into the "Taco-Bell parking lot-looking, sterile, pro-forma landscapes ... seen in most McMansion developments." OK, maybe it's not that gentle. But for those of us in lowlier ZIPs who'd like to know how the other half plants, here's some of Kitterman's sage advice:

"Some newcomers initially are understandably thrilled by the beauty of Roland Park upon first seeing it, [but] oddly then try to turn their new acquisition into a McMansion, by cutting down the trees, building ridiculously huge, plastic-embellished decks, installing blinding theatrical exterior illumination, three-car garages and adding structures to already large structures all seemingly in tribute to themselves. This is a menace and an embarrassing display of conspicuous consumption. Hey, there are people all over the planet who have less than nothing!"

World poverty and a poverty of taste! How can a gal go on - and on and on, particularly about the McMansion aesthetic. Kitterman says anyone who buys into it should do just that, literally.

"If that is what you really want," she writes, "move to McMansion Land! A place where you never see children playing or people on the street ... and every landscape is comatosely identical to the next with trees and shrubs planted in groups of 3's or long pretentious formal rows of plants for houses with faux stone and vinyl siding."

She also takes on "bright yellow forsythia" that grows into "monsters," "gigantic children's play sets that children don't play on" and "chrome wheels, especially the ones that spin." And don't get her started on mulch. "Do not use dyed red or black mulch," she writes. "It is hideously artificial looking and is often cheap chipped green wood (that sucks nitrogen from the soil). Again, you can see the red mulch in strip centers and Taco Bells ... Never use `decorative' white or red cracked marble/gravel. Tacky, gets hot in the sun, and weeds will eventually come up through them."

Branching out a bit from what the old-timers call Zone 10, Kitterman notes several mulch faux pas around town. "The Garmatz Federal Courthouse wins the prize for the most laughably large piles I've seen to date, some piles as high as 2 feet up the base of the trees formed into perfect large round flying saucer shapes. Wow! `Unprofessional' and `gouging the unsuspecting customer' comes to mind. ... Also, mulching the dead trees on MLK Boulevard is precious."

She winds down with: "Rule of thumb: Most plants that you see on commercial sites or on Wal-Mart parking lots are NOT plants that you want in your yard. Period."

I couldn't reach Kitterman at her landscaping company, He'Ui, or at home. But her credentials as an arbiter of outdoor dos and don'ts are above reproach. She has worked not just as a landscaper but a greensman, one of those obscure movie crew jobs that involves taking care of plants on a set. She's listed right there in the credits for John Waters' A Dirty Shame.

Now that's taste!

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