I love looking at old family photos.
Beyond the smiling faces of relatives standing in their Sunday best beside the front porch, are nuances of the times reflected in the landscaping.
Community was big in the 1920s, and the front yard was typically considered something for the public to enjoy during evening strolls past flowerbeds teeming with foxgloves, phlox, pyrethrum, hollyhocks, roses, columbine and delphinium. The backyard was more utilitarian in design: a large open space to hang the laundry to dry, to burn trash or store it, to play a game of croquet or do some lawn bowling.
The Great Depression and World War II saw flowers being replaced by victory gardens. We started planting vegetables, not to be healthy, but out of patriotism, because most efforts were going into the war.
The 1950s saw a booming economy, and with it came larger homes, larger yards, bountiful green lawns dotted with pink flamingos and lined with evergreen shrubs. The backyard became a more social space with barbecues and swimming pools. This continued into the 1960s as the rage for the greenest lawn continued.
The 1970s brought with it a desire to get back to nature. Native plants and edible landscaping started to become popular: herbs, shrubs and trees that bore fruit.
In the 1980s, shade trees and flowers were gradually replaced by Mexican fan, queen, and many varieties of palms, which still dominate much of the landscape today.
The new millennium brought about a growing concern for the environment, the need to conserve water, and an appreciation for creating landscapes that also serve as habitat for animals. In some ways, we have seen a return to the 1920s, but we're incorporating a blend of all that was good from the other decades as well.
We still enjoy our lawns.
Many of us now boast vegetable gardens of our own at home, and palms are still iconic to the relaxed and friendly lifestyle we enjoy here in Southern California.
Next time you're going through the old photo albums, take a look beyond Aunt Sally and Uncle Bob and look at the landscaping around them. If you're lucky, you might spot a children's toy, an old car or bicycle, a bird bath, maybe even a croquet mallet.