driveby garden; AT&T Center, Downtown LA

You’d be surprised how many “Angelenos” have never visited Downtown Los Angeles, even now that it is surging with vitality again. For decades it was right up there in ignominious competition as one of the most superfluous, neglected downtowns of any major city. Working here in my twenties, lunch breaks always included long walks into the historic core, among the faded movie palaces turned dollar stores and block after block of wonderful buildings I daydreamed of owning and restoring. Well, I couldn’t afford to rent here now. Most of those buildings have gone or are going loft, and the revitalization pushes ever deeper into previous no-go areas like the South Park neighborhood I worked in yesterday, which also holds Julia Morgan’s Mission Revival gem, the still-shuttered Herald Examiner building. The former insurance high-rise I worked in yesterday was built in 1965 and has been given a new facade, LEED certification, and rechristened the AT&T Center. What struck me yesterday were these plantings in steel containers rimming the building. Most of the planters were elegantly and simply planted in low clipped boxwood hedges underplanted with silver ponyfoot, Dichondra argentea, but the designer got a little frisky and kicked up his heels with one stretch of planters.
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This isn’t the frisky business I’m referring to, but Agave villmoriniana and rosemary, very appropriate for hot and dry urban container plantings and frequently seen. The olive trees in the distance are underplanted with sedum, kept neatly within the boundaries of the polygonal cutouts in the sidewalk.

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Here’s where it gets interesting. Ornamental oreganos? Also suitable but rarely seen outside of private gardens, and certainly not large-scale commercial plantings.

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So much of the ground previously given to mediterranean sympaticos like Convolvulus sabatius (Convolvulus mauritanicus) is now given to succulents when new commercial projects are undertaken.

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So it’s a bit of a surprise to find herbaceous stuff in sleek, steel planters.

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Looks like a mint in the foreground and Dorycnium hirsutum in the background

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One of the dark-leaved Geranium x antipodeum varieties like ‘Stanhoe’ or ‘Chocolate Candy’

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Lavender and a few magenta blooms from the “bloody” cranesbill in the foreground, Geranium sanguineum. Very odd sight these days, especially in a modern commercial design. Someone is definitely giving their plant chops some play time.

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More oregano.

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And then there was this (crooked) view down into the atrium which I couldn’t access. a Mondrian painting with pebbles, grasses, succulents and bamboo.
The variegated plant looked from a distance to be hoyas, the silver band in the center I’m pretty sure were hebes, and the maroon bands were succulents, either dyckias or a dark echeveria. There was at least twice again this length of bamboo and geometric shapes. Someone seems to be having an awfully good time with this commercial project.

The upgrade including landscaping was done by the Gensler firm.


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5 Responses to driveby garden; AT&T Center, Downtown LA

  1. Kris P says:

    It’s been a few years now since I’ve visited downtown LA. I too worked downtown for many years (in the late 80s until 1996), starting in a relatively rugged neighborhood before moving uptown, literally, to what was then called the First Interstate Library Tower (now emblazoned with US Bank’s name, I think). In those days, even the nicer areas were pretty short on landscaping, if there was any at all. It’s great to see that an effort is being made to change that – and better still that property owners are experimenting with something more than the usual fare of plant choices.

  2. Denise says:

    Kris, it feels completely different walking downtown now. I bet you’d really enjoy the new Grand Park too.

  3. Greggo says:

    Love the design. My mother grows the ornamental Origanum libanoticum in Wyoming of all places. What a nice change of pace from the normal commercial displays.

  4. Wow very nice! I love that view in the last shot. Gorgeous and beautifully designed and planted.

  5. Jack says:

    So happy to have found your Blog today. I love everything California! It is so different than living here on the shores of Lake Michigan. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very nice place to be, but I love the West and the ocean. My garden postings often show the lake as a backdrop and it is nice, but your have a great place with so many different kinds of plants other than what I can have here. NIce to visit today. JC

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