In the early 1990’s, Joel Barker introduced the concept of a “paradigm shift”. His idea was to gain benefit from looking at a process or existing theme in a different way. His signature theme has many applications for the acreage landscape. At least 3 shifts are applicable:
Shift from hedges to multi-stem shrubs – though they can be functional and attractive if well placed and managed, by their very nature, a hedge is a high maintenance item. The most obvious needed input is pruning. If the choice is made to maintain a hedge by repetitive shearing, the required number of actions per year to reduce height and width is usually in the 3-5 range as opposed to a mass of multi-stem shrubs maintained with a thinning approach that requires only 1. If well-chosen and sited, that number could be 0, or possibly every other year.
In addition to the time and effort required to shear hedges, a common undesirable outcome is the development of “hedge holes”, caused by cutting stems back to the same location with each shearing. Because this action causes the cuts to be made at locations that often do not respond well to stem removal, the result is death of the tissue, leaving bare areas in the hedge. This result can be minimized by varying the height and depth of the shearing cuts, however, the potential of this type of damage remains constant.
Shift from annuals to perennials, groundcovers and ornamental grasses – there’s nothing like the pop of color that annuals bring to the landscape…the vibrancy that they provide is really hard to obtain from other plants. However, where feasible, perhaps in low priority areas, perennials, groundcovers and ornamental grasses may serve the same purpose as annuals. For example, a groundcover with season-long appeal often will provide similar appeal as an annual with much reduced inputs of water and fertilizer.
Shift from “whatever is available” to industry proven plants – though it’s convenient to buy quickly available plants, they often lack the vigor and disease resistance that other choices provide. Spending a little time perusing information sources such as All America Selections, Proven Winners and the California Spring Trials will provide the same type of results as choosing turfgrass cultivars that perform well in the local or regional National Turfgrass Evaluation Program trials.