Posted by: cassymuronaka | August 21, 2011

The Poodle Trees

Honest to God, every time I turn into my driveway, I want to run my car over these trees. They symbolize everything that I hate about about institutionalized Suburbia.  The shrieking chihuahuas next door, named Taco and Nacho, rate only slightly higher on my list of things that I want to permanently take out with my Honda.

The Poodle Trees, as I not-so-affectionately refer to them, are junipers, according to my husband, who grew up in this house.  And gardeners all over the San Gabriel and San Fernando Valleys of Los Angeles County have been monotonously cutting these pom-poms for as long as I can remember.

The shapes probably once were a decorative solution to a front door safety issue, a way to combat burglars; partly shading and shielding the front door entrance, but not blocking its view entirely. They are dated and stupid, but I have no money to inspire my gardener to greater heights of landscaping creativity.

The gardener is the one real luxury my husband and I permit ourselves, if luxury can be defined as the glue that holds your marriage together during a tough month. He arrived with the house, and he and his men perform a function that neither my spouse nor I can or will do, which is hacking back the burgeoning jungle that my mother-in-law innocently planted in 1962, or digging through the stones and ridiculously-hard clay that compose our front and back yards.

Beyond his monthly fee, the gardener and I work on a barter system, an unspoken arrangement that functions well for both of us. When I ask him to do extra work that he and his men may perform on their own timetable — which can be up two years — he anticipates delivery of heirloom tomatoes or barbecue in return. Those he expects on a more regular basis.

Occasionally, the gardener lets me know when I will owe him additional money for a more demanding task.  And sometimes I let him know that generous Ziplock baggies of “sun-dried” tomatoes do not dehydrate all by themselves.

Once in a while, I think about asking the gardener to trim the trees into a variety of shapes.  A few triangles and squares perhaps, to go along with the spheres.

That’ll make the chihuahuas sit up and bark.



  1. You made my day/evening. Those trees are so ugly…..Here in the New England area the old timers did that to their bushes around the houses. U-G-L-Y.
    Gardners………I hate the blowers.

  2. Oh, I don’t know Cassy… they have kind of a whimsical, ‘only-in-California’ feel that is kinda endearing. But they would look better if there were a couple of little chihuahuas hanging from them with big red bows.

    • Maybe for Christmas.

  3. I love ’em.

  4. At this point, just the little one in the middle should go- then the nice big doors aren’t visually obstructed from head-on-

  5. I actually think they’re kind of cool but then, I don’t have to live there

  6. ahhh- so that’s what they’re called-poodle trees. There’s only a few of them around here and I hate to admit it (I do now anyway, just right at this moment) but I am resposible for trimming two of them. I didn’t start the pruning, I just continue it. I work as a gardener on a street with a lot of pedestrian traffic and I was trimming them one day and a man walked by and said that he had never seen anyone trim them- he thought maybe that the fairies came at night and pruned-and he seemed a bit dissappointed. I always called them the fairy trees after that. It does take a bit of practice to trim them, can’t just any idiot do it proper like- takes a special idiot-doncha know!

  7. I’m glad to know that there are people who appreciate the gardener’s hard work. Maybe I’ll start using Lisa’s description and call them “fairy trees” from here on out.

  8. Cassy, just think of them as the “Mid-Century Moderne” style of horticulture.

  9. They remind me of my dad and disneyland

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