Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

Displaying wealth in Phoenix and in California with palm trees and roses


Something that I've noticed here in Phoenix, and I also remember in Los Angeles, is displaying wealth with palm trees and roses. It really is showing off, like having a shiny vehicle parked in the driveway. It seems to say to people passing by that the person who lives there is not only doing fine, but they're prospering, and would like the world to know.

Understandably, this irritates a lot of people. Considering the fact that both Phoenix and Los Angeles have to be careful with water use, it seems unreasonable to grow things that really have no utilitarian value. And as much as I love palm trees and roses, I have to agree. For the cost and care these plants require, not much utility is given. You can't stand under the shade of palm trees and roses.

And maybe that's the point. There's no doubt that the same use of land and water would be better put to use with, for example, a vegetable garden. Or maybe the yard should be left to grow whatever grows naturally there. Or possibly it could be designed as a habitat for native animals. Palm trees and roses are simply decorative.

Newly-planted palm trees along the entrance to the Sahuaro Ranch in 1899.

Where I grew up, back east in Minnesota, I was taught that obvious displays of wealth were not only wrong, they were absolutely sinful. It was described as "putting on airs", that sort of thing, and truly respectable people strove to be as plain, and bland, as possible. But that wasn't the life I wanted to live, and it wasn't the world I wanted to live in. So at 19, I bought a shiny red sports car and headed out west to see palm trees, and roses!

Image at the top of this post: palm trees and roses at the Sahuaro Ranch, 59th Avenue between Peoria and Olive, Glendale, Arizona.

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