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For making me laugh while I learn, I LOVE the architecture critic Kate Wagner and her highly opinionated blog McMansion Hell. Who could resist her “Pringles Can of Shame ™” award in the photo above?

So I recommend McMansion Hell for making me laugh and for educating me with “What the Hell is Modern Architecture?,” the “Pictorial History of Suburbia,” and other great stuff on the site.

Now to readers who might suspect sheer snobbery in Kate’s snarky criticisms, rest assured that there’s a higher purpose behind it all – making the point that McMansions are bad for the environment. She’s a proponent of dense, walkable and diverse neighborhoods.

So I wasn’t surprised to find McMansion 101 – Landscaping, where Kate rants about the humongous yards and ridiculous plantings around these overbuilt homes. She begins with pointing out three common “Yard Tropes,” like the tiny “Soul Patch” of turfgrass.


Haven’t we all seen seen plants around homes that were mere “obligatory green bits” and wondered if the developer thinks of plants as “trees n crap”?

On the connection between huge homes and the homeowner’s ability to garden:

Usually people go the turf-grass with one or no trees route because it’s the easiest kind of yard to ignore. Because you really don’t have time to worry about yardwork when you work a 9-to-5 to pay off your massive house and your marriage is falling apart and I heard that gas prices are going up again….

She blasts English ivy, using exaggeration with admirable abandon.

When I saw this image on McMansion Hell it looked so familiar, it had me combing through my photos to see if it was the landscape I’d noticed and hated SO MUCH that I parked the car and walked along a sidewalk-less street (natch) to get the shot below.

Clearly the homes are similar and the landscape is even worse! This one is located in Potomac, Maryland, not that far from where Kate is studying for her masters in acoustics at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, so it might get her attention yet.

McMansion Hell has been getting lots of great press since its launch in July of 2016 (99 Percent Invisible Podcast, HuffingtonPost, and more).  So congrats to Kate on her wonderful blog and its instant success!

And there’s ore coming for us gardeners. One of her future posts is called “Curb Appeal: A Guide to Front Lawns & McMansion Landscaping.”

Posted by

Susan Harris
on December 30, 2016 at 7:56 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes, Everybody’s a Critic.