They overflow the casino grounds in sun-faded color. Daylilies. Petunias. Geraniums. Now, I might be new to this gardening business, but does it seem odd to you that someone grow petunias in the desert? They looked like they were fifteen minutes from wilting in the 111-degree sunshine.
Outside Bally’s, a broad swath of sunken garden stretches from the casino’s drop-off circle out to the sidewalk that runs along the Strip. There’s a path through the garden, but people generally avoid that in favor of the moving sidewalk that rides above the garden straight to the casino. I’ve worked at least five conferences at Bally’s, and I can assure you I never walked through the garden before this past weekend. The foliage, set against the burn of neon, faded into the background.
Bally’s gardeners seem fond of topiary work, and so bushes have been trained and trimmed to spell out Bally’s and Las Vegas. There are various unidentifiable animal shapes, and toward the street side of the garden, a sad frame marked where a seal either will or used to be—right now, it’s mangy and pitiful.
Between the main garden and the moving walkway, pentas lined up like soldiers surrounded a palm tree. At least pentas are drought-tolerant. At least they like the sun. Half-buried hose irrigation systems feed most of the plants I saw, but that doesn’t make up for the sandy soil or the selection of growing things I’m used to seeing in temperate areas of the country.
Tammy and I walked over to the Aladdin to have dinner one night, and I pointed out an empty flowerbed to her, its hose system dusty and waiting for the next round of inappropriate annuals. “Why don’t they just put something native in there?” I asked her, realizing I had no idea what would actually count as native in Las Vegas. Maybe cactus. Or rocks.
I know the casinos have plenty of money to dump into replacing plants as they, inevitably, wither and die under the hot Vegas sun, and they’re only concerned with making it pretty for the millions of visitors who care more about the next free drink and roll of the dice than the plants outside their casinos. But I don’t know anyone—other than the occasional garden conventioneer—who sees the flowers outside the casinos as anything more than wallpaper.
So why trot out something that’s guaranteed to die? Why not just plant something local and low-maintenance, and be done with it?
Genie Gratto blogs at The Inadvertent Gardener. It’s amazing what she’ll do for a good tomato.