Monday, March 15, 2010

Gardening: Random Thoughts

Yellow trumpet daffodil and daffodil leaves against siding.

Thought One: My father's aunt lived in an impeccably tidy and formal house. It was lovely, but almost entirely non-organic - sliced tomatoes (in a cut-glass dish) on the dinner table were the closest thing to a plant indoors. Everything was carefully placed, and nothing ever moved - if a figurine was placed on the third shelf of the china cabinet, it remained on the third shelf, decade after decade, never moving, but never showing a trace of dust. And it was likely to be joined by only one or two companions, all carefully placed on an expanse of polished wood. Control. Perfect, neat, clean, control.

But the back yard was a space filled with billowy hydrangeas, exploding with giant white masses of flowers in their blooming season. At the time, I loved the space, and it inspired a lifelong love of hydrangeas. Now, I also love the glimpse that it gave into another aspect of my great-aunt's personality.

Thought Two: When driving through parts of the rural American South and Midwest, I'm always surprised at the lack of gardening activity in the front yards. While the back yards may hold giant vegetable gardens, or may actually be farms, the front yards are almost universally simple flat green swaths of grass. Big swaths, a sizable fraction of an acre. They're sometimes broken by one or two trees and, in the spring, a few dozen daffodils by the road. Rarely, a shrub or two might be permitted to grow right next to the home's foundation.

Why is this? Do rural residents associate gardening purely with work, so that time invested in ornamentals fails to appeal? Or does the "public parkland" aesthetic hold so strongly that homeowners feel that a front yard in which the grass is interrupted by a flowerbed might as well be a junkyard of rusted jalopies?

I don't get it. I've always wondered what might happen if I moved to the area and turned my front yard into a cottage garden. But I'd better not.

Photo: Mine.


  1. Personally I had never gardened in the past because of the extra time and effort. I was convinced nothing worth while would grow in these weather conditions, so what was the point? I was also under the impression that vegetable gardens had to be huge in order to yield more than a few days worth of vegetables per year. While I'm still not completely clear on all of those points, my ignorance certainly lead to a flash green yard. Front and back.

    In our new home, I intend to garden everywhere I can. We're planting trees, flowers and vegetables. Hopefully it will be as rewarding as you make it sound.

  2. That's interesting about your great aunt. She never picked any flowers and brought them indoors? Huh.

  3. I must be the opposite. I think I focus too much on my front, street-visible garden, and too little on the back one. I don't want to put as much effort into something that no one but my husband and I will see lol.

  4. Hey, Wolf! Gardening is always worth it. Though with a small vegetable garden, it's usually not _financially_ worth it. My goal is either convenience, or tastes that you just can't get at the grocery, or both. Or, as someone somewhere pointed out to me, one of the most expensive "crops" from the garden is flowers, so you could grow cutting flowers.

    Howdy, goodtogrow! Not that I ever remember, no. All those exuberant hydrangeas almost seem like a guilty secret or something.

    Hey, Kyna! Ah, but you _like_ plants other than grass in your front garden. I think that these folks somehow think that they're bad. So their really really boring front yards are, to them, doing the best in front, too. I don't get it.