In the past month, I’ve spent more time talking to the neighbors on my block than I have in the entire four years we’ve lived here.
Because now I’m gardening in the public eye – out in the front yard. There’s no way to miss my new garden, either, as it takes up about half of my front yard. I’ve actually spoken with a few strangers who commented on the progress of various plants. We’ve had ample rain this summer (for a change), contributing to rapid growth among nearly all the plants.
I think that living in a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood like mine encourages this type of neighborly interaction. While I’m out working in the garden, people will stop on the sidewalk as they walk to or from the grocery store/park/library and chat about what in the heck I’m doing to my yard. They wouldn’t feel comfortable just walking down here solely for the purpose of asking me about it, but if they’re “out and about” anyway, well, it feels OK to ask me about it, since I’m right there next to the sidewalk.
Not everyone appears to “get it”, though. Today, as I was digging up some dead grass next to the sidewalk, I saw a gentleman coming up the sidewalk whom I’d seen many times before, but never spoken to. I said hello, and he asked what had happened to my grass. I told him, with perhaps a bit too much glee, that I had killed it all off in order to put in a garden. “Hmmm,” he replied, and continued on his way, looking a bit perplexed. People around here aren’t too obsessed with having golf-course-perfect lawns, but there are still some who can’t imagine a yard containing anything but grass. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t describe to him my grand plans for the rest of the yard…
In addition to its ability to create connections, the front yard garden can also contribute positively to the character of my block, something that backyard gardens can’t usually do. I feel a certain responsibility to make the design of this garden a little different from my usual style, as it’s a part of our neighborhood’s public face that everyone sees as they travel down our street. This garden needs to appear, perhaps, a bit more conservative in color and form than my usual cacophony of colors and textures. So far, native grasses and perennials in muted colors comprise the bulk of the plants – nothing too colorful or bold, just plenty of textures.
I also hope to show a bit of environmental consideration by channeling some of my lot’s rainwater into the “dip” in the middle of the garden where moisture-loving plants reside. (It’s not truly a raingarden, so I call it “the dip” instead.)
I anticipate a lot of work will go into making this garden successful, and it’s going to take time as well. I thank my neighbors for their patience and support, and hope that this garden will encourage others to tear out their lawns and create something beautiful!