Friday, April 28, 2006

The Un-Secret Garden

It was a beautiful day today, and I spent quite a lot of it outside working in the yard. In the yard, not in my garden.

I was working in the front yard and, as I worked, I wondered quite a bit about why I almost always dislike working there. Somehow the front yard does not feel like a true part of my garden, despite the fact that I have made beds surrounding the existing trees and shrubs just as in my "real" garden in the backyard.

I came up with several possible explanations:

1) It's public space and I dislike gardening in public. This doesn't hold much water, though, as I work publicly at the Botanical Gardens all the time, generally getting just as grungy...or even grungier, and always in view of other people.

2) It's public space and I dislike having my design decisions (or lack thereof) continually on display to other people.

3) It's public space and I feel obligated to modify my planting and designing decisions based on some nebulous idea of what "the neighbors" will think acceptable. There is some actual truth to this thought, as our neighborhood has restrictive covenants about which everyone is very conscious.

4) It's public space and thus I feel obligated to maintain it for other people, rather than for myself, which always makes a little spirt of rebellion rise up in protest within me. For starters, I tend to keep it neater and more consistently weeded than my "real" garden, I plant higher numbers of fewer species in it, and I use a different mulch on it so that it will look "nicer". In fact, that all rather makes it seem like I'm working for other people, rather than for myself or my family, when I'm gardening there.

5) It's public space, and part of my internal concept of a garden is that it maintain an element of "secrecy", of a getaway that is there just for me and my family and friends. (The Secret Garden still holds a special place in my heart!)

6) It's the space that will provide the first impression of our home to prospective buyers, so I feel continually obliged to design for these mythical people, rather than for myself. And, in the manner of people everywhere who try to please "everyone", I rather feel like my front yard pleases no one very much.

With the general exception of the first reason, I suspect that there are elements of all of the above in my feelings about our front yard. However, I soldier on, trying to make it as "normal" as it is possible for me to make it (some would argue that's not very much!), yet still make it a garden I can find enjoyment in.

And today I did find that enjoyment. I "edited out" a lot of plants, including weeds and some stray liriope that's been looking scraggly. I transplanted seedling petunias, hoping to jump the rafts of brilliant reddish-purple from the single bed they are in to other areas of the yard. And I ruthlessly tidied the crabapple. There's more to do - there's always more to do - but I'm feeling a lift as I look over my little domain. That's a good sign.

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