Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Gardens with attitude

It’s rare that I run into GW gardeners who say they’re in it because they love gardening. More often than that I hear “It shows people who live in the suburbs that we can have beautiful gardens, courtyards, and patios in the heart of the city,” or “Creating urban gardens and participating in Garden Walk helps revitalize neighborhoods,” or “I need a quiet, secluded place to a) get away from it all, b) meditate, or c) drink with my friends."

(Most coyly say they like “relax “ in the garden; drinking is usually not directly mentioned. Though I did see a few emptys around. And one guy offered me a glass of wine at 10:30 a.m.)

Anyway, there is an extent to which I am down with this. Undoubtedly, creating attractive front yards improves the look of a neighborhood, and, indeed, may shame those who neglect their properties into cleaning up their acts. It is also certainly true that Garden Walk brings the suburbanites in—and I’ve seen many of them taking great interest in whatever “For Sale” signs they see along their way.

Where I stop playing along is when I see people pretty much forcing their neighbors to be on the walk, or signing them up without their knowledge. And though I appreciate the generosity and hard work of those who create gardens for others, I don’t see it happening on our block. To me, a garden will always be an individual thing; it should express your personality, aesthetic, likes, dislikes. (Another problem with the whole “native” thing. Wouldn’t everyone in a certain area be growing pretty much the same stuff? Boring.)

Gardening, like everything, is to some degree a political act. And the personal is political, like the sixties-era feminists used to say. But for me it will always be more about expression, creating an environment that expresses my aesthetic, and having fun messing around with plants.


LostRoses said...

What you said. I agree, but where's the article on the "unfortunate stuff" people put in their gardens? As the owner of lots of unfortunate stuff, I'm dying to see your take on what you saw on GW!

Annie in Austin said...

At our previous house we installed front landscaping using native, deer-proof and xeric plants, and tried to mimic the 'better' yards on the block. It looked okay, but for a real gardener, it was very boring. We did it because we knew ahead of time that it was only temporary, and we moved after a few years.

At our current house there's no For Sale sign looming in the immediate future, and it's much more fun to have a place that is "more about expression, creating an environment that expresses my aesthetic, and having fun messing around with plants." Yah!

Do people in your GW area stick around for the long run? You say there are for sale signs, but is planned fast turnover much of a factor in how the people garden?


Yes, please - unfortunate stuff, too!

Kel said...

Interesting - my front yard is "low maintenance" generic for the masses and the backyard is my "garden" and habitat for birds, squirrels etc.

I definitely live there in the "rooms" and I love to be out there loosing myself for hours if it is just pulling weeds and dividing perrenials.

I have considered joining an earth friendly garden walk for next year - mostly because it is unpretentious and eccentric

Alaska Diva said...

Ah, a fellow swizzler in the garden! Well, it helps blur out the weeds and leads to weird essays about blue haired delphinium broads. But, I do envy urban gardeners. You are so lucky to not have to weed propagation beds, display gardens, etc..Small is beautiful. At least you have the time to savor a nice glass of merlot and enjoy the flowers while they're still in bloom!