Thursday, September 21, 2006

On public and private gardening

Garden Rant is kindly allowing me to post as a guest today, and suggested that I write about Garden Walk Buffalo—as an encouragement to those who might want to start similar events. They’ve also linked to my garden bench post, where seating in a private garden became—intentionally—seating for the public.

I think there are a few things bubbling under the surface of these seemingly benign topics. As gardeners and property owners, we always have to ask ourselves: how public do we want our gardens to be? Even if you’re not allowing thousands of people to walk through your garden, as I do, installing a bright flower garden in front of your house rather than a discreet lawn invites attention. And some people don’t want that kind of attention. The former owners of the GWI property commented that they’d never wanted to draw notice to the house in the way they felt we did when we had a mural painted on the garage door. My colleague at work is afraid to go too far in his front yard gardening because he feels it will be too different from the neighborhood standard. (But he’s a subversive through and through, so I know his inner wild gardener will break free.)

The gardeners of Garden Walk Buffalo simply do not think in this way. They’re screaming “Look at us!” not only for the sheer egotism of it, but because they want to spread the spirit of community and neighborhood pride that a block of exhibitionist gardeners creates. (I guess that extroverted sensibility is a big reason I call my blog "gardening while intoxicated.")

Neighbors talk to each other more when there is a shared activity. People feel less alienated when there are benches to sit on. I’m pleased to say that we’re seeing more and more public benches in some Buffalo neighborhoods, though it remains a bit of an issue.

As for the yearly public invasion of Garden Walk, I have never heard anything about anyone’s property being harmed in any way. I guess the area thieves just don’t see the return for their efforts, and garden-hating vandals correctly suppose that any destructive activity would be quickly terminated by the other walkers.

Thanks, Garden Rant. I also highly recommend the blogs of the garden ranters: Dirt, Sign of the Shovel, and the Takoma Gardner, who also has a guest post on As Time Goes By.


Takoma Gardener said...

Ditto to everything you say. You've got me thinking about driving up there to actually attend the Walk next year. And maybe some other gardenbloggers could make it, too, and we'd have a meet-up! No rival to Woodstock, but definitely fun. Susan

Carol said...

I agree with what you said. I think of my front yard as "public gardening" and my back yard is my private garden. And, it seems I really only talk to neighbors when I am outside working and so are they. That's suburbia, at least where I live.

Mural on your garage door? I'd love to see a picture of that.

lisa said...

My home and gardens are quite rural, with the only open, public exposure coming from the river winding by. To that end, my gardening is not only for my own pleasure, but for the approval of the birds, amphibians, and other wildlife. The "public" exposure I want is re-seeding and spread of beneficial wildflowers, such as coneflower and milkweed. On my shoreline, I want plants that seed to feed ducks and hide fish for shore birds. But I am not really a total recluse...the online blog community are my "neighbors" to impress and exchange ideas with...I do prefer "cyber-people" to the "in-the-flesh" for the most part. (I work closely with people all week-enough already.) But I'm glad so many of you are not shy about sharing your hobby with passers-by.

DennyK said...

The first few years that I lived here (near Buff State) I almost filled my small front yard with flowers. Compared to the surroundings, it looked like Disneyland. Once I tired of having dogs and kids and mean people constantly damaging things, I dug out everything and replanted in the BACK yard. Now, there's nothing but rose of sharon, ancient daylilies, and myrtle out front.

If I decide to prettify the front again, a fence will be the first thing I plant. :)