Sunday, May 02, 2010

Yard work

Completion of a garden. When our house was nearing the completion stage, I was getting excited about planting the yard. In my mind, I saw a beautiful yard filled with lush flowers in yellow and blue, every herb imaginable, flowering fruit trees cascading on the slope from above. I sketched a five minute plan and showed it to Brad and gesticulated that there would be trees and flowers and birds and fruit and tall grasses. And he looked at me and told me it would be a “granny garden.”

What’s wrong with a granny garden? Perfectly pruned plantings of primrose? Healthy hostas? Giant geraniums with juniper. Calla lilies and birds of paradise, all to be planted in clumps on a slope so all of the neighbors could marvel as I do my daily watering and weeding. I would wear a Kentucky Derby hat and a pair of flowered gloves while I snip away – delicate and precise – the suckers and awkward branches. The hummingbirds would flutter above me sipping the nectar from the hibiscus, and I would gather a few petunias to place in a small teal vase on the dining room table. I would make regular trips to the garden store and hire a group of day laborers to help me with the heavy lifting, but knowing most of what I was doing was organically designed and free-flowing and thoroughly manageable.

That was my odd little vision. But it was shot to pieces and instead my wallet was pulled from my pocket to create a different type of dream garden. Instead of the makeshift berms and patched together plants that would intrigue me at the nursery, a very intelligent landscape architect was summoned to draw up a plan that would thoroughly respect the slope of the yard, the modern design of the house, and the geometry of an urban garden. Instead of a mix of “fancy” in yellow and pink and white and purple and blue, a palette of bright greens and vibrant purples paired with grey-greens and grey-mauves, was drafted in a design of rusting steel earthworks, carefully placed stones and groundcover, and lighting and a watering system to nurture it. Instead of granny’s whimsy, our garden was to be a lush architectural showpiece to be enjoyed from above, within and below.

The steel was fabricated, the watering system put in, the driveway concreted, the slopes protected with headers, the walkways clad in black slate, and impressive pieces of granite and blue stone were set perfectly to create a path through euphorbia and leucadendron. Lighting was installed. The result: a garden that even granny would love, but granny wouldn’t have to prune it.

The neighbors like it too. It took a year to remodel the house, and only a few neighbors stopped by to peak in or ask what we were doing. It took only a couple of months to complete the yard and garden, and nearly everyone in the neighborhood has stopped by to compliment us and, to my delight, to point to our neighbors’ house and say, “You need to tell them to do something about their ugly yard.”

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