Friday, July 03, 2009

The all-American front yard


Should look like this as far as I’m concerned.


Or this. Or any other configuration that ‘s interesting and abundant rather than pinched and pedicured. That’s what I’m celebrating on this glorious 4th of July weekend.

I am thankful that I did not inherit a front lawn from the former owners of our property. Or a back lawn. Or, indeed, a pitiful little strip of side lawn. What I got wasn’t perfect, but at least it demonstrated that there are other ways to dress a house than with a patch of turf and some foundation shrubs.

As I walk around our neighborhood (where these images were taken), I see more and more people gardening in their front yards rather than merely maintaining them. This way of thinking differently about the front yard—as a vegetable garden, a rock garden, a place for interesting ground covers, grasses, and/or native plants—has spread throughout Buffalo and its suburbs, as well as throughout America.

If your idea of the perfect front yard includes turf, I think that’s cool too. What bothers me is the idea of people choosing it because it is the conservative or acceptable choice—or, horrors, because it’s all they’re allowed to do.

As we celebrate our freedom, I think we should find more ways to express that freedom in our gardening.

17 comments:

Lisa at Greenbow said...

When I first changed the front of our house a neighbor said I "ruined" the landscaping. Ha... It certainly isn't your yew lined front anymore.

garden girl said...

I don't call my husband the Lawn Man for nothin'! Few people I know are so passionate about their lawns. As lawns go it's a nice one. I've had some influence - it's no longer being fed a chemical soup, he uses his 'dandelion popper' instead of weed and feed, and he cuts it at the highest mower setting.

I might have even possibly convinced him to let the lawn go dormant this summer, but I have a feeling he'll panic when it starts to brown.

He bags the clippings, which I then promptly dump to use for mulch and composting. (along with oh, 30-40 bags of maple leaves he chops up with the mower each fall.)

Carolyn gail said...

Very nice post, Elizabeth. I too love the way front yards are changing. Where I draw the line is when it becomes a big overgrown patch of weeds that was suppose to be a prairie garden.

Rose said...

I have a very large front yard, mostly grass and trees, but I'm digging up one small area at a time:) Happy Fourth of July, Elizabeth!

TC said...

When the kids are gone, my lawn leaves with them. I have dreams of a naturalized wild flower meadow. I wonder if it'll need much help reverting?

Mom Taxi Julie said...

I've been working on taking out the grass in our yard. When we moved here it was waist high fox tails and it's been tamed down to something resembling lawn in the last 16 years! I have 1/2 of gone and my kids are all freaked out about not having a "lawn".

~~Rhonda said...

I, too, love to see front yards with some personality and diversity. Our yard was totally lawn when we bought the house in 1994. Now it has more than 350 daylilies, plus numerous other perennials, shrubs and trees.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/christmasnotebook/3653038606/

Beats a lawn any day. At least in my book. :) ~~Rhonda

rambleonrose said...

Amen, Elizabeth! I'm in the same boat as Garden Girl, with a husband who's lawn-obsessed. I'm claiming the land piece by piece and exercising the freedom to grow things other than turfgrass.

Cindy, My Corner of Katy said...

As sad as my garden looks right now, the remaining lawn out front is beginning to look even sadder. Drought and the depredations of chinch bugs are taking their toll.

Lynn said...

Amen! One of the many reasons I couldn't bring myself to buy a house in Vegas were the almighty housing covenants you had to agree to if you bought into any new neighborhood. Happy to be living where we can paint our door purple if we want to, and plant Joe Pye Weed by the mailbox. Happy Garden Independence!

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

Here here! I think a campaign to promote yards like these as all-American is even more useful than campaigning for a kitchen garden at the Whitehouse (though that's good too!).

danger garden said...

Hallelujah sister!

Limette said...

We removed what was left of our front yard this spring and put in flower beds and curvy pathways. It looks a million times better and we've had a lot of positive response to the change.

Annie in Austin said...

Hi Elizabeth,

The front was all lawn when we moved here. If you have relaxed standards, St Augustine can be fairly low maintenance when it has the shade of high trees but in sunny places we've added ornamental trees, shrubs, bulbs, perennials, etc. Nothing grows here without some irrigation and if I have to use water it will be on American mixed borders rather than grass.

My part of Austin is pretty stodgy - there are some front gardens but not that many.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

EAL said...

Hi all! I guess my point really is the freedom part, as much as the anti-lawn point. I'll never forget the neighbors getting on my dad's case for having dandelions. It's the lawn fetish that freaks me out.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

I love ruthlessly eclectic yards, too. The perfectly manicured lawn with 3.4 boring foundation shrubs and a Norwegian maple in the middle of the lawn makes me insane.

Swampgardener said...

I'm lucky that I live in a town that doesn't seem to care much about lawn/no lawn controversy. Moreover, I used to worry about "planting in drifts" or repeating form and color, now I just buy whatever is cool or on sale and see what happens.

I think what makes a garden or a lawn look good is when it's clear that someone is taking good care of it (which, I suppose is where you can get into trouble about the definition of 'good care').

Here, here for yard freedom!