Monday, July 21, 2008

The front garden

We live in a suburban area where the lots are small -- about 1/4th of an acre is the norm although we have a little more than that because we have a corner lot.  It's an old area developed in the late 1930's and early 40's but that doesn't mean that the gardens are old and beautiful.  Not at all.  Mostly they are yards.  Places for the dogs to poop, or for the kids to drop their bikes, or to plant forsythia and magenta azaleas.  I sometimes think that the azaleas are both the blessing and the curse of this area -- the blessing because they are perfectly acclimated to DC, the curse because they are perfectly acclimated to DC.   People (and this includes the "landscapers" who are employed by builders) plant a row of azaleas across the front of the house, a dogwood tree in the middle of the lawn, and maybe a redbud tree on the corner of the double garage.   

Now, there is nothing wrong with any of these plants --although I don't personally like redbud, many people find it beautiful, azaleas can be lovely, and dogwoods, of course, are as near perfection as any shrub gets.  It's just that they are all (a) over-used and (b) planted without thought for their eventual size, and (c) with no regard at all for their colours.  Magenta, pink, fire-engine red, coral, white -- azaleas mixed up in a god-awful stew of colour, with probably some egg-yolk yellow daffodils in front of them, for good measure.   Azaleas left to their own devices can become enormous shrubs -- some of mine are over 8 feet tall--and as "foundation plantings" they are a joke.  But I don't get the idea of "foundation plantings" anyway, so don't mind me.   But if you are planting something new, could you go look at some blogs or websites to find out what would be pretty and unusual?

When I first came to this area from Australia, I used to ride around my suburb with my husband, and I would ask him "but where are the flowers?"  After the daffodils and azaleas, there was nothing.  Until lovely Ladybird Johnson came along and inspired all us young gardeners to help plant bulbs along the parkway and to envision the city changed by her love of flowers.  It is hard now to remember what it was like then--green, certainly, but no hanging baskets of flowers, no perennial beds in people's gardens, and certainly No Tulips!!!  So, despite real estate developers and their "landscapers", we have made progress!  Now, we have lovely drifts of early tulips, marching ranks of Darwins, whole lawns of crocus tomasinianus, and stately groups of t. "Menton" in front of my house.  And, dang it -- I have just noticed that Menton harmonizes very nicely with that magenta azalea in the foundation planting.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I read "Darwin," I think "scientist." Funny picture. If you think you have azaleas, you should come to Mobile in March. We have a festival and everything. ... Last line made me laugh!