Steve’s latest post on his difficulty in getting his front yard to a place where it pleases him, along with the responses from readers who echo his sentiment, is a reminder that for many of us gardeners that extending our gardening repertoire from the backyard to the front is a significant challenge. Below is a picture of my house and garden when it was spanking new. Even back then I knew that this was not a pretty picture!
As many of you already know, when I built my home 25 years ago, the front yard had not even one flower. It was limited to a sparse row of evergreens and a scattering of deciduous shrubs and trees. As I mentioned in an earlier post, it was through the influence and passion of Chris Woods, the visionary behind Chanticleer (www.chanticleergarden.org) that I was turned onto the world of perennials and native plants. It was Chris who taught me the beauty of using large amounts of perennials in a sweeping motion. He was the one who said ‘hog wash’ to the Asian rhododendrons and azaleas that had buffered parts of my home and told me to trash them or give them away (which I sheepishly did). It was under his tutelage and vision that I was introduced to the glorious world of perennials, ornamental grasses and native shrubs.
But the one thing about gardening that any keen gardener knows is that nothing in nature (or life) stays the same: everything is in constant motion. A garden becomes more mature, our taste changes, perhaps we travel and see gardens that infuse our unconscious with inspirational ideas: and we, as human beings, possess an unquenchable thirst to continue to learn and experiment. Because after all, for most of us gardeners, our gardens are our personal laboratories.
Perhaps you’ve seen the pictures on GGW recently of my front walkway (strewn with roses, perennials and an assortment of other flowers). At certain times of the season, usually at the end of a long day’s work when I meander out front, the beauty of it still takes my breath away. Yet, by the end of last year’s gardening season I was feeling restless with it. There was a major section that felt disorganized and out of sync with its overall feeling. So last fall, I did what I have done so many times before. I dug up dozens of perennials, transplanted those that could be used elsewhere and the rest were either given away or dumped, leaving a relatively blank slate in a large area bordering the pathway.
It is mid-April and I still don’t know what types of perennials I’ll be planting in the front yard garden over the next few weeks. Right now, I’m too busy germinating seeds, potting up tubers to place in the greenhouse (until the weather warms up) and cleaning up gardening beds. But somehow, as I look out my office window on this blissful spring afternoon and gaze at the huge flowers in bloom on the Magnolia grandiflora in my backyard, I know that everything will play out the way it’s meant to. I will figure out a solution to the unsolved dilemma of what to do with the unplanted segment of the front yard garden this spring. Whatever perennials I end up planting and whether or not the design pleases me, I will gain some pleasure from these plants and learn a heck of alot while romping about in nature. What more could I ask for?? The perfect front garden? I don’t think it exists!