Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Gardens are a Sign of Commitment to a Place"

My favorite part of Hidcote Manor Garden from our trip to England a few years ago was this amazing beech "forest". A charming iron gate leads you to perfect rows of beech trees. It was just magical. I remember thinking that many of the grand gardens and grand houses we were seeing had plants that would take a more than lifetime to form a 15 foot tall hedge or a mature mock-forest. I also remember thinking that fast growing trees and shrubs (along with eye-catching annuals) was what I could mostly find in my neighborhood.

Today I attended a lecture by the author of Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, Fritz Haeg. He was describing his project on turning lawn-filled front yards into productive and beautiful landscapes and how that affected the garden owners and their relationship with the people around them.

He also described his excitement, and trepidation, with doing the project for a more transient apartment complex.

One of the audience members asked if he had ever considered more mobile gardens for these apartment residents to take with them when they move. Mr. Haeg responded that whatever garden that works on this street may not work on one street over. "Gardens," he said, "are a sign of commitment to a place. You're not going to tear up your front yard if you're planning to sell your house in a year."

Is the American dream of moving your way up the real estate ladder the reason why we don't see more daring front yards such as what Mr. Haeg has created? Or why we see vast stretches of lawn from coast-to-coast that historically said/says "I'm so rich, I don't need my land to be productive"? Is it why we see the likes of Bradford Pears and other fast growing, almost disposable trees? After all, why spend time & money on a plant you, your children or your grandchildren won't see to maturity?

Whatever the answer to those questions are, I do believe that he's got a point: Gardens ARE a sign of a commitment to a place. They require care and maintenance and work. You don't do that if you aren't emotionally involved with that place.

Needless to say, I'm not more excited than ever to turn half of my front yard into an herb garden this fall.

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