When A Front Garden Is As Good As A Front Porch
Our house built in 1864 had a front porch but at some point -- maybe in the 1940s -- the owners decided to enclose it as part of the living room. I'm happy about the extra space surrounded by windows and the two additional steam heat radiators for the cold winter months.
But with the front porch gone, it is harder to meet new neighbors and confab with folks we've known for more than twenty-five years.
But I now have something as good as a front porch or a dog to walk when it comes to hobnobbing with the neighbors. A front garden. I planted the garden in the summer of 2020 when the Pandemic had scared us all and made socializing next to impossible. But being outside was safer, and social distancing was de rigeur. I spent hours and hours planting, weeding, and watering. Neighbors would walk by and tell me how seeing my garden grow raised their spirits and provided a sense of normalcy in such a stressful time.
All of the compliments raised my spirits, too. I was doing something for my own joy and for those who ventured out wearing a variety of masks as colorful as the flowers and bushes.
They say that first-year gardens sleep, and that is true. Many of the new plantings previewed what they'd become but hardly reached their full potential. But that didn't seem to bother those who passed by that first summer. "What do you call those blue ones?" "How big will those bushes grow?" "Did you use a landscape designer or design all of this yourself?"
Alfred Austin was an English poet in the late 1890s who wrote that:
The glory of gardening is: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.
In the second year, my garden began to creep. Every day was a surprise. There were orange butterfly weeds, blue baptisia, pink echinacea, yellow rudbeckia, and so many more. The one neighbor who complained when I first planted, had to eat his words. He liked "green grass," he'd said but now he'd have to eat his words.
And the neighbors kept coming.
"I've watched this grow since last year. It makes me so happy."
"I walk by every day. The garden raises my spirits."
"Boy, this must take a lot of work, but it's worth it."
And there were the bike riders who yelled their praises as they whizzed by. And the cars that stopped with passengers pointing, oohing, and ahhing.
This is year number three. My enthusiasm hasn't waned, but my energy has.
“Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.”
But I'm in it for the long haul. I could never let the garden go to seed, and I could never give up the camaraderie with my neighbors who would, I bet, be as heartbroken as me.