Outside Voice: Is it wrong to wish for a smaller garden?

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Orange oriental poppies provide drama in a tiny garden in Lafayette.

At this time when more and more people are being squished into smaller and smaller spaces, is it wrong for me to (occasionally) long for a smaller garden?

I am grateful for the massive yard that skirts my house and spills out into space that will be forever open, with big views and big birds hunting from huge cottonwoods at the margins. I hope to never give it up.

And yet, I feel little pangs of jealousy as I peer into other people’s gardens while waiting for the blind dog to catch up with (copious) pee-mail messages on low fences holding back (relatively) huge drifts of color and texture. These little beds always seem perfectly groomed, thick mulch tamping down weedy interlopers that would otherwise mar a gorgeous display of plants planned to give a new show every day of summer.

I imagine the gardener popping out for a few moments each morning and scaring back bindweed and pepperweed starts with a fierce stare before moving on to a serene routine of dead heading tall iris and oriental poppies to keep the landscape fresh.

There seems to be freedom in the structure of small-scale planting spaces, tiny front yards that are ideally sized for a garden-in-a-box purchased from a catalog or from water utilities pitching Xeriscape planting. There still is room for a birdbath or a well-placed piece of art, or for a rambling rose to spread its skinny arms along a fence made from metal or wood.

Even when these gardens aren’t perfect, they feel ideal. Their manageable size must let the keeper tend to close-in plants, some releasing delicious fragrance as they are shaped to face the season, without losing sight of the garden. A few key snips here and there, and time still remains in the day to sit back and enjoy what grows.

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