I just don’t like working in my front yard. Despite planting about 40 trees since I moved in, I feel on display for the cars driving down the busy road in front of our house. The back garden is private, the soil there is worlds better, and the shade and seating is much more restful than the baking west-facing front. When I garden I want to be in back, with the hydrangeas, vegetables, grapevines and chickens. I love escaping into that private world.
When we moved in, the front of our 100′ long ranch brick house had a thicket of variegated pittosporum on each end with a 4′ tall hedge of Japanese hollies between. There was about a foot gap to wiggle through to climb the steps to the porch and the shutters were shiny black. Ugh! Compared to where we started, the front looks lovely, but I have just ignored it for the past couple years and ‘lovely’ is not the word to describe it. ‘Neglected’ – that’s the word. So I vowed to spruce it up over Memorial Day weekend and found myself with the hoe among the tomatoes instead. I finally got out front and decided it would take more than a weekend to get this area in shape. And then I got honest and let go of the guilt. I hate the front planting, of working around the hollies that are there. I hate the hard red clay that I can’t till up because I am afraid of changing the drainage and hurting the holly roots. I hate the low-growing perennials which have survived, but are too diminitive to be seen by the cars traveling 50 mph down the road. I want it out. I want it all out – everything between the now treeformed pittosporum, saving only a small patch by the front door. I want real soil, in a fat, fluffy planting bed sloping away from the house.
So this year I settle for good enough. I weeded, dug up two Rose of Sharon, added some annuals and moved some perennials, mulched with pine straw, and moved planters onto the porch, in front of the hollies, and behind the dwarf crape myrtles. I’ve been stashing 10% of everything I earn freelancing this year and now that money has a purpose. Next winter I want someone to yank out dozens of hollies and bring in loads of soil. For now, I’ll settle for good enough and head to the back garden.