My personal experience indicates that homeowners fall into three distinct camps at this time of year:
- Those who are anxious to go out and clean up their yards. They love every aspect of it - the cleaning, the planting, the maintaining - it's all worth it for that beautiful yard.
- Those who dread it, but do it anyway. They hate the chores, but love the beautiful yard and feel that it's worth the effort.
- Those who skip the whole ritual and let nature take it's course.
In my many years as an apartment dweller, I was pretty sure I'd fall into the first camp. I bought potted seasonal flowers for my tiny stoop. I changed the wreaths on my door regularly. I envied the homeowners their beautiful gardens and landscapes. I inwardly criticized those who squandered what I considered to be the wealth of a front yard. I couldn't wait to get my hands in the dirt. My yard was gonna rock.
Tom and I bought our first house in 1997. I was 34 and running after a small toddler (as opposed to those giant toddlers I've heard tell about...) and by our first Spring there, I was pregnant with a second. The thought of bringing a garden to life while I carried one child and watched another play outdoors was almost more romantic than I could bear.
Like most romantic notions, the fantasy far exceeded the reality.
First, and you probably already knew this, toddlers don't stay where you put them. Set free in the front yard, with a nice slope to it, Lea took to running down the hill and into the street instead of playing quietly in the shade of a tree as I'd inexplicably imagined that she might. Second, pregnant women in their mid-thirties are notoriously slow runners. It also takes them more than a tick to go from kneeling in the garden to running to the street. Third? Even on a temperate day - even in the shade - a pregnant momma and a rambunctious toddler get hot and miserable very quickly.
In addition to all of that, I had no idea what I was doing. I became overwhelmed at the nursery - I had no idea what looked good with what, what needed sun or what needed shade, what plants had symbiotic relationships with each other, what plants were considered delicious by the local wildlife - nothing. I. Knew. Nothing. So I bought things randomly. The greenhouse equivalent of, "Oooh! Shiny!" If I thought it was pretty, I bought it, took it home, dug a hole, and hoped for the best.
To you folks from camp 1 and 2 as listed above - I'm sure you're laughing at me. You should be. How arrogant it was of me to presume that what you were doing was easy! I apologize. I was wr - wr - wrong.
I kept trying, though. Dammit, I'd waited a long time for a yard of my own, I was going to make it beautiful.
I developed a lovely habit of throwing good money after bad. Not a particularly good plan for a one-income family with a toddler and a baby on the way, but we were suburbanites, now! A nicely landscaped lawn was requisite! So Tom kept fighting the abundance of moss that grew in our yard and I kept planting things in inappropriate places and combinations and watching them die.
When we moved, a couple years later, we convinced ourselves that all of our struggles had been geographically based. Starting over in a new environment, we knew we could make it work.
And we tried.
Although, if we're being honest, we never approached it with the dumb enthusiasm we both had at the first house. Our spirit had been broken a little bit and our bank had been broken a lot.
We eventually gave up.
Our yard is - awful. There is no landscaping. There are no plants. (Except the bulbs we planted - randomly - way too many years ago. They are an embarrassing sign of Spring rather than a glorious one.) I don't even buy potted plants for the porch, like I did in the apartments. It just doesn't make enough of a difference to justify the money.
I'm not going to tell you I don't wish we had a beautiful yard - I do - but I know that to acquire one would involve more money and effort than either of us is willing to devote to it. So we have an ugly yard. But enough time to sit on the deck and enough money to enjoy an occasional cocktail while we do so.
And when the sun is shining hard? That sort of feels like a win.
sidenote - when we moved into that first house, the former owners had left behind some statuary that I found to be tacky. I have never felt as powerful - before or since - as I did swinging a sledgehammer at those fugly lawn ornaments.