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I can't help it.
It's what I do for a living. Thank goodness!
I don’t know about you but when I walk or drive around town, I am always looking at plants. All.The.Time. Let me explain.
The last few months has seen a move into a new neighbourhood and as I drive the new route, to and from dog walking spots, I am looking at the landscape. Here, I see a mature blue spruce that has a pronounced lean and it reminds me of a cocky character from West Side Story, nonchalantly leaning against a light pole under the moon. Another house acts as a landmark and has three conscientiously clipped globe cedars, of differing sizes, clustered in a group beside the front stairs — I call it the cedar ball house. At an intersection, two giant silver maples stand sentinel across from each other, extending their arms almost so that their fingertips touch overhead. And at a corner house, the front garden bed is anchored by an apple tree, graceful in its branching and attractive in all seasons because of it.
Does everyone do this? That is, take a mental and visual inventory of their surroundings…especially their landscape surroundings? Probably not. And it’s even less likely that they do what I do next…
I look at each front yard with a critical eye. Does that tree need pruning? Do those two huge spruce trees planted too close to the house spell disaster for its foundation, or at least for its underground pipes? Does that garden need cleaning up? These are practical questions but there are others.
I also look with a design eye. Is that tree too large for the space visually? Was it a wise choice to put that forsythia so close to the front door? Did they know that three large ornamental grasses planted so closely together would look awkward? Do they realize that putting three pyramidal cedars as a foundation planting and nothing else looks uninspired?
Happily, I can use this idiosyncrasy in my job. And I do.
The photos above show the front entrance of a very expensive, albeit vintage home, in a ritzy neighbourhood. They called me in to spruce up the landscaping before they put it up for sale. Curb appeal it’s called. It’s amazing what a little pruning, thinning, rearranging and mulching can do.
If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve passed a house and wanted to do something like this! It is so incredibly rewarding.
And here is the entrance bed to the property:
Yes, I know what you’re going to say. That bright red Virginia creeper climbing up the trees was indeed beautiful! But sadly, it was going to be either the vines or the trees. We had to take it down because not only was it smothering the pines, but it was rampaging through the bed, suffocating the hosta and pachysandra. Now it looks like the property is actually being maintained and is no longer abandoned.
Here is another view of the foundation planting near the front door:
I had to decide whether or not to prune, clean-up or remove plants. In this case, it was a combination of those things, as well as transfer some plants that would tie to what we’d done further to the right. That is, the hosta divisions were moved from elsewhere and placed here, under the burning bush that has been pruned up.
Finally, the view down the front drive was marred by out of control weeds, weedy trees and chaos. Not the way you want your house to look upon approach. Here we took down what had grown up without an invitation and kept what was attractive - you’ll note we left the beautiful red creeper growing against the side of the garage that was hidden by the out-of-control saplings.
Ahh. Things can breathe again!
Of course, this is my job; that is, to make things look better. But usually it’s not a one-time fix, but rather a continuing relationship, which I prefer actually.
Do you clean up and re-design front gardens as you drive through your neighbourhood?