“Let the beauty you love be what you do; there are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”–Rumi
One of the many benefits to walking your neighborhood, in addition of course to getting closer to that elusive, healthy, CDC-recommended 10,000 steps per day, is that you get to see the infinite variety of expression possible in landscape design. You could also peruse the tidal wave of gardening and shelter magazines, and/or spend a lot of time on HGTV. But the advantage of your neighborhoods is you get to see what plants actually work in your area. And just as importantly, you get to see the infinite range of possibilities out there.
Style arbiter Clinton Kelly says “If you’re pleasing everyone, you’re doing something wrong.” But most of us are not as bold or confident of the fabulousness of our own tastes as Mr. Kelly is, so we second-guess ourselves to death. And second-guessing robs us of a lot of joy.
Often when we think about our front yards in particular, we immediately worry about our neighbors to the left, to the right, and across the street–and maybe any random home tours which might wander, unannounced, into the neighborhood. And there’s something to be said for that. Property values absolutely depend on the condition of adjacent homes, and what you do will have some effect on your neighbors. And you may even be—and if so, I’m sorry—in one of those neighborhoods whose HOA dictates down to the color of your annuals what you can and can’t plant. That is a serious bummer, and I suggest you overthrow them in a bloodless coup.
But we are back again to your impetus for taking to the streets (and going back to your word list); think about what would make you happy. I don’t think we give that enough consideration. And whether or not we realize it, our physical space has a lot to do with our happiness.
On my neighborhood walks, I often pass a yard which is bursting with little arrangements and vignettes and an ever-expanding collection of what some might call tchotchkes–flocks of ceramic ducks and painted metal chickens and the occasional Buddha head, surrounded by hibiscus and angel’s trumpet and any number of flamboyant flowers. I always stop and see what’s new, and recently, finally encountered the owner. “Your yard is so happy,” I said. “Did you do the plan?” The owner, a 70-ish gentleman with a white beard that makes him look like Santa’s foreman, considered. “Me,” he finally said. “And God.” He considered some more. “And the 99 Cent store.”
Now I ask you. Can you imagine a more potent design team than that? His aesthetic isn’t going to work for everybody, but his yard makes him happy, and it makes me happy because it so clearly expresses the designer’s joy. My joy looks very different—yours will, too. But do make sure you consider your joy an indispensable element of your landscape planning.