How does your little patch of green grow? According to the turf think-tank Lawn Institute, a not-for-profit group based in Illinois, there’s about 46 million acres in the United States devoted to lawns. That’s a chunk of green. Additionally, retail sales of approximately 9 billion are spent annually on lawn care. Where did our grass obsession come from?
Part of the answer comes from the birth of suburbia. The introduction of Levittown’s cookie-cutter tract housing in the 1950s was a major impetus for creating lawns as we now know them. Before that time, those arriving in this country brought the memory of Europe’s grand lawns with them.
A recent movement that bucks American’s iconic front lawn has been gaining ground. This challenge comes from a variety of voices, not just tree huggers. Included in the group are those who do not want to conform, as well as those who are concerned with the environment as it relates to lawns and lawn care, the overuse of water, lawn mower pollution, the wisdom of using fertilizers and the safety of pesticides.
There are others who would rather devote all their available space to a garden; still others who enjoy wildlife. Some people prefer to have relative maintenance-free trees, shrubs and bed plantings. Of course there are those who cannot be bothered with the time and energy it takes to maintain a lawn. There could be even more homeowners who have wildly sloping yards that are too difficult or even too dangerous to mow.
That could apply to the Bertuca’s yard on Clintonville Road. The front yard sits high up from the busy street below, and it does have quite a slope to it. You might be inclined to call it a treacherous drop. I cannot imagine it would have been the easiest lawn to mow. And it certainly wasn’t anything special to look at. Now, however, it’s a beautiful front yard garden.
It’s taken 11 years for the transformation. The resulting garden is so charming that the Bertucas say drivers now stop to give an appreciative word when they see the couple working in the garden. It is a breathtaking sight.
The garden takes up the entire front yard. It is a delightful, cottage garden filled with surprises and gorgeous flowers and specimen plants. Underfoot, there’s a brick path which meanders to and fro, and leads visitors to a number of cozy birdhouses, whimsical ceramic frogs, garden artwork and statues, miniature water features and birdbaths. As the pivotal piece in the garden, there is a gorgeous white arbor, with white picket fence, that Mrs. Bertuca’s husband built. On the day I visited, the arbor was absolutely riveting with a heavy bloom of sweet-smelling roses and clematis. Take a look at the photos from my visit that day.
Another example of front yard gardening can be seen in this week’s photos. The home is facing the busy thoroughfare near State Street and Broadway. The house does have a challenging slope which sharply drops off to the street. The owners have done a magnificent job at using pleasing shapes and textures to redesign the front yard with plants, shrubs and flowers. It looks as if they like the results so much, they continued the fun by adding complementary plantings alongside the length of the driveway.
Oma Tike Tip: Deadhead your flowers. Flowers will bloom longer if you pinch off the faded blooms of geraniums and petunias, for example. When faced with long-stemmed flowers like coreopsis, just use scissors to shear spent blooms en masse.
June 25: The Garden Conservatory Open Garden Tours
Gardens will be open in Falls Village and West Cornwall, Sharon, New Hartford, and Washington. Check the website for specific details on fees, hours and locations.
June 26: CT Historic Gardens Day at Roseland Cottage in Woodstock
Get more info at 860-928-4074.
To Do List:
Check out Pasqualoni’s on Meriden Road in Cheshire. Veggie plants are going cheap! They were selling two-for-a-buck. It may be cheaper now. Get there before July 2nd; that’s the last day Mark will sell plants and will changeover to selling produce.
June chores: The humidity and the rain have brought out mildew on phlox and some black spot on roses. Check yours when you get a chance. As for what to do, you have a few choices. For mildew on phlox, make a batch of this: one quart of water, a drop of water and one tsp. of baking soda. I just read about this remedy: one part milk to nine parts water. That’s the one I’m trying right now. I’ll let you know if it works, or if it only attracts all the kittens in the neighborhood.
Oma Tike Tip: Mulching makes sense! Get layers of mulch down before the weather changes. After all this rain, veggies will need extra care so they don’t dry out when the heat is turned on in July and August.
From the Garden Bookbag:
Oma Tike’s Pick: “The New Victory Garden,” by Bob Thomson, Little Brown & Co.
The man and the book are true originals. Here’s a book that should be on every gardener’s shelf. Thomson shares a lot of valuable experience that beginners can learn from in how to tend to the garden each month.
Joy’s Pick: “The Garden: An Illustrated History,” by Julia S. Berrall, Viking
A friend brought this over the other day, and I am engrossed in it. It’s a great book. As promised, Berrall expertly lays out the history of the gardening movement from the time of the Pharaohs to the Italian Renaissance, on to the gardens of Versailles, the American garden and it also covers the Japanese. The book is full of historically correct plates, illustrations and photos.
Next Week’s Column: Go Native! Native plants and flower choices; Bookbag, and more!