Sunday, July 11, 2010

Gardening in the Suburbs

My garden is perhaps a metaphor for my life in the suburbs since we moved off the Ranch. My neighbors are nice to me, and they are lovely neighbors. But I get the impression that much of the time they are humoring me. Behind my back I suspect that some of them call me eccentric, nutty, and (horrors) liberal. I recently discovered that one of my neighbors has taken it upon himself to lobby my other neighbors to help him change my mind about my landscaping program. He is unhappy that I am killing my lawn. He is chagrined that I have failed to rake the leaves up under my oak tree. Oak trees drop leaves, that’s what they do for a living. That’s what the underneath of an oak tree looks like in the wild. Leaves. I do not have the time to fight that tree by raking leaves every two weeks. I can’t afford a gardener, like all my neighbors. I am the gardener. The tree is happy. I am happy. The neighbor can stay in his own yard, which, by-the-way, is two-thirds rocks and one-third grass. His rocks are gray and so nondescript that I can’t tell one from another. I guess he likes rocks. I know he dislikes birds because I’ve seen him out there shooting them.

What is it with a lawn? It is as boring as, well, grass. It is almost as boring as nondescript gray rocks. It lays there and does nothing. It drinks gallons of water. This is Cali, with drought and water conservation. My lawn is not the boss of me. I have evicted my lawn. Bye-bye. The oak leaves do a good job of killing off the lawn and the leaves are free. My tree makes them in quantities and charges me nothing to place them strategically on the ex-lawn. I have two sections of front yard, one under the oak tree and one in blazing sunlight. The section under the oak tree will have to wait until next year for a makeover. I’m working on the other section this year. I have a budget.

If I had the bucks, I’d hire a landscaping company to whoosh in, rip out this godawful sod, and replant (both sections). Within a year, I’d have a drought-tolerant, deer-resistant, heat-loving, magnificent, flowering, scented, and brilliant garden in front of my house. Alas, it is necessary for me to build slowly, buying plants at a discount over time, waging war against the sod inch by inch. Starting out with small plants and waiting for them to grow. I’m patient. I can wait. My neighbors need to chill. Growing a garden is like raising children, it’s a long-term process. And I’m enjoying the journey despite the ornery neighbors.

I like the way my yard looks and don’t particularly get off on my neighbor’s rocks. He gets off on his rocks and lawn and pristine yard. I like a less-than-pristine yard. I am not in it to tame nature. He is in it to beat nature into submission. But he is entitled to his preferences (and I am entitled to mine). I don’t tell him what to do in his yard. He shouldn’t tell me what to do in mine. And more than that, neither one of us has any basis on which to assume that our preference is the right way of doing things. That’s the lesson. I feel much better now, thanks for listening.

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