Tag Archives: McMinnville garden style

Santa Rosa Gardens

I love this porch decoration.

This is next door to us.  Most of the houses on this street are either old or vintage (it’s an official historic district with signs and all).

I remember when this yard was lawn with some perennials.  Over the years more and more people have been getting rid of their lawns.  I don’t actually hate lawns – I mean I HATE having one myself because I loathe mowing and I think it’s a waste of space I could be using to grow food or flowers – but I think lawns are pretty, it’s just that I’m really bothered by the amount of water it takes to keep them up and how many chemicals people use to kill off the weeds in them and the unnaturally strong fertilizers used to feed them – both of which contaminate natural waterways.  So while I understand that having lawn is something many people enjoy – I can’t help but really enjoy seeing people rip them out to plant drought resistant plants or vegetables or flowers or trees.

I also remember this garden when it was just being planned and planted out many years ago.  It’s filled in beautifully.  The house that goes with it is also quite lovely and has had a lot of work done on it.

Really sweet front garden.

Mulching is really important in a dry warm climate.  This garden looks a little bare.  You have to be patient with gardens and let them fill in.  Sometimes you have to add more later to fill in gaps.

You know nothing makes me happier than to see people growing vegetables in their front yards.  Vegetables are beautiful and I object to the idea that they should be sequestered in the back like servants or the poor relations you wish no one knew about.  Now I sound like I think poorly of everyone who grows their vegetables in their back yards.  I don’t.  I promise.   Sometimes the back yard is the only good spot for them.  I just especially love to see them center stage.

You know I had to share the McMinnville style garden with you.  This is the view from my office and it makes me smile because it’s like the universe was making sure I wouldn’t forget my Oregon adventures and my antipathy* for miniature Japanese maples.

Well, I’m off to shower and make some more hamburger buns.  There aren’t any good ones on the market shelves.  I saw several with high fructose corn syrup in them.  Lordy lou – is nothing sacred?  Seriously, bread requires very little sweetener – just enough to feed the yeast beasts – there is no excuse in the world to be using HFCS in bread.  So.  Making my own buns.  I hope you have a wonderful Sunday!

*I don’t really hate them – I just got really tired of the formula for yards in Mac:

mostly lawn+ miniature Japanese maple+a sensible flowering bush+a tiny bed of annual flowers usually cut into the lawn (often in a kidney shape)=de rigueur.

And NO – not all gardens in Mac follow this formula – there are plenty of interesting and pretty gardens that are following their own stars – it’s just that there aren’t enough of them yet to distract me from the ubiquitous same-same.  Still, in the six years I lived in Mac I saw more and more gardens doing their own thing – so I think there’s lots of individuality to come.

People Are What They Grow

I’ve been living in McMinnville for five and a half years now and when I first arrived I marveled at the obvious love this town had for: lawns, tiny stands of shrubs and/or perennials dwarfed by expanse of lawn, Japanese maple trees (the mini kind with red leaves), and the sameness.  All the mind numbing sameness from house to house, yard to yard.  I had just moved up from a northern California neighborhood filled with a wonderful diversity of garden styles so the sameness here struck me as being stark, sterile, and depressing.

Naturally I’m painting a broad picture.  I’m telling what my impressions as a newcomer were.  It is to be understood that all this time there have been a sprinkling of gardens that have not fit this standard mold, that have stood out with their more interesting styles.  But I promise that those gardens were (and still are) in the minority.

I have come to understand that the garden style here represents the people here very well.  This is a conservative town that likes things to be neat and tidy, likes the diversity of flowers to be corraled in liver shaped segregated (easily maintained) beds.  This is how it deals with people as well.  People are superficially friendly here but any outsider will tell you that it goes air deep.  People aren’t actually that friendly here.  They are not eager to let new people into their inner circles.  There is a hierarchy that, while it exists in all places where humans gather to live, is more strictly observed than it ever was in the city I moved here from.  This orderliness, this silent segregation of people into groups and cliques, this tight containment of plants reflects the people who grow them.

My own garden “style” very much reflects me as well, both my good qualities and my bad.  I rarely weed.  I put my mess of fruit and vegetables where people can see them.  I let my roses run riot.  I let my trees reach out too far.  I eschew order and encourage my plants to live together in a chaos of tangles.  Every once in a while I trim some things, weed a little, pretend to make order.  My garden reflects my mind, which is not an orderly place at all but constantly full of thoughts, of ideas, of questions, of anxiety, and of reflections – all of it in an untidy mess.  What you see is what you get.

I’ve been noticing gardens changing slowly over the last few years.  I’ve seen some lawns ripped out and vegetable beds put in in their place.  I’ve seen more gardens leaning towards permaculture ideals, and more daring combinations of perennials, some of them even edible.  Blueberries as shrubs in the front yard!  I’ve been seeing more herbs, more flowers, more fruit trees being planted.  I’ve seen those liver shaped beds expand, shrinking the obsessively clipped lawns surrounding them.  I’ve seen more lawns go brown in the summer.

Best of all of this is that I’m seeing more and more vegetable gardens being put in front yards.  I am seeing sidewalk strips turn into corn patches.  I am seeing squash plants spilling out toward curbs.  I am seeing more and more food being grown right there in front where all the neighbors can see.  I suppose in some ways this is a sad reflection of our deep recession.  Food prices constantly going upwards is forcing people to see the merit of growing their own food.  Letting lawns go brown in summer is a reflection of thinner pocketbooks creaking under the weight of water bills.  I’m not sad about this.  I hate that people are getting more and more strapped, myself included.  I hate that so many of my friends are enduring hard times, scrabbling for enough money to pay mortgages, some going on food stamps.  I’m not happy for the stress that financial distress is bringing to people but if this is what it takes for people to understand the value of growing food instead of lawns, I can’t do anything but cheer for the transformation.

The apartment building in these pictures is around the corner from my house.  For years it has favored institutionally low maintenance landscaping.  The people who live in it are mostly middle aged to old, no kids, and truthfully they seem a dour motley crowd that rarely smiles back at me.  When I saw these squash plants pop up in early summer I was taken completely off my guard.  I was absolutely charmed.  It gave me a glimmer of hope for all of mankind to see them plant tomatoes against the chain link.  Many tomato plants in the place of azaleas and useless stinky Pieris.  I ride my bicycle past this little patch often and every single time it makes me happy.  It reflects change in a stolid community.

I wonder if eventually most lawns will disappear and give way to a diversity of garden styles and garden plants.  I wonder if McMinnville will ever lose its crazy love for utilitarian shrubs in favor of more daphne, herbs, flowering quince (or even fruiting!), and free range wild flowers?  I doubt it, but a girl can hope.