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Allan designs and plants flowering gardens in Montreal, Zone 5 [USDA Zone 4] .

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Entries in messy gardens (2)


Front Garden Entryways

This image accompanied the text of the magazine article titled "Design an Engaging Entryway" that I received on line from "" A very well crafted article about front yard garden entryways arrived in an on-line newsletter on October 19, 2009. Titled “Design an Engaging Entryway”, it was sent by Fine Gardening Magazine.  As a topic of interest, the front entry garden is a polyvalent subject and writing about it requires great organizational skills. I was impressed how admirably the author tackled it and how adaptable the advice turned out to be.

This article is about making a good first impression: drawing attention to the garden entryway of the home,  using ornamental plants for winter interest, making the entry appealing by using archways, installing double rows of flower beds and placing unique objects that define the home owner.

However, the author also touches on a controversial issue in the subtitle, “A front yard should ….reflect who you are”. I have my reservations about that advice especially when it empowers gardeners to plant messy cottage gardens in full view of the neighbors.

Let’s go back to when it all began: The misguided philosophy “Do Your Own Thing” dates back to the 1970’s. A social revolution took place during that period that resulted in the discarding of many societal conventions that had been hypocritically adhered to. Some of the derision was justified, but it went too far. It encouraged the display of personal bad taste in the name of self expression.

The lowering of community standards extended to gardens as well. A messy cottage garden, especially one that was flaunted in public, became the statement of the liberated gardener. Much to the dismay of neighbors, it is today still considered a bold and defiant personal expression. However, such a front yard garden neither adds anything to the value or appearance of a property nor is it inviting. It would be better situated in a back or side yard where only the homeowner can justify its existence.

A front yard garden must respect the design of the home even in the depths of winter when nothing is in bloom. It should enhance a property, not devalue it. And above all, it should welcome guests with beauty. The personality of the homeowner may be reflected in the assiduous selection of plants, by the unusual combinations of color, shape and texture and by the creative placement of hard objects. Thanks, Fine Gardening, for inadvertently raising a controversial topic. It certainly was an inspiration for this garden writer to make a bold and defiant personal expression.


The Moral Dilemma of a Messy Garden

This is a photo of the well tended Grey's Iris Garden in New Jersey. Click on the image to visit the site.

My front yard garden was messy. It had lost its curb appeal and there was nothing that I could do about it as long as I was tending to other people’s gardens. Today was the first time this season that I was able to tidy things up. The biggest culprits have been the perennials Iris Germanica. They were neglected for 4 years. Every third year they must be lifted, divided and replanted as smaller clumps. Otherwise, the plants get messy looking and the foliage lose the majesty that is demonstrated in the picture above.

My neighbors have seen the mess that neglected Irises create and they are not impressed. Yes, they ooo and aah when this plant is in bloom, but as soon as the flowers fade, so does their enthusiasm. Whenever I offer them my extra Iris clumps for their gardens they politely decline. One neighbor abhors anything that makes a garden messy and has been honest enough to confess that, when my garden is neglected, it’s too painful a sight for him to endure.

That raises a moral dilemma for the gardener. If poor curb appeal is disturbing to one's neighbors, is there an obligation for one to do something about it? In my case, the answer is yes. I have never gardened exclusively for my own pleasure, which is substantial. I enjoy sharing the results of my labor with others. Whenever my front yard garden is not looking its best, I am not being true to myself.