Thursday's Visual Treat - Day 4/ Gardens to Cultivate
Realtors, appraisers, developers, architects, civic association board members, community groups, landscapers, and various HGTV shows routinely laud the necessity and value of 'curb appeal.' Apparently curb appeal is the attractiveness of a property to prospective buyers, passersby, civic leaders, and plain folk like you and me--who just want our home(s) to look good, and the block that we live on to look good too. Curb appeal can be accomplished through painting (or repainting) in attractive colors which are consistent with the style of the house and in keeping with the relative charm and look of the community; exterior and landscape lighting which prolongs that charm at night-time as well as dissuades the criminally inclined from any thoughts of mischief; landscaping to complement the architecture of the house or building, as well as beautify the property through the integration of trees, shrubs, flower and plant beds, borders and walk paths, fencing and driveway/walkways. Of particular interest to us is the design and maintenance of tree boxes, those rectangular areas of dirt, turf-grass, weeds, newspaper and debris-strewn islands surrounding trees along city streets and avenues. In areas of high density population and undoubtedly loads of of civic pride, say neighborhoods such as Georgetown, Adams Morgan, Capitol Hill, Brentwood, and Dupont Circle, there is no limit to the creative ways in which dwellers will express themselves as they apply their horticultural and gardening skills to the aforementioned strip of real estate to which they are able to exercise some creative control--albeit with the tacit approval of the DPW's inspectors who unless tangled in a thorny labyrinth of untrimmed roses or confronted with waist-high cannabis plants tend to look the other way.
Sturdy fences make for good neighbors, similarly a low wrought-iron tree-box fence is the smartest way to keep drunks and wheel-chairs from trampling plants, car doors from breaking taller branches, dogs (leashed or unleashed) from using the planted strip as an exercise field, lolling green after chasing imaginary balls, or the canine version of a Jiffy John. Besides accomplishing all of these tasks, this sturdy fence will help in retaining soil and preventing erosion or run-off after a thunder-storm. Some municipalities may insist on a permit for the installation of this fence; any hours spent standing in line at the ill-ventilated permit office is a lot less painful than watching your newly installed garden thoughtlessly destroyed after a Saturday evening graduation party (and after-party) for the cocky kid in the next block or the Sunday morning runners' group who have eyes only for each other and tend to ignore most street signs, traffic lights, and neighborhoods not their own. Lack of water, smog, dust, dirt, salt or other de-icing chemicals, extensive heat during the summer, bugs and insects, and apathy or indifference are just some of the factors that must be considered when choosing plants for the street box. Additionally, one should not disturb the root system of the existing tree so that smaller and shallow-rooted shrubs and plants are advisable. Drought-tolerant and tough-as-nails selections are almost essential unless you plan to pay a neighborhood kid to water, and be prepared for some surprises in the middle of the night, or when wildlife takes up residence and PETA intervenes. Anchor your street-box/sidewalk/curbside garden with a few evergreens to provide all-year interest, especially necessary during the winter months when the grey skies of January can make the city almost resemble Glasgow or Dresden. Have fun in the spring with bulbs and a visit to your local nursery can help with determining which of the many annuals/perennials/shrubs/ground-covers will be placed in your street-side garden.
If confronted with rats-in-residence, a gang of children cutting your precious dahlias, or the neighbor-hood bum who insists on laying his army-fatigue jacket on the azalea shrub in order to dry, KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.