Thursday, 2 February 2012

Who cares what the neighbours think!

I have been thinking about fear for a few days now. Nothing dramatic has happened in my life to make me become suddenly afraid...nothing like that. I am talking about those everyday fears that keep us from being who we are really meant to be, and expressing ourselves as we would really like too. It's that little voice that whispers away "what would they (the neighbours, my boss, my kids, my parents, my best friend) think if I did that." We are afraid of messing up and standing out from the status quo.

How boring is that, how unserving to the beautiful soul that is you.

(Note: I am saying you, but I am also talking to myself here, who knows better and is need of a realty check.)

When I had my fortieth birthday four years ago, I sat out on my back step and made a few resolutions which I believe to be of the upmost importance. Turning 40 was a bit of a revelation. I could be half way through my life....was I proud of what I had accomplished, how I had lived...what would I do differently, what could I change in the next new chapter. What had I wasted my time on.

I decided that I would be happy, peaceful, accepting, loving, and authentic ALL THE TIME. No more sadness, no more regrets. What was, simply was...time to get on with life. Sounds easy enough, and in many ways it has been. The letting go of things that hold you back, thought patterns, grief, negative people etc. etc. etc. is a very freeing experience. 

You have to make the decision that you are worthy of all things peaceful, gracious, blissful, gorgeous, exhilarating and butterflies-in-the-stomach wonderful. 

I know that I have been able to find a much happier balance in my life by deciding that I would accept nothing less than sheer joy in my life... and I am cherishing simpler rules. 

But I am human, and a girl, and the sun has not been around for a week (which is my excuse at the moment for letting things get to me.)

It all started with the front porch. This is my gardening blog, and you may be wondering how fear ties into all this. Here it is:

I have mentioned my home before. By some standards it would be considered rather unremarkable and a little on the small side. But we love it. It had and has a good feeling to it, so despite all the flaws and the work which needed to be done to it, we snapped it up. We've been working slowly away at the insides for the past five years, and I have spent a great deal of time in the back, but I have been avoiding the front yard like the plague. It scares me. Which is silly. And I have had enough.

I know I am not alone. On my many excursions through the suburbs I see a lot of the same thing out front. A lawn, a tree or two, which are usually maple (especially crimson king) or birch. A small front garden which more often than not consists of some of these ingredients - burning bush, spirea, lilac, emerald cedar (because they always go on sale for $19.99 in the spring)...tulips in the spring and garden mums in the fall. I'm not being critical here, I am happy to see that a yard has some garden instead of just lawn...but it is all rather safe. If I could see into the backyards of all those boring front yards I would expect to see something quite different. 

I confess that I have been playing it safe too, by not changing what was already there - which I do not like, and which does not reflect who I am. And while I am confessing,  I admit to you all that I do put more pressure on myself because by profession I should be able to get this right. 

Go take a peek at a your front right now, even in the cold and snow. Does it make you happy? Are you filled with joy every time you pull in the driveway and walk to the front door. You should be, we should settle for nothing less.

I am ready to make a change this year and have started to make plans. My husband is happy that everything is being carefully drawn out this time, I don't always bother to treat myself like I would my clients. They are not done yet, but I will reveal when they are ready. Which brings us back to the front porch.

My winter porch project in progress.

Shortly after we moved in, it became apparent that the front porch had been painted in the wrong sort of paint. By the first spring, paint was flaking off everywhere, it was a mess. We've done a few bandaid, temporary touch ups, a little scraping here and there, but not the total overhaul. Paul and I have talked about ripping it out and replacing it with cedar, with natural stone, with interlock, with trexx, making it bigger, extending it to wrap around the house...we got lost in indecision. The fear factor took hold - everyone will see this, what should we do...

I have decided to keep most of it. The wood is sound and so I began scraping it down last weekend. I'm sure the neighbours were amused to see that "gardening girl" working on her front porch in January, but the temperatures have really not been that cold. The rails will be replaced because they aren't worth saving. I am using dry methods of paint removal here - a good, sharp scraper and a belt sander with the handy shop vac at my side to keep the mess in check. It was a first step and a commitment to finally creating a front garden that I love. which brought up some of those fears. What will the neighbours think by the time I am all done??

In writing this I will tell you (and me) that you must create what you love. Doing what you love is no excuse for bad design inspiration through the internet, through Pinterest, through books, magazine, garden shows. Start a scrapbook. Take a gardening class at your local college. Ask for help when you need it. If you love to garden, but have no idea how to go about creating that glorious front yard you can enlist the help of a designer to draw some plans for you. Many offer that service which allows you do the all the hard work putting it together with confidence. Many of us will also take you shopping and help you pick out the shrubs, trees, and perennials that will paint your lovely new canvas.

Doesn't this sound like fun?!

Be joyful in your life and let everything be a reflection of the real you...gardens, especially, included.

In doing this, the neighbours will notice...for a garden that is inspiring by being true to the soul of the caretaker is a hard thing to resist.

Have a beautiful's a little inspiration to see you through:

Can you be this bold in they front - of course you can!!
"Blue Salvia forsskaolii fringes a pathway to a bench. 
 Digging Dog garden and nursery, Mendocino coast, California."

Lavender - I do believe I should be living in a charming stone estate somewhere in France...until that day
I can still love the lavender...this is also a lesson on the impact a mass planting can bring.

Graceful curves accent a thoughtfully planted green entrance - notice the hues and texture that make this interesting
Andy Sturgeon Landscape and Garden Design


  1. I'm happy to see that you're finally doing something with the front porch!

  2. Thank you Hayley! I'm hoping you will enjoy it once its done : )

  3. Brenda,
    That is hard work in the winter, but better now to have the time free in spring for planting! Glad you are facing your fears.

    I live on a corner lot with a four-way stop and a lot of traffic. Everything I do in my front yard - which is the main location for my mixed borders - is observed. I have had countless "what are you doing" questions and cars gawking. But last year I also had a ton of people say that going by our garden on their way to work is one of the highlights of their whole day. This is our first house, and I was itching for years before we got it to have a garden of my own. Here is a post I just finished:

    Thanks for the encouragement to keep pushing and growing toward excellence in the art of gardening. I look forward to reading and learning more.
    Julie in PA

  4. Julie I absolutely love what you have done with your front gardens - you are one of those brave souls who truly follows their heart and creates something magical - I am not surprised that so many cars stop to admire your gardens.

    I have seen many stunning gardens that were clearly designed and placed on exhibition so that everyone could see how much money they spent. While beautiful, they usually lack soul, that feeling of being have soul in spades girl and I look forward to watching how your garden grow this year :)