by Charlene Burgi
Last week I spoke about walking down the garden path at my mom’s home. During that visit, my golden retriever Sydney and I also walked through mom’s old neighborhood to downtown San Rafael where the craftsman-style homes and cottage charm remain guarded by the sparkle of picket fences.
The walk reminded me how the mode of transportation changes one’s perspective. As often as I drove to mom’s house, I failed to notice the details of this changing landscape in the old neighborhood. To further this thought, there is nothing like walking a dog to slow the pace, as they sniff around every tree and bush along the way.
Yes, the old neighborhood had changed over the years. Lawns had shrunk or disappeared and been replaced with many low-water-use plants. Clumps of blue fescue now accented garden art where green lawn once grew. Watsonia grew wild along the sidewalks and threatened to burst into vibrant red flowers before my eyes. Glorious blooming geraniums grew around beautiful roses that framed the garden walks. Wildflowers poked out their heads here and there reminding me that their ancestors were here long before the neighborhood.
Shade gardens also remained true with low-water-use plants tucked neatly in flower beds. Bear’s breeches cast their shade with huge leaves on winter daphne, Lenten rose and coral bells. These old-fashioned plants seemed the right combination for this hydrozone and neighborhood. The streets were lined with old sycamore trees whose uplifted roots brought additional awareness to the walk.
One garden intermixed vegetables with flowers. It was neatly fenced with wire mesh to keep stray critters from entering. The French-intense look of this garden was young, but would grow to provide produce as well as lovely color when mature.
During the walk, I wondered what had prompted the change in landscaping over the years. Were people tired of the weekly maintenance found in mowing, fertilizing and edging their lawns? Are these cottage gardens time-savers as well as beautiful? Or, are people selecting these plants for their water savings? Whatever prompted the trend to change, it was good to see. There were so many sights to admire, so many ideas to store away, and one tired 15-year-old pup that slept well that night!
On Saturday, May 19, find time to walk through other gardens in other neighborhoods as MMWD helps to host the annual Marin Bay-Friendly Garden Tour, along with the Bay-Friendly Landscaping & Gardening Coalition, Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program and North Marin Water District. There will be 12 beautiful gardens that promise to fill you with ideas for your own home. The self-guided tour is certain to slow your pace and draw your attention to the little details that will make your garden shine. This Friday, May 11, is the last day to register online, so sign up now!
Have a very happy Mother’s Day and a delightful weekend.