No mow more every year, it seems!
Under the direction of the Head Groundskeeper, the unlettered field hands mowed the front greensward of the Stately Manor on May 28, thus ending “No Mow May.” (We’re still on the Julian calendar hereabouts.) We did our trimming at the highest setting of the Toro Recycler. Even so, the poorly paid workers left irregular patches of white clover untouched; they’re just now popping out white and pink blossom heads. Blaska’s lawn is now playing in 3D!
Made use of the time saved from working the fossil-fueled grass reaper by inspecting other neighborhoods in the company of the Lovely Lisa for inspiration and pleasure. Destination: West Lawn Avenue just off Monroe Street on the near West side. Eclectic mix of distinctive houses built between 1905 and 1930 — almost all with generous front porches, some screened, a few wrap-around. A front porch is its own welcome mat, a bridge between outside and inside. Bring them back, s’il vous plaites.
The single-family lots in the Dudgeon-Monroe neighborhood are a tidy 7,500 square feet — less than half the acreage of even the smallest lots here in Orchard Ridge on the SW side of town. Which puts houses much closer to the street than the Stately Manor. Our inspection tour — conducted with the top down on the FIAT 500C — revealed this startling factoid: Maybe one in four front yards along West Lawn Ave. (there’s no W. West Lawn or E. West Lawn) support No Lawn Whatsoever!
Never mind the truth in advertising issue (It’s a bit like calling that huge block of ice in the Atlantic Ocean “Greenland”). The residents of this progressive bastion are turning their front faces into perennial gardens: hostas, bleeding hearts, iris, poppies, and peonies — often punctuated by dwarf Japanese/Korean maples. Terraces between street and sidewalk were planted, too. Several had rain gardens — one of which was crossed with a flat wooden bridge to the entry sidewalk. Blessedly few gewgaws; no more than one gnome to a home, pls. Well placed rocks, on the other hand, are feng shui itself.
→ City of Madison requires that you keep your rent yard and terrace “well maintained” and free of noxious weeds, “but allows you to plant all sorts of things.”
→ City government’s engineering department reports 624 rain gardens so far.
→ About those median strips, none being converted in residential neighborhoods.
For size, diversity and a real Wow! factor, the best city front-yard conversion we’ve found yet is in a corner lot on Christopher Court and Merlham Drive just off Midvale Blvd (south of Regent St.). They’re pictured above. We stopped to talk to the proprietor. Lois Kinlen said she’s been planting ever since buying the property in 1990 and doesn’t mind the lookie loos. She lost track of the number of varieties planted, rolled her eyes when asked how many thousands of dollars invested, said she’s not done yet. Planning a Zen garden that will be ready next summer.
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Does any city garden as intensely as Madison WI? Maybe it’s because of our long and lonely winters.