Home & Design

Green Acre #49: How Does My Garden Grow?

This car’s owner must REALLY want a garden! / Photo by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

WHEN I WRITE my book about ugly gardens, which I shall do as soon as I’ve finished the other books I’m planning to write, this garden, photographed, will be the first one I’ll feature.

And why, you might ask.

I pass it near daily on my schlep to Capitol Hill’s Eastern Market to get coffee and whatnot. It is too irritating to ignore.

However, each time I whip out my camera, one of the denizens pops out and gives me the evil eye, like they’re lurking behind the door waiting for me to appear. And there I am.

So I pretend to be otherwise engaged, fiddling with my lens, casually humming to myself while shooting pictures of tree branches or the sidewalk, or examining the sole of my flip-flop for dog droppings and then sidling on by.

Designed to be ugly? / Photo here and on the front by Stephanie Cavanaugh.

Today I won! I tiptoed forth, whipped the camera up, and snap snap. Triumph!

The thought behind an ugly garden is always most interesting. This patch was clearly designed to look this way. A severely listing rusted mailbox announces the garden’s entry. A line of rocks edges the brick path running from the gate to the front door and trims the base of the chain-link fence that surrounds the yard. A fence painted an effortful white, by the way.

Bricks also surround brick-colored patches of mulch and form a platform for a child’s turtle-shape sandbox that stares balefully through the links. Poor kid.

Appropriately, a pair of hazard cones stand like giant petrified candy canes along the alley fence.

I believe this would be known as the hardscaping.

As for greenery, there’s an impish fringe of weed along the path and fence line and a pot of dusty-looking zinnias (I think) beside the front door. Dirty white plastic window boxes sit empty on the windowsills.

On a somewhat more colorful note, there are rose-color plastic chairs planted next to the house.

As I may or may not have previously pointed out, a vividly colored chair or pot or umbrella can brilliantly stand in for flowers when the flowers are, for whatever reason, not.  Generally, however, this trick works best when there’s a spot of green around.

Curiously, there’s a rather handsome-looking Chinese screen filling the home’s bay window,  completely obliterating the garden view, as if even the perpetrators of this dismal plot can’t stand more than a wincing glance at their creation.

Or . . . maybe it was deliberately designed for tax evasion purposes—a sleight-of-sight obscuring the miniature Versailles within?

I could discuss my old neighbor Dr. Bruce and the dump he perpetrated on his neighbors, but I won’t.

Meanwhile, across the street from this delightful vision is a vehicle belonging to someone who clearly wants a garden so badly he or she or s/he or, to be perfectly gender neutral, ze, has AstroTurfed the car—and apparently drove it here from California. Appropriately decorated for both St. Patrick’s Day and Easter, there’s a bunny yoked to the front grill, and a leprechaun hat on the back platform. The aerial is covered with a strange yellow furz, as though the car hit a duck and the bird feathers fwapped around the metal pole. I don’t know what kind of car this is . . .


Oh, wait. Is it similar to mine? Does it resemble the banged-up yellow Mustang peeking from behind, the one with the door swung open (because it doesn’t close without some effort)? It’s not a convertible, sniff. But the body is certainly similar. People often gaze at my car with interest; in fact, I stopped at Safeway on my way home today and when I came out with my bananas and pierogi I found two gentlemen discussing its . . . attributes, I suppose. The twin curves of broken windshield, the patches of red paint peeping through the yellow, the artfully applied duct tape.

I offered to sell it. They laughed. “How old is it?” asked one.  “It’s an ’87,” I said. “Same age as my first car,” he laughed, patting his shiny black Lexus parked in the next slot over. “It runs,” I muttered.

AstroTurf. I hadn’t thought of alternative coverings.  Maybe a nice indoor-outdoor floral?

—Stephanie Cavanaugh

LittleBird Stephanie obviously appreciates all aspects of the urban landscape. You can read earlier columns by searching for Green Acre in the Search box at the top of the page.


One thought on “Green Acre #49: How Does My Garden Grow?

  1. Carol says:

    Too many loved elements in this piece, along with the ‘garden’ I have also passed numerous times, wondering what the owners were thinking.
    As always, I hear your voice through your words. That’s the best!

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