Yard Guilt and Lazy Landscaping

by James Wallace Harris, Monday, May 14, 2018

I’m an inside person. I enjoy an occasional walk in the Botanic Gardens or a bike ride through my neighborhood, but for the most part, I dwell indoors. I’m a bookworm who’s addicted to music and TV. I interact with the larger reality mostly through computer monitors and flat-screen televisions.

The trouble is I have a yard. Up till now, I like to think my yard as an independent creature that can get by without my help. We pay the lawn guys to give it a trim, and in the fall, pay the lawn guys to rake the leaves, but other than that, I leave my yard to its own resources. Wouldn’t Mother Nature know best? Oh, and every few years we have to spend the price of an OLED TV to have the trees trimmed and thinned. I don’t know what message she’s sending, but Mother Nature likes to drop large limbs on my house and yard. I wonder if she’s aiming at me? Sometimes it feels personal.

In the past, Ernie, my neighbor complained when my weeds got too tall and were pollinated his nicely kept lawn. Since then, I’ve had the lawn guys come very regularly. I figure I’ve done my neighborly duty. Other than Ernie, no one has told me I should do anything, but it worries me my neighbors spend so much time outside in their yards. What do their actions say?  In the past few years, many of my neighbors have had their lawns resodded. It makes me want to take up golfing. My yard is mostly weeds, clover, dandelions, and a smattering of grass-looking plants that may or may not be actual grass. When mowed, it’s green and flat, so I think it’s good enough.

My neighbors spend a great deal of time working on bushes and flower beds, and I’ve started feeling guilty. I don’t want to be considered a yard slacker.

Then the other day I attended a lecture given by a friend Kim on garden walks. She goes all over the country visiting different cities and towns that have garden walk tours. The point of her lecture was to convince people that garden walks improve neighborhoods dramatic ways beyond appearance. I was convinced, and her lecture made me feel even worse about my yard.

Here’s the jungle of my front yard. I have some azaleas, mostly dead or dying, some sapling trees that need to be cut down, weeds, vines, and other assorted unknown plant beings.

Front-YarsAnd here’s the jungle of half my backyard. The other half is paved for parking. Raccoons, squirrels, rats, cats, chipmunks, and other creatures live back there. Years ago we had a fox, but it got ran over. By the way, I live in the city. There are even more neighbors behind all that green.


After seeing Kim’s lecture I felt very guilty. I guess I’m letting my neighbors and neighborhood down. I’d like to think yards should belong to nature, and whatever nature wants to grow in my yard should be good enough. Evidently, city-dwellers feel a need to create their own visions of nature. I suppose my front yard should look like these yards:

Front Yard 1

Front Yard 2

Front Yard 3

But even if I take the simplest approach to landscaping, I’m going to have to learn a lot of new stuff, spend more money, work outside, and use up a bunch of my bookworm time. And the ironic thing is I won’t spend any more time dwelling outdoors. I have many nature-loving friends who plead for me to sit out on my patio. I don’t know why.

I think we need to rethink landscaping. Why does the grass need to be green and uniform? What’s wrong with weeds? It seems like we should have lawns and shrubs for the creatures that enjoy them the most – birds, squirrels, bees, moles, snakes, butterflies, wasps, slugs, rolly-pollies, etc.  We need yards that have low carbon footprints that consume CO2 and supply O2. Seems like these two yards would be more natural.

Front Yard 4

Front Yard 5

Why burn fossil fuels to maintain what nature can do on her own? Maybe I could fool my neighbors by planting some shrubs with flowers. Could it be the dobs of colors that impress people? Just plant a whole bunch of them willy-nilly and see what happens. Maybe the results will look landscaped.

I need to research plants, flowers, and shrubs that need little or no attention, but look fancy. I have no idea what to buy though. That will take some research. I just found a Pinterest site called Zero Effort Plants. That sounds good. But anyone reading this that knows about lazy-landscaping let me know.

And I hate the sound of lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and weed eaters. We need to start a landscaping movement that does away with anything that requires making noise to maintain it.


10 thoughts on “Yard Guilt and Lazy Landscaping”

  1. I have a yard that’s about a tenth the size of yours, and it looks ten times worse, which I guess means I’m a hundred times worse than you.

    It’s not that I don’t love nature—I LOVE nature, especially as seen through a window.

    1. I love nature too. I just don’t want to get to close. Just over the top of my 27″ 4K monitor is a 12′ wide window looking at my backyard. I really enjoy that view of nature. Other than an old workshop, I don’t see any houses, even though they are there behind the trees. It feels like I live out in the country. I’m very lucky.

  2. Those ‘manicured-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives’ gardens have no soul to them. They’re someone’s idea of forcing Mother Nature to do their bidding. We all know that given a season, maybe two, without human interference, Herself would reclaim what is rightfully hers.
    I think there a whole lot more beings who aren’t humans who enjoy your garden than those who are human and bemoan the ‘state of your garden’.

  3. And another precinct is about to be heard from…deep in the heart of Californica.

    My world is ensconced in a .4 acre lot, with only a 1500 sq. foot home on it at the street side. Out in the canyonlands of SoCal this is considered a waste of land. But typical realty rules say that since 50% of that property is not flat and level, it is not of importance.
    Ahem. That is bullshite and it should be recognized as such. We tore out the dying giant lawns (irrigation issues) and planted two postage stamp sized lawns (one in front, one in back) and filled the rest of the flat land with native California/southwest plants and shrubs. Oh, and a couple of fruit trees as well. The back portion of the property is a natural hillside – scrub oaks, elderberry trees, and native shrubs. We planted most of the flats with native plants and introduced some local natives onto the hillside (well after the subdivision contractors were gone). We have to consider the local tendency of wildfires, so we also have to clear low/dry vegetation each spring to avoid having fuel for wildfires if/when they occur.

    It’s one of Hobson’s choices; pretend it will never happen, or prepare and live with the results. I can provide some local and recent photos of how it looks today. I hope to never find out if we wasted a lot of money and time by seeing it all go up in flames.

    And yes, I still limp out there and sometimes climb up to where the natives are in charge of the flora. And spend money every year to have the low grasses cut down and the shrubs trimmed for fire prevention.

    And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  4. Like you, I’m an indoor cat. I loath Yard Work (as a result of my mowing lawns in my teens to earn money). Would you like a few more flowers or more books? Would you enjoy more time weeding or more time reading?

  5. Try this book:
    It’s written for the British, but I expect it won’t take too much translating; some plant names will be different.
    The introduction says:
    “This book is for that often-ignored group, the reluctant or restricted gardener”
    Sounds ideal. I have a copy. I am, generally, a reluctant gardener.

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