TRADITIONALLY, Americans have gardens and lived in yards. For us, the yard has been the space around our homes, and a garden has been a comparatively small space, within the yard, that we devote to flowers or vegetables. But in recent years, that perspective has been changing. Because the suburbs have burgeoned and property values have soared, most of us have had to settle for smaller spaces around our homes. As our yards have become smaller, we have begun to look at the entire yard as a place for living--for sitting in the sun or shade, for planting vegetables, for growing colorful and graceful trees, for enjoying the company of friends and family.
All over the country, people have started to view their entire yard as a place to cultivate. Suddenly everyone is buying new planting stock. Nurseries are booming. New plant and garden mail-order companies seem to spring up every day. Each time people put new plants into the ground, they extend that part of their property that is personal and expressive and push aside the part that is public and impersonal. They are transforming their yards into gardens.
TOO OFTEN PEOPLE look at their private space, their yard, their house, with a public eye, as though the most important goal of their life was to meet the needs of some impersonal "they." When such people design a landscape, they call in a designer and demand that the designer do the "right" thing. That way of thinking leads to an awful standardization of neighborhoods. So often the right thing turns out to be the current fad in home or gardening or style magazines, or the look shown on a popular television program, or a landscaping style that makes use of some heavily advertised gimmick or piece of equipment. As a consequence, whole neighborhoods are designed with the same foundation plantings, or the same shade tree in the front yard, or the same rail fence along the roadway. As you drive through such neighborhoods, you rarely see a shady path, a close-growing set of trees or a rock ledge with wildflowers, not because those features aren't beautiful, but because the homeowners just don't know that they are possible. Such neighborhoods are not just monotonous, they don't suit the needs of the people who live in them. They are impersonal.