How Neighborly Is Your Front Yard?

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On my many walks around the neighborhood, I see a lot of personalities expressed through front yards.  Many front yard landscapes leave me with a distinct impression of the sort of people who may live inside.  Do you interpret them the same way I do?

Front yard fruit and vegetable gardens sometimes make the news when city officials want to see them moved to the backyard.  Here in Portland they are a common occurrence, and I’m all for ’em.  What a friendly gesture it is to plant something edible right by the sidewalk–practically inviting passersby to share in the fruits of your labor!

strawberries in front yard

In my neighborhood, you might find strawberries in the front yard,

blueberries in the front yard


kiwi in the front yard

or even kiwis.


fruit in the hell strip

This neighbor has apple, pear, persimmon, medlar, and cherry in the “hellstrip” between the sidewalk and the street, and raspberries overhanging the fence.


sign on plum tree

Another neighbor has plums.  The owner was happy to share some of the bounty in the fall, but urged pickers to be sensible about it and not waste any by picking too early.


tortured camellias

Some people think edible landscapes are too wild-looking.  They worry about creating hiding spaces for mice and snakes.  They might feel more at ease with a landscape like this, with its neatly clipped lawn, one tree, and a few tortured camellias.  Personally, I would rather risk being startled by a garter snake now and again than to live without color and variety, not to mention food for birds, butterflies, and bees.


lawn ecological desert

Ditto this All-American front yard with its clean and prim expanse of lawn.  Some people think this is the neighborly thing to do, but I see it as an ecological desert.

formal front yard

If you really like the look of a formal garden, here’s a better way to do it.  There won’t be much color after the azaleas and wisteria are done blooming, but at least it has some structural interest.


azara microphylla

I think it’s mighty neighborly to plant sweet-smelling plants in the front yard.  This humble-looking little tree is Azara microphylla, and it smells like cocoa when it blooms in March.  The owners could have kept it all to themselves in the backyard, but instead they planted it by the front gate.  Thank you!


dahlias in the front yard

Why not use the front yard as a showcase for your collection of high-impact ornamental plants, too?  This terraced front yard holds dahlias.  I must remember to return here in late summer.  Dahlias have huge flowers (hence the stakes), and I’m betting these will be all different colors.


thomas vetter garden

This beautiful front-yard garden has many layers of interest that change throughout the year.  The plants were carefully chosen for their suitability to the site, and look happy and healthy as a result.


prunus yedoensis over fence

Some people feel the need to maintain their privacy with a tall fence.  Even they can share with people walking by, as the owners of this Yoshino cherry do…

garden spills over privacy fence

as well as the owners of this garden which spills over the fence.


azalea imprisoned behind chainlink fence

Speaking of fences, I realize chainlink is a cheap and effective solution if you have a dog that needs to be contained, but I feel sorry for the plants imprisoned behind them.  They ruin the look of the landscape.


passalong iris1

Some homeowners share not only their plants’ fruits and scents and flowers, but the plants themselves!  Irises are especially popular for sharing.  This purple iris grows in front of the house we’re renting…

passalong iris6

And the same iris can be found two doors down…

passalong iris2

And down the street the other way…

passalong iris3

And a little further down the street…

passalong iris4

And on the next street over…

passalong iris5

And a little further down on that street.  That iris gets around!


little free library2

Some homeowners have these “Little Free Libraries” in their front yard, where you can take a book or leave a book.  How neighborly is that?  Do you have these in your city?


spider in the jasmine

Some people use their front yard to show that they have a sense of humor.  I really did jump the first time I saw this fake spider crouching in the jasmine, but now it makes me smirk.


creepy face in the gardent

Just like this creepy face in another garden,

bowling ball edging front yard

and this front yard bowling ball edging.


old bike wheel trellis

Some use the front yard to show off their creativity.  This trellis was made out of bike wheels.

jigsaw puzzle piece steppers

I might have to steal this idea–stepping stones shaped like jigsaw puzzle pieces!

crocheted rock cozies

I’m not so sure about this one.  Handmade crocheted rock cozies.  I don’t know what this says about the person that lives here.



And then again, if you want to cut to the chase, you can just put up signs declaring your feelings toward passersby.  That should explain directly how you feel.  Or better yet, put FOUR signs on the same house.  I think we get what the message is here.


All right!  I’m moving along.


Okay, okay, I get it!







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10 Responses

  1. Loree / danger garden
    Loree / danger garden at | | Reply

    Now you’ve got me wondering what my front garden says about me. Probably something along the lines of “crazy plant lady lives here”…although I have had several people ask me if I used to live in Arizona…

  2. Alison
    Alison at | | Reply

    Like Loree, I wonder what my front garden says about me too. Definitely “crazy plant lady.” I’ve had a few walkers thank me for creating something beautiful for them to look at.

  3. Anna K
    Anna K at | | Reply

    Ha! Pretty sure I too, am considered the crazy plant addict on our block! But I do think I’m pretty neighborly – I happily share with whomever would like a start of whatever it might be. All they have to do is ask… 🙂

  4. Jane / MulchMaid
    Jane / MulchMaid at | | Reply

    I think most of my corner front yard tells very little about me. With three big shade trees, the west-facing part has been left for last in the garden development saga, and I still don’t know how I’m going to deal with it. The sunny south-facing part tells a little of my story, but judging from the fact that there’s there’s so much thin, weedy grass left elsewhere, people probably think we love it!

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