Tuesday, September 4

On the Road--er, Sidewalk

Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Jack Kerouac's On the Road. I was probably too young when I first read the book to grasp every nuance, but it was still an eye-opening experience. I have long meant to go back and read it again... but frankly there are other writers of the Beat Generation whose voices and writings I enjoy more than Kerouac's. (Maybe "enjoy" isn't always the right word--sometimes gut-wrenching would be more appropriate a term--but you know what I mean.)

In honor of this influential novel, and spurred by a recent flurry of "A Long Walk" posts from chuck b., I thought you might like to take in some of the sights that I see while giving my Garden Assistant her morning and evening constitutionals. This morning we just did the short block, as it was already hot outside and Coco has no way to take off her heavy fur coat:

Gnarled tree roots from a badly positioned treelawn specimen. In some places, they are more than 8 inches higher than the sidewalk, and you can often see where the bluestone squares were lifted and the tree roots cut in order to relevel the sidewalk.

The guy who put this front bed in is a renter, and his landlord paid him back for whatever he purchased to put in this front bed. I know this because he bought most of it at the small garden center where I worked in 2005. The lilies are amazingly fragrant in the late summer during our evening walks.

The older couple next door to him has a thing for old-fashioned annuals, which they start from seed and use to fill the bed in front of their foundation hedge. The nicotiana on the right opens up at night, but its scent--if it has one--doesn't travel far enough to reach us on the sidewalk.

This used to be my favorite landscaping. Where the new weeping cherry is on the left, a stately, dark grey, completely dead 20ft. tall tree resided for the last two years. It was surrounded by various grasses and it looked so interesting that I didn't realize that the center tree was dead until late July one year. I was encouraged that they left it up all last summer as well, but unfortunately they "fixed" the "eyesore" this spring.

This lion could easily kick my lions' butts. (And I bet he's cranky enough to do it, too--I would be if I had to balance my hulking frame on such a relatively small pedestal.) I love how he's licking he's paw, and I'm glad they planted him a riot of petunias to admire. I think he needs some savannah grasses, too, though.

Beware of Dick helping Jane cross the street with their attache cases in hand?

This is my new favorite landscaping on the block. What perfect landscaping to have in front of a bungalow... and they are obviously foliage fanatics with all of the coleus, purple heart, and window boxes of fancy caladiums. In the winter, the most adorable clumps of snowdrops pop up in random spots within the stone border.

Very neat, very clean, very all-American. I like the simplicity of this, but last year they used salmon pink geraniums and that looked nicer with the tan brick and light green upper story siding IMHO.

The shrubs that started my August impulse buying... tree peonies on the Western side of an old house on the walk route! There are 4 of these monsters here (the fourth is on the back corner, out of camera range) and they have to be amazingly old. I have admired their gnarled, knobby branches during the winter months and their handsome foliage since I moved here, but I never quite knew what they were until I saw smaller specimens at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. The owners cut them back each spring, unfortunately, so I never have seen them bloom.

This is the front bed of the same house... I think of it as the Prairie House because of this planting and the dark-wheat color of the siding. The three tall plants in this bed all bloom at different times: Yarrow first, then Monarda, and now some sort of perennial sunflower.

"Why do you always stop and smile over this self-sown alyssum? Simple fence, simple flowers... no tomatoes or beans to steal or lemongrass to chew. Move it along, woman--it's hot! Time to get back to the house and share a frozen fruit bar!"

Blackswampgirl's house, as seen from the corner of the nearest cross street. Bob would not approve of that messy edge, but then my humble foursquare is nowhere near to estate status so I suppose I'm okay. (And if I get up the gumption, the rest of that grass could be gone by the fall anyway... but more on that later.)

Hope you all enjoyed the mini tour. It's nowhere near as entertaining as chuck b.'s, I'm afraid, but this is the first ever walking tour post so you'll have to cut me some slack. I have a few other neighborhoods to show you, too, so I'll see if I can't step it up for those!


Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the walking tour of your neighborhood, Kim. It's interesting how well a sense of place can be conveyed that way.

Carol Michel said...

Thanks for taking us along on your walk today. It was fun! Maybe this is a new meme... we all walk our neighborhoods taking pictures of the good and bad of the landscapes and post on our blogs?

Unknown said...

I like your lions better than your neighbour's lions, Kim. This was rather fun, (and I love the freerange alysum, too.
I won't be able to play if we do a neighbourhood meme--my neighbour's are all but one half-a mile or further from me. The joys of rural life....:-)

Unknown said...

Pam, it is funny how well a sense of place can be conveyed that way. I think that's part of why I've been so addicted to reading chuck's "Long Walk" posts... I feel like I'm visiting San Francisco this way!

Carol, Queen of the Garden Memes! lol. That would definitely be fun--I didn't have the heart to show anything truly bad, though. (What if my neighbors would see? And even the "bad" is at least an effort, so I have trouble pointing out the shortcomings, you know?)

Jodi, you could take your bike... :) My lions stood up a little straighter when I told them just now that they were better than the ones down the street, btw. *grin*

Anonymous said...

Kim, I like your lions the best too. It's interesting to see what your neighborhood looks like. I wonder if your neighbors walk by and say I wish our yard looked like hers. Carol, I'm up for that meme. I did post on a walk in late July, but I could head off in a different direction.

Unknown said...

How nice to post pictures from your neighbourhood.
Here in Canada, if the front of the house is decorated with lions,
you can bet the owners are from Europe (Italy).
Have you noticed, that most garden blogs show only their backyards??
cheers Gisela

chuck b. said...

I hope people take up this meme. Finally. :)

What kind of small tree is that in your garden?--The one that looks like a Japanese maple.

Unknown said...

Heather, thanks! I can tell you that most of the neighbors, if they're walking by while I happen to be outside working, make general comments like, "It's looking great!" or "What a lot of work you do on your yard!" (Honestly, I don't except for the occasional mulching or deadheading--the front garden looks complex but it's so low-maintenance it's silly.) The guy two doors down stopped his car in the middle of the street a month or so ago to ask me if I would come and take a look at their backyard, and/or help them landscape their "investment property" in a neighboring suburb, though. I thought that was sweet of him, but I said I didn't know if I could do this kind of stuff on that scale. He said I needed to think about it seriously. lol.

Gisela, that makes sense re: the lions as they seem very Italianate to me, too. These are old statues but they were apparently bought at a salvage place and cemented onto their current homes by my immediate predecessors in this house. They were of Middle Eastern decent, judging by the last names on the mail we still occasionally receive for them. Kind of a funny tie-in to the old Sean Connery movie "The Wind and the Lion," which my boyfriend and I often quote in regards to those statues: "Lions... lions would please the Sultan." :)

chuck b., I'm glad you approve... I had wondered if you would be upset at me stealing your post idea, even though it was done because I enjoy yours so much.

The small tree is in fact a Japanese maple! I inherited it with the house, and it has gotten bigger every year so far. I'm going to have to learn to artfully prune it pretty soon so it doesn't venture into the neighbor's driveway.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

As walks go, this was a nice one, so thanks Kim. :-)BTW my favorite landscaping on this walk is to be found on the last pic of this post.;-)

firefly said...

I don't mean to rain on your or chuckb's parade, and I think the idea of showing gardens in the neighborhood is interesting (I've been wanting to do it myself), but ... are there potential legal issues here similar to publishing the photo of a person?

That is, do you need permission to photograph and publish pictures of your neighbors' houses?

I work in publishing, but I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know the answer to this. Maybe a house on a public street is a public presence and there are no privacy or ownership issues.

On a personal level, though, if I saw a picture of my house on someone's blog (especially with a comment about the garden) I'd be pretty unhappy if the person hadn't let me know it was coming.

kate said...

Hi Kim,

That was a wonderful neighbourhood tour. I think your lions definitely have more flair. There are some interesting places on your walk. Now I want a tree peony too.

Coco is adorable - give him a pat for me and my dog.

Annie in Austin said...

I loved your stroll, Kim - your neighbors' homes have such different personalities and some neat old-fashioned brickwork, too.

But I'd be too chicken to take photos of other people's houses for the blog - Bernal seems to be a very different place from my neighborhood. Do you have signs posted at the entrance to the grocery store warning you that it's against code to bring your gun into the store? We do!

Aren't you tempted to knock on the door of the people with the tree peonies and instruct them that the proper procedure is to wait until after bloom to prune them back?

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Anonymous said...

Kim, I was intrigued by the ethics-of-photography discussion and went and blogged about it: http://www.penick.net/digging/?p=332. Thanks for an inspiring post.

Unknown said...

YE, thanks... you're so sweet!

firefly, good comment there. I meant to include in my post a mention that I took all of the photos I posted from public sidewalks/roadways, and they all showed front yards (which are normally visible to the public anyway.) I also refrained from mentioning the street names and other specific identifiers as a courtesy even though I don't believe that's a legal requirement for non-commercial photography. (News crews, for example, can tape from the street and refer to something that happened at "this house on X Street" while showing the house at which a newsworthy event occurred.)

It's my understanding that issues are not so much with taking photographs of private property itself (so long as you take them from public property) as they are with taking photographs of people who can reasonably expect to have privacy in the location in which they are photographed. (i.e. Snapping a pic through the slats of a fence that shows a woman sunbathing topless in her backyard.)

It would have been a nice courtesy to ask everyone's permission, of course, but frankly most of these people are rarely even outside to ask--not in the front, anyway. And somehow I would feel worse about intruding on their dinner with a knock on the door than just publishing an anonymous photo of their house, although that may seem silly.

I also thought about how I would feel if someone published a photo of my front yard on their blog... and decided that I would be fine with it, even if they said it was "a huge mess," or "a waste of time and money in terms of resale value, when most people want simplicity and less yardwork in a house they buy," (both of which can be true)--or some other less-than-complimentary comment. I may be tempted to post a comment pleading my case in return, though. :)

Kate, my local garden center is selling them at $23 each (half price) right now on clearance... if only you weren't across the border, I could buy and send you one! (Coco says thanks for the pat--and for the treat that I took the liberty of giving her on your behalf as well. lol.)

Annie, we have those signs, too--because Ohio now has concealed carry laws. (I think that's what you call them?) I did feel a little odd taking pictures like that, but I kept people out of all pictures and was fully prepared to: 1) explain to someone what I was doing, 2) agree to not show their house if asked, 3) pass out the little slips of paper I stashed in my back pocket with web addy printed on them, created to give to anyone who wanted to see what I was going to do with the pictures.

I am SO tempted to knock on the door of the tree peony house, by the way! It's a double, though, and I don't know if the owner lives upstairs, downstairs, or off premise entirely. I just hope that they don't ever take those bushes out entirely... that as a rental it's unlikely to see a landscape overhaul any time soon is my only solace. :)

pam/digging, thanks for doing the research and putting that post up online!

Anonymous said...

Kim, you're absolute right with your understanding of the law above. Speaking as a person who had a photo of the front of her house and her car (complete with license plate number) printed on the front page of the local newspaper -- with a sad story on our neighbor committing suicide -- it's completely legal and there's not a thing you can do about it. I had the same concerns when I did a post about my evening walk earlier in the summer, but rest assured you've violated no one's privacy.

Gotta Garden said...

So, you're a fan of the Beat Generation! How interesting! I must confess but for an English Professor whose specialty was said group, I would know little. But, ahem, one class later (now many years later), I actually read On the Road and Howl...

Anyway, enjoyed your tour! What cool cool houses! You must love living there!

Btw, I'm with you...I could not put photos up of someone's bad landscaping...they might love it...all in the eye of the beholder, you know. A former (oh happy day when they moved) neighbor once told me my garden-in-progress was a jungle. How little he knew about gardening (and I'm still paying for some of his mistakes)...sometimes I just laugh thinking about what he would say now...(what's worse than a jungle??)...as it has only gotten larger. That eye of the beholder thing again...

I will have to go check out Pam's post.

Colleen Vanderlinden said...

I enjoyed your walking tour....your neighborhood is so pretty! There is this one house I've been dying to post about on my blog, but I haven't taken photos of it yet. Maybe now I'll take my camera on my next walk and snap a few photos.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

I wish my neighborhood had character like yours. I think I will do a walking the neighborhood blog, though it would be more interesting to do it in the Spring when some lawns around here are loaded with little flowers.
As far as taking photos of someone's garden goes, last I read was that the front yard is a "public space" in which the owner has no privacy interest to protect. Granted, I've been out of law school for a long time & haven't done any privacy cases for 10 years, so my opinion may not be definitive here.
BTW I've been meaning to tell you I like your gardening assistant. She reminds me of my own late lamented Coco (I'm not making this up, that was her name exactly), a beagle/terrier mix with possibly some Lab & Shepard in there too. Your dog's face is very similar. My Coco didn't like vegetables unless they had salad dressing on them, but she loved to chomp mushroom compost!

Anonymous said...

Kim: What a nice neighborhood and I love that we can see more of the garden as a 'whole'! Thanks!

Ottawa Gardener said...

Can I vote for your garden as the best landscaped on your walk?

Yolanda said...

I love your neighborhood and house.

Rosemarie said...

I, too, totally enjoyed this neighborhood walking garden tour! I love to eye other people's gardens so this was fun to "tag" along with you.

lisa said...

Nice tour, and I'm with the other commenters, YOUR landscaping is best! I'm WAY behind in meme participation, but I'd do the tour meme if it comes to fruition!

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