While Mitch and the girls are gone one of my major projects has been working on the side yard. I can't work on this area at all while they are here because you can't go outside without the girls wanting to go. And if you go in the side or the front, that means there are no real barriers between the girls and the street and the girls and the neighbor's yard. Thus instead of working on the yard you spend your whole time trying to keep Josie out the street and trying to keep Lucy from collecting each and every one of the ten thousand white rocks that make up our neighbor's front yard.
Why would a person need to work on their side yard you might ask? Well one might want to work on their side yard if a) it was covered in nasty weeds b) it was full of cat shit and piss so that the entry to one's house smells like a sewer or c) it is full of foxtails that have the potential to lodge in your cat's or your children's skin and then travel into their bodies causing all sorts of problems. It turns out in our case that all of the above are true.
In my dream world (the dream) the side entrance to our house would be a fantastic wall of wonderfully tall and amazingly colorful flowers that greet you at all times of the year and shepard you in a tunnel of color and floral smells into our house. This is the dream only for several reasons. First, the space available for planting is 7.5 inches on one side of the sidewalk and one foot on the other side of the sidewalk. Second, this tiny real estate is north facing and lodged between the canyon walls of our house and the neighbor's house so it doesn't get much light. And third, it so happens that Mitch's dream of this entire area is that it be paved and interfere in no way with the passage of strollers, bicycles, scooters, etc. and require no maintenance. I already tried to fix this area up twice: once by planting flowers that unfortunately were trailing and had to be seriously pruned back about every three weeks or they overtook the entire sidewalk. I then ripped these flowers out and replaced them with some low growing flowering plants that have been o.k. but I only had the time and energy to plant them in the first five feet next to the door.
One final note on the dream. Even within the current physical constraints, I figured I could get close to the dream by creating a vertical planter bed on the narrow side of the sidewalk (we also have crappy soil so we need a better planting medium). I considering getting some of the corrugated roofing material (plastic not metal) and bolting it with brackets to the wall that runs paralell to our sidewalk and then filling the whole space with dirt. This way I could create a planter bed that was 7.5 inches wide but about two feet deep and then plant this area with some spectacular, vertical growing plants like gladiolas or bamboo or something. Thus creating a green tunnel towards our house. This vision is also a dream because I am not very handy and feel unable to accomplish this feat by myself, it doesn't really fit with Mitch's vision for the area, and finally, its not very practical as long as we are still in the stroller phase of life and need room to move out there. This dream may still become a reality if we are in this house for another five years.
So, what you ask, is the reality? Well I can promise that the entrance to our house is no longer a weed infested litter box. Nor, however, is it a tranquil tunnel of flowering green beauty. Instead, it is a little like the patio at your grandmother's apartment at the old folks home. It contains a lot of grey concrete pavers, with scattered small flowers like marigolds and alyssum, and a smattering of kitchy garden decor in homage to my own grandma's garden including frogs on a leaf, four little birds, and a big lizard. Unfortunately I couldn't find any garden gnomes that weren't breakable (with the strollers and the girls, only kitsch that was made out of weird modern plasticine type materials were selected). I will post photos this week sometime after my camera battery finishes charging and when I am home during daylight hours to take a photo.
I must say that I don't love the reality of the new side yard, but it is still a big improvement over cat pee and prickles.