Landscape: The Ride

By Jesse Eastman, Owner of Fort Collins Nursery

Last fall my wife and I had the pleasure of purchasing our first house together. It’s on a good sized lot, nearly ¼ acre, with lots of room for a vegetable garden, room in the back yard for the dogs to play, and a small and manageable front yard. Beyond that, there’s not a lot I can say about it. The front yard is almost all lawn, with a gigantic linden and a small silver maple. The back is mostly weeds, and the garden area was buried in four inches of dyed red mulch. Needless to say, the landscape was not the key selling point. 

If you’ve been in a similar situation, you may be familiar with the rollercoaster of emotions I’m currently on. Even before you’ve gotten to the front of the line, you see how big that rollercoaster is and you wonder if you’re actually brave enough to buckle up and take that ride. At first I feel overwhelmed, daunted, absorbing how dull and basic my property looks and what it will take to make it special. Just removing all that red mulch will be a monumental effort, and who knows what’s underneath it.

As winter sets in, the sheer joy of having committed to the ride takes hold. My imagination runs wild, and I grow increasingly excited about the possibilities. I’ll start with the front yard. Tear out the lawn. Get the linden professionally pruned. Cut down the silver maple and replace it with something smaller, but what? Fantasies about redbuds, hawthorns, and all other manner of small ornamental trees float through my mind’s eye. Replace a retaining wall with large staggered blocks of stone. Design my own xeriscape. I can picture the whole thing.

Along comes spring, and the cart crests the apex and I am hurtling down the tracks towards madness. The realization that I won’t have a vegetable garden is looming large. I try hard to convince myself that it is ok, that this is a process, this will be a building year and next year I’ll grow a garden. Alas, my urge to grow food is too strong, so the front yard will have to wait. Scrape out the red mulch in the garden area (I’ve removed nearly two cubic yards and there’s still more). Install a garden fence to keep the dogs out. Figure out irrigation. Control the weeds. It’s already May, and I don’t even know what I’m going to grow. Mental fatigue is starting to set in, but I’ve nearly got the fence built, and even if I only manage to grow one decent tomato, I should be content.

An unexpected loop in the track has me once again reevaluating my choices. If I leave my front yard for later, my house will be frustratingly bare. What’s a home without a little bit of color? I’ve still got my nice big clay pots, already filled with soil, waiting for some showy annuals to brighten my entryway. That’s an achievable goal, and isn’t that what success is, a series of short achievable goals that just keep adding up until you’ve accomplished something great?

Soon the cart will pass through its final twist and coast back into the station, my adrenaline will be spent, my heart rate will return to normal. Maybe this summer I’ll get back around to working on the front yard. But then again, I’ll need time to recover, maybe a vacation. Plus I know once I’ve started down the path of veggie gardening, I’ll get tunnel vision and won’t be able to focus on anything else until harvest.

Good thing I’m an adrenaline junky who loves feeling I’m just beyond my limits. Maybe this rollercoaster of a landscape isn’t so bad after all.

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