Natural Neighborhoods: Front Gardens

Lisa Wagner

batch4-4-webGreen comes in different forms in our urban landscapes, from street trees and public parks to hidden back gardens. All of these bits of green are important threads in the fabric of the natural world as it exists in our city.

Among the green spaces that I’ve been enjoying most recently are front gardens, which are experiencing a renaissance here in Montford (and elsewhere in Asheville), as gardeners are invigorating their gardening efforts with a variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, ground-covers, and small trees, often including edibles in the mix. There’s been a distinct uptick in front yards that are truly “gardened,” not simply maintained, resulting in a patchwork of small gardens to appreciate as I walk in the neighborhood.

I’ve particularly noticed this in smaller front landscapes, flanking small cottages and bungalows, where previously uninspiring lawns and a sprinkling of foundation plants have been replaced by artistic arrays worthy of the term “garden” rather than yard. But I’ve also seen these transformations in larger landscapes, too, as attention has turned to truly gardening outside spaces, choosing plants of textural diversity in foliage and flower color. Gardening the strips between sidewalk and fence, wall, or building has been another trend that I’ve noticed, and appreciated, whether with small sedums or tall flowering perennials. Another trend includes a much broader array of plants than was typical in the past, perhaps driven by simple availability.

Gardening is an activity that quickly can become captivating, whether it’s adding perennials that support pollinators in sunny spots, or adding shade-loving plants to a shady nook, or growing some of your own vegetables.

As a longtime garden educator and naturalist, I’ve encouraged newbies and experienced gardeners alike around a diverse array of gardening activities, from gardening for pollinators, birds, and nature to growing vegetables. A fundamental part of my message has been that garden-making is a creative and enriching activity, with the gardens we create being an expression of how we connect with the natural world.

The gardens that result are diverse; some of us enjoy a naturalistic style where others are more orderly. Color and texture preferences vary dramatically, from vibrant to calming.

These variations in gardening styles enrich the fabric of our neighborhoods, as well as expand the diversity of plants and wildlife, whether we add native or non-native plants, trees or shrubs, or vines.

There’s always room for planting something new; as we lose plants (or decide it’s time for them to go), it’s an opportunity for adding something that will enrich your garden, whether for pollinators, the table, landscape interest, or habitat. Let’s get gardening!