Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yowsa Yard

I'm not the owner of the pictured house, nor am I the designer of the pictured front yard, but I'm fairly envious of the knowledge and commitment and creativity of owner.

I came across this house on a random trip around town while driving down a street that I may not ever have seen before.  Finding it is a testament to a friend's practice of purposely driving unusual routes from point A to point B on occasions when you're not in a hurry.  I was with the aforementioned friend and we took a detour for him to show me a small hidden park in Manhattan.   This house was a WBC (wow!-brake!-camera!) event; defined by a moment when you are stunned by a garden while driving, suddenly slam on the brakes, and take a photo out the window to document the vision of the gardener.

Here is everything we've been talking about in natural landscape;  a smaller, less-carbon-footprint house, a front yard of ornamental grass that needs mowing only once a year (composed primarily of what I think is Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster'), and a few native perennials to brighten up the edges (notice the remnants of the Black-eyed Susans to the lower right).  It seems to be right out of the recommendations of influential texts such as Sara Stein's Noah's Garden.   I didn't go creeping around the house, but there is likely only a very small back yard surrounded by some woody areas.  I took this photo knowing I'd blog about it, all the while hoping that the owner wasn't calling the police about the stalkers taking pictures from the road.  I disguised the location by eliminating the house number from the picture, so I hope the owner doesn't mind the anonymous publicity.  They'll get a visit soon enough, however, from the Garden Tour group with an eye towards being a host site of a future Tour.

I love this landscaping and this house (particularly since our empty-nest home seems suddenly too large), but I also know that I can't do this on the Flint Hills prairie that I live on.  This house is relatively safe in town, surrounded by miles of paved crossing roads, but imagine this yard and house out on the Kansas prairie (or in Southern California) with a grass fire moving towards it.  Yikes!


  1. It is a very striking garden, clearly designed by someone with a good eye .

  2. Looks great, Less is more. Love the prairie look for sure. I would like to see a red however.

  3. This is a beautiful front yard for your area. It is a wavy wonderland of grass. I have liatris here in Western North Carolina and love to see photos of them where they are native. Even if you mowed them down right after. Nature could have done it with a plague of grasshoppers. We have lots of "sweet autumn clematis", which is rampant. It had to be ripped out when it was approaching 15' tall on a porch railing. It seeds everywhere, and I consider it invasive at my house, along with bittersweet. But so ethereal in bloom and fragrant too. Just can't have it here.
    I live vicariously through your rose posts...there is too much black spot here, plus pests and I had to rip those out too. Thanks for your gardening stories; I've looked forward to them for a couple of years now. We don't have prairies here, so no terrifying prairie fires. Since I'd never read the "Little House" books till a year ago or so, when I was just about ready for Medicare, I'd never read such descriptions of grasshoppers and fire that threaten people in Kansas and other states in the Midwest.

    1. Thanks for the kind words about the stories. Writing them is so cathartic sometimes, I can't tell you the relief!

  4. Do you like the planting schemes of Piet Oudolf or Dan Pearson? Their style is very naturalistic and this garden reminded me of their designs. By the way, your comments about prairie fires reminded me of the time we had a bonfire in the field behind our house which got a bit 'out of control'. The Fire Brigade had to be called and we still have the photo of 2 fire engines parked in the field! This experience was bad enough but a real prairie fire must be frightening. Helen!

  5. Yes, the specter of a grass fire is why I have buffalo grass lawns around the house. Even if we don't mow them (and we haven't this year), they stay a calm 5-6" tall and, combined with perennial beds around the house, would hopefully keep a grass fire from turning into a house fire. That said, if we're not home if/when it happens, it's not a sure bet at all.

    I love this yard and immediately think of a couple profs that I knew, years and years and years ago, during my abortive attempt to combine masters' level landscape architecture and raising 2 preschool kids with a military doc husband. I learned that when they told us we'd be living in Seaton Hall, they weren't kidding - and since my family life wouldn't allow that, the education had to be axed. I wouldn't be at all surprised, though, to find out that one or another of those profs had a hand in this yard, though.

    My only beef is that I wish the homeowner had chosen a native grass.....


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