Thursday, February 10, 2005

Home and Garden: Some Ideas From My Neighborhood

It's really not spring yet, but to go shopping you wouldn't know it what with all the summer clothes and sandals on the shelves. (Side note: I actually heard myself say [to myself] "Yes, it's maternity but it IS size small," before I threw something on sale in the cart today.) But here in Utah there is snow on the mountains, and we still need to wear coats. Nevertheless, it is fun to start thinking about yard work again, or in my case--to start thinking about the yard work our Hispanic laborer will soon be doing for us. I usually get ideas for my yard from magazines or seed catalogs, but as I was driving around today, waiting (hoping) for Ben to fall asleep in the car as is my usual practice, I noticed some interesting landscaping ideas in my neighborhood--remarkable for their uniqueness.

The first thing that caught my eye--and this might work well for your home--was a grouping of large butterflies affixed right onto the front of the house. Generally you see these butterflies in groupings of threes. Perhaps that's how they are sold? Although I've never seen them for sale or advertised anywhere. What strikes me about these butterflies is their scale. They are, perhaps, 1,000 times life size. Do the people who display these decorations wish butterflies were that big? In a perfect world would butterflies be that big? You just have to ask yourself, if butterflies were that big, would we still regard them as such lovely creatures? I say no--a resounding no. Still, as a decoration it's not quite the stuff of nightmares.

I was a little surprised to see an abundance of fake flowers/ivy. As I mentioned before: I do not live in Californian where a mild climate might allow for year-round flowers to sprout enthusiastically around the foot of your mailbox. It is winter. Most yards are completely dead and brown so the placement of fake plastic flowers and ivy in window boxes, around mailboxes, and, in some cases, straight into the ground haphazardly around the yard is fairly conspicuous. The snow just barely melted. It will probably snow again. So I think these homeowners must be going for an ironic theme in their yard. And I can appreciate the subtle humor of it, as well as the beautiful contrast between dead/fake alive.

I have seen the use of a focal point in gardening magazines, so I am familiar with that. But the people around my neighborhood are so creative. They not only create a focal point in their yards, they also convey a sense of history with an unexpected object: The wagonwheel. I don't know where these wheels come from. Presumably they are handed down from family to family to spruce up flowerbeds and grace walkways. Some people have more than one. In fact, while the wagon wheel is the most common, there are enough plows, partial saw mills, and sun-bleached skulls around my neighborhood that I'm wondering if there was some meeting I missed wherein we decided to open our own Frontier Village.

My last and favorite idea is an important aspect of the Frontier Village flair. We have a profusion of what I can only describe as black wooden cowboy silhouettes, though they can take on other shapes as well--like cats or little ladies smelling flowers. These black figures can be seen nailed up all over my part of town. I find these figures especially puzzling since I have never encountered them in any other place in my life. At a certain time of day, they might actually pass for shadows, which is, I suppose, their intended purpose. But the rest of the time when the lighting isn't right they aren't fooling anyone. So maybe they are to be appreciated simply as objects d'art. One thing is clear: I must find a way to get on the Christmas list of the builder (creator?) of the black cowboy silhouettes.

20 comments:

  1. I stumbled upon your blog. Very sweet! Thanks.

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  2. You should see the lawn decor in West Virginia. I thought there was a yard sale (in every yard) until I realized that it was really their way of landscaping. You haven't lived until you have seen a variety of rusted tractors in different shapes and sizes stragically placed all over a yard. If any of your readers live in West Virgina, please don't take offense. I was born there and by rights can comment.

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  3. What about lawn decor that has a holiday theme 365 days a year? I've seen that at a few houses..can't figure out why.

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  4. My neighbors also have fake flowers in little window boxes on their front porch. Just a couple of months ago, we looked outside and they were just paving their yard. Instead of buying a lawnmower, they just poured concrete.

    I'm trying to picture the cowboy silhouettes...what are they nailed to?

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  5. I hate the cowboy sillouettes more than anything. I've got a great idea, but I can't mention it on the internet. Excuse me while I put a 5-iron in the back of my car.

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  6. Nate -- you know this site is monitored by the Provo High tracker, right?

    I love the local decor. I especially love over-decorators. It shows that they care even if their efforts are misguided.

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  7. I know, I just was about to play some golf. My site really is monitered by officer Turner now. Oh, what a wonderful life I live. Ugh.

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  8. Lovely new comment format..you're been doing some work!

    I really don't like seeing fake foliage outside, especially the "greenery" that in the presence of UV light soon turns to "tealery."

    When we moved to New Jersey, I saw a beautiful thing in a yard that we passed whenever we went to church. It was a lovely blue metallic ball poised in mid-air upon an elegant pedestal. I was really enamored until I started seeing them EVERYWHERE and realized how cheezy they were.

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  9. There is a house on Myrtle Avenue - a lovely, old, gracious street in our town that has a canopy of jacaranda trees that stagger the imagination with their beauty when they are all abloom - and it is painted bright, ugly pink with even uglier green trim. And they "plant" fake flowers every year - and they slowly fade as summer waxes sunnier and hotter - and it's been going on for so long now, I almost like it - feels like home.

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  10. I recently saw one of the black cowboy-leaning sillouettes somewhere here in Oregon. Oh, no! They're spreading!

    Nothing has been said here about actual home colors. I'm of the opinion that a beautiful color for a home is one that doesn't stand out, but blends nicely into the surrounding scenery. Color is fine, but you know, "natural" house colors. My husband's grandmother's house is PINK. Not mauve, not blush...we're talking Barbie's Dream House Pink. Guess where we had our wedding reception? That's right...Barbie's Dream House circa 1960. (She also has green astroturf on the front porch.)

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  11. When I first moved into the house I am currently residing in there were fake flowers in the window boxes. I don't think I need to remind you that I live in California and the weather permits flowers of one kind or another all year round... and I'm not talking the plastic ones that I ripped out of the boxes and shoved into the garbage the first weekend I was here. :)

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  12. What about when peeps use old, broken down jeeps as planters and have a random front door lying against the side of their house? Oh, wait. That's in MY neighborhood (my house, actually).

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  13. Okay...what about a medieval or concrete theme? What about boats parked in the front for decor (for we know that it will probably never see an actual lake or other water mass.)?

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  14. I'm always complaining that I don't have a lawn or garden area... I am now grateful that neither does anyone else where I live.

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  15. Matt's friend/old roommate Sterling used to buy those old wagon wheels wholesale and sell them for Big Money to crafty pioneer/frontierish home decor stores. He also used to keep his supply of giant wagon wheels in their apartment's precious underground parking spot when they lived in Condo Row. Somehow they're not as quaint when they're taking up your underground parking spot in the dead of January.

    Besides brown, snowy grass and scary, spiky, bloomless rose bush branches, my front yard has nothing. My backyard, on the contrary, sports birdbaths, a garden bench, and some tiny little gardeny statues of rabbits, and also a frog with sunglasses reading the paper. As well as the similar statues that adorned the front yard before Old Man Winter blew in. It's also technically my mother-in-law's yard, though (who by the way is a great gardener and I always loved their yard when they lived here, despite or maybe because of the reading frog, et al) but since the in-laws are on a mission currently, it's my yard for a time. Maybe some of your neighbors are "homeowners" like myself who really have no clue what they're doing, but unlike me, they try. I just don't try at all, and so the rabbits and frogs remain, now surrounded by dirt and dead branches. Maybe when I'm a real homeowner I'll do better?

    I love Myrtle Avenue, by the way. And jacarandas. And I've never seen the cowboy silhouettes in Salt Lake.

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  16. I'm a really long commenter. (Commentor?) Sorry about that.

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  17. I think that those cowboys and their friends, such as the fisherman on Geneva Road, are actually made of steel plate rather than wood, making them harder to vandalize--as if anyone had such desires.

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  18. OK - so now I think I am hooked. I am a blogger greenie. I needed a good laugh to get me through the bathroom chores of the morning.

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  19. I have never seen a cowboy lawn figure migrate as far north as here in Minnesota. Maybe our bear silhouettes ate them.

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  20. I may have found the migration path of the cowboy silhouette (who has always facinated me). Now that I have been watching, I have seen them in Heber and Midway, and as far north as Jackson Hole and West Yellowstone. Maybe these are just the Rocky Mountain Silhouettes. There may be another eastern sub-species as well. Need to do further research, I think.

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