Focus on attractive street frontages
Diana Madgin ponders an initiative to get the city's front gardens looking more attractive.
Community pride, two words that have an old-fashioned ring to them. Since the chaos wrought by earthquakes, many aspects of our living seem to have become, like these words, a thing of the past.
I feel a sense of relief that the Christchurch Beautifying Association is determined to keep some of the guiding principles of our Garden City alive - and Community Pride Street and Garden Awards is one of them.
Association president David Moyle wants to encourage Christchurch gardeners to refocus on attractive street frontages.
With the remaking of community connections a beautiful streetscape might even be possible. Moyle comments on the number of new properties that are landscaped as part of the deal, meaning neat and tidy but minimalist, with few plant varieties and nearly all the same plants from house to house.
"We don't espouse a particular style of garden," says Moyle. "But we do want to see a more fulsome garden frontage, from traditional styles to formal, maybe a finely clipped hedge, maybe espaliered fruit trees, or a row of dwarf fruit trees set amongst herbaceous colour. We're looking for beauty and difference."
Your new property, no matter how small, doesn't have to have a block boundary wall right against the front path. Ask the developer or the architect for the fence to be set back a little. Consult your local garden centre or nursery for suggestions on how to plant it up. Even a tiny space may afford an arresting letterbox surround.
Looking at street frontages more critically since this discussion with Moyle, I'm reminded of a Dutch friend who kept her windows sparkling because clean windows put a smile on your house. I took that to heart, believe it or not, and now I'm looking at my front garden. I don't think there's going to be a front wall at all. I like the garden's connection with the street. People stop to talk when there's no barrier and that's helping us to settle into this new house in a new place.
I'm thinking, like my previous garden, I'll put a bench there for mothers and children to pause on the walk home from school.
And I'll put some sweet peas against the side wall. They're not Chinese like the rest of the plants but they do impart a sensational fragrance. The pinks are from China though and they burst their buttons exuding fragrance at night.
Back to Moyle . . . I do think a fine cut hedge is pleasing and slightly mysterious to boot. Not too high though. We're looking for connection - the house holding hands with the garden, the garden chatting with the street community.
The Beautifying Association is right, earthquakes notwithstanding, there is definitely a demise in the street scape. We need more Garden City initiatives on commercial properties as well.
"They're bleak," says Moyle. "Many new landscaped entrances have no gardener employed to keep them neat, so before long they're a jungle of weeds."
We've got between now and early February to give the front garden a new look, something special. The Beautifying Association has been supporting all aspects of amenity horticulture in Christchurch for 160 years. For this award, 20 volunteers judge in the many different wards in the city. They select the winners. It could be you, it would be fun, and it helps restore the Garden City.