Make gardening more fun by tuning out the distractions in the neighbor’s yard

September 8, 2009

By Jane Garrison

We are lucky to have nice neighbors, but we know that everyone in suburbia doesn’t feel that way about their neighbors. Most of us don’t see the world the same way.In Japan, where it has been close and crowded for centuries, people have learned to create views in their own gardens, so they don’t see the neighbor or his or her yard. It was interesting to me to find out that they are able to do the same thing with noise. They train themselves not to hear what’s going on next door.

We have a neighborhood dog that barks incessantly, even yips in a high, demanding voice that is hard to avoid. So, armed with my grandson’s iPod loaded with grandmothers’ music, I braced myself and went out to weed. The dog didn’t bark. I merrily listened to Pavarotti and the Irish Tenors and weeded my way to stardom.

I thought this is the answer for Americans. We don’t have to be barraged by power lawnmowers, chainsaws, airplanes, fire trucks, barking and ninner-nanner. We do miss out on the birds, the bees and the crickets, but at least the garden is enjoyable. The Japanese have managed to do it without iPods, but it must have taken them generations to learn how.

I was thinking how I had the noise problem licked. I was feeling pretty smart, so I turned my attention toward the visual problems. We all see the world differently, especially our own place in the world.

One person wants to use their yard as an outdoor living space and extend the comforts, furniture, fireplace, roofs and paving into the yard. Some think it’s a playground for all kinds of moving, sprawling and colorful apparatus. Another thinks the yard is just a parking lot and loads it up with vehicles. And yet another neighbor might see it as the perfect place for storage with tarps, tents and piles of stuff.

It’s a challenge to train yourself to ignore that. Many people don’t see their yards as a part of a bigger picture, both socially and environmentally. That must be why gardeners are so important.

As I was gardening away with my iPod clamped to my head, I was feeling a bit like William the Conqueror. Then, suddenly, the iPod battery gave out. The noise came in. The dogs started barking and the whole world started to hum. The kids next door were yelling, and I became aware of the distant views. So much for the quiet, introspective moment in suburbia. I became a neighbor again, and I hope a good one.

Maybe I just need a newer iPod.

Visit gardening clinics at Squak Mountain Nursery and the Issaquah Farmers Market from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Saturday.

Visit gardening clinics at Squak Mountain Nursery and the Issaquah Farmers Market from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. every Saturday.

Jane Garrison is a local master gardener and landscape architect who gardens in glacial till on the plateau.

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