The yards in our neighbourhoods

Bi-weekly Castlegar News columnist makes yard-related observations

It’s that time of year when most people begin to work on their yards. Many of us, it seems, get our yards in shape to please our neighbours. Others work hard on their landscapes because they admire the beauty of their Edenic settings.

As I wander around the Kinnaird area of Castlegar, I am both impressed and horrified by the yards people keep.  There are those whose landscapes are immaculate, those whose efforts simply keep things in place, and those whose yards rarely get a touch of loving care.

The dream yard is one that is like a picture postcard. Everything is in its place, every wooden surface is painted perfectly, and every blade of grass is groomed and green to the lot’s edge. Hedges have been clipped regularly, and flowers have been chosen to layer in as the season progresses. Yard ornaments are discreetly woven into the carefully-placed shrubbery. These yards are masterpieces of smooth lines and control.

In fact, these yards are almost too perfect. The passing traveler might stop to admire the loveliness but be afraid to enter the yard or step on the closely-cropped lawn.

The so-so yard is one that is usually kept up—to a point. At a distance, everything looks fine. However, on any given day, toys may be strewn around the yard and the grass may be half a foot high. If you look closely, you’ll find brown sections of grass and bare patches near the street.  Hedges reach toward the sky, and the garden needs weeding. Flowers here have been chosen randomly and may or may not have been watered. Once there might have been a plan for the yard, but now basic maintenance is the order of the day.

These yards are acceptable to all but the perfectionist. A passing traveler would feel comfortable entering the property and feel right at home trodding on the clover-laden lawn.

The derelict yard is one that rarely receives attention.  Weeds grow to the road edge, and the lawn (hard to call it that) is brown and scarred all summer. Flowers may bloom, but they were likely planted by a previous owner. Paint is flaking from siding and utility sheds. If a garden has been planted, it soon becomes a mass of weeds.  Often the disastrous look of the yard is compounded by failed appliances or wrecked vehicles supposedly stored around the yard.

Garbage may also be a feature of these lost havens.  Sometimes blown in by wind or part of the bric-a-brac of living, this waste is never picked up. Sometimes it’s a case of renters living there for short periods of time and simply not caring.

These yards are thorns in the sides of everyone in the neighbourhood. City governments have bylaws to try to enforce owners to bring their yards into compliance.  However, though pressure is often applied to the owners, these bylaws are difficult to enforce. What neglect? What ugliness? This is how some owners reply, so it is clear that beauty is still in the eye of the beholder.

A passing traveler would take one look and keep going rather than stop for information. If the yard is that bad, the passerby thinks, then what are the people like?

Fortunately, there are only a few of these unkempt spots in most neighbourhoods. And to be honest, there are only a few nearly-perfect yards. Most of the landscapes, it seems, fit the middle category—mine included. These yards are reasonably kept up, often with a bit of yard work waiting for the weekend.