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It might not be known, but hopefully, assumed that I am what one would consider an “indoor girl.” I so loathe the sun. It is highly ironic I reside in the hottest, sunniest state in the nation. Do not mistake me, I do not hate the outdoors, just that gleaming fireball in the sky. My work-around is to only venture outside in the cool dark of the night.

 

My Charming Brother, whom I room with, is quite the opposite. He loves the sun! It is during his high noon meanderings when he first moved in, he concluded the layout of my home and yards did not please him. For weeks he started conversations such as “This wall needs to be knocked down, this one extended, the counter should go here . . .” and so on and so forth. After a month of this, he started drawing plans! Mainly for the backyard, as Arizona is predominantly a “Home Owners Association” state, so changes made to the exterior of the home and the front yard need to be approved by the Development’s Association. In short, Charming Brother basically wants to turn my yard into something of a showpiece. While in theory, I am all for a landscape design that merits the cover of a magazine; in practice . . . well, to be honest I did not really stepped foot in my backyard for the first three years I lived here. Besides, my finances are focused on paying off my mortgage and on accommodating Beaux. I was not willing to sink a lot of money into re-landscaping the yard. To top off my concern, we are not gardeners. The longest a potted plant survived in my care was ten months. Both of us, do not really know what we are doing. If we are to attempt it ourselves; which is precisely what he wants to do, we are in for an adventure. Oy vey!

Cottage20I assessed his plans with a practical and critical eye. I ceded we could at least try building a raised vegetable and herb garden with a picket fence gate. My Charming Brother is a Renaissance Man and has various and varied sources of income; one of which is an organic chef. I figured the garden will not only assist with his business, but also cut down the cost of produce to feed my face; if we can, in fact, successfully cultivate the flora. So we are tearing up my yard! It is glorious, painful, and therapeutic, while dually horrifying to my parents who are dismayed I am allowing him to drag me into one of his fanciful schemes. As my brother and I work (me in the hours before the sun rises and he, during mid-day), my brother constantly revamps his plan. The one shown is 2.0, because he has not actually sketched 3.0 yet. . . Oh dear. *crosses self* Let us hope we can accomplish this.

His plans look nothing like the 19th century landscape I envisioned through research. It was not idealized; no lakes, sweeps of gently rolling lawns set against groves of trees and recreations of classical temples, gothic ruins, bridges and other architecture for the idyllic pastoral setting. Grottoes, temples, tea houses, pavilions, follies, bridges and statues were meticulously planed and executed on the grounds to look effortless. Often piers were built into the ponds and lakes for romantic rowboat rides. Terraces overlooking park grounds became the norm. Natural shrubbery, graveled walks, tree plantations and for the first time in history sweeping skirts of planted flower beds. –Truly. As ridiculous as this sounds, country estates did not employ riots of planned flowerbeds until the Victorian era. Flower gardens were associated with small plots of land, such as a cottager’s yard. In the 1800s, landscape design moved from the ridged geometrical control of the French court to a more idealized version of ‘country.’ Winding paths, gently turning streams, and clusters of natural views and tableaus were the norm; ironically created and forced by Man to mimic the beauties of nature. The pervading thought of the day was “Nature as a restorative measure.” In fact, it was not until the 19th century, that the concept of the public park was created for mental health benefits of those living in urban areas.

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