Front and Back Yards

July 18, 2017
Small front and back yards

Andrea Giles, center in white, a corrections officer with Ramsey County, hosts her family and neighbors on her recently spruced up front yard in an effort to get people to know their Rondo area neighbors on Wednesday, August 17, 2016. The Knight Foundation provided Giles with a small grant to help her make her front yard more inviting. (Pioneer Press: John Autey)It was simple, and on the surface, easy to scoff at — another “Kumbaya” community-engagement idea seemingly created out of warm fuzzies.

“Transforming front lawns from empty expanses of grass to vibrant places full of life through the development of a toolkit that encourages residents to create community hubs on their doorsteps, ” the pitch read.

But a surprising response made one of the city’s biggest grant organizations take notice.

Out of the dozen or so finalists for the Knight Foundation’s largest annual contest, the “friendly front lawns” project generated — by far — the most local buzz, foundation officials said in April.

The pitch: Get people out of their back yards and into their front lawns — seen as “dead spaces, ” where nobody hangs out.

“It’s all about having a place to sit, ” said Max Musicant, whose Musicant Group headed the pitch, partnering with an aptly named St. Paul nonprofit called the Friendly Streets Initiative.

The reception was big. Apparently, living in the middle of a 3 million-strong metro area, isolation can be a concern. The task of a simple conversation with a neighbor — breaching the façade city dwellers erect for social or even physical protection — can be daunting.

The project landed $82, 400 in foundation funding and months later workshops began. Twenty-two families from the city’s old Rondo neighborhood and others from Frogtown and Hamline-Midway met in a library basement.

There, a pair of perky, smiling millennials pitched ways for people to sit in their front yards and meet their neighbors.

They had a system: Ways to arrange chairs, grills and plants in your yard so you could sit there and not seem like you were accosting every passer-by. But also seem approachable, or at least worthy of a friendly wave of the hand.

Vivian Mims, who’s lived in the city’s historically black Rondo neighborhood for decades — and already sits on her front steps — threw some shade at the idea.

“People walk by, you say ‘hi’ and they don’t say anything. It’s like, ‘Who are you?’ ”

“It’s almost like it’s taboo to get to know people, ” Frogtown resident Tasha Rose said.

And the idea of putting benches out front — or anything that could go missing overnight — struck some as naive.

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Landscaping Tips

Though your home is your castle, there is no necessity to surround it with a moat. Here are 5 tips that will help you to make your landscaping feel more warm, welcoming and cozy.

1. Put some flowers nearby your entrance. Flowers make any area look more welcoming and attractive, so greeting your guests with Petunia, Snapdragon, Lily-of-the-Nile or some other garden flowers is always a great thing to do. What is more, to add some space between your house and the entrance, you can consider adding a little white fence. It will create an illusion that your front yard is bigger than it actually is. What is more, adding fence will create a great space for planting flowers to add some color and coziness.

2. Add rambling vines to make your yard look absolutely lovely. You can not deny that rambling vines always create romantic and even magical atmosphere. So why not to use this tip while decorating your yard?

3. To hide the unattractive driveway, consider adding some color, texture, and height. You can easily do it by adding various sorts of flowers. To start, create an island of green lawn right in the hub of a drive. Then add a couple of low boxwood hedges with flowers toward the back of your island.

4. If you want your yard to blossom and flourish bust still do not have enough time to maintain it, consider planting low-fuss lilies. Such flowers look absolutely gorgeous and come in the variety of rainbow hues, so you can pick the one you love most. What is more, low-fuss lilies do not care about the sort of soil, they love the sun and welcome hot, they do not afraid of drought. In other words, Crinums is an ideal flower for all those who are looking for low-maintenance solutions.

5. The last tip also touches the low-maintenance aspect. To make your life easier, group plantings into beds and islands. This will help you to avoid mowing and trimming around each individual plant, save a lot of time and even money.

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