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Midwest Gardening: What’s New in the Neighborhood?

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Keeping an eye on gardens in the neighborhood introduces you to new plants and possibilities for your own backyard. Good ideas spring up everywhere.

Peonies are a draw for neighbors and visitors.
pink peony flower

By Marty Ross

My neighbor Kathy and I are enthusiastic—and vicarious—gardeners. We both have interesting gardens packed full of plants—and that’s the problem. Since we’re short on space we have expanded our gardening horizons by taking a keen interest in what other gardeners in the neighborhood grow.

Vicarious gardening is nothing new—families on their way down the street to the park in my neighborhood often comment on the flowers out front: They seem to enjoy them as much as I do. My gardening friends know that I collect peonies and that I have several special early-blooming cultivars growing out front, between the sidewalk and the curb. My friends drive by slowly in spring, pulling over to park and chat awhile if they see me outside.

Vinca groundcover connected me with my UPS man as garden friends.

Recently my regular UPS man asked for advice about groundcover plants. I showed him the evergreen vinca thriving in the shade under our maple tree, and gave him a cutting. Now we’re gardening friends. Our mail carrier delivers observations about gardens along her route, tipping me off to an interesting shrub she has seen, or some new landscaping going in around the corner.

When I see a neighbor pruning her pink roses, I know it’s time to follow suit.

I’m a pokey driver, looking for the first yellow roses of spring, or the flash of native azaleas in a neighbor’s backyard. Watching gardens grow and bloom around the neighborhood gives me lots of ideas for my own garden. Keeping an eye on what good gardeners are doing helps remind me of tasks I should take care of in my own backyard.

When my friend Judy, an experienced rosarian, prunes her roses, I know it’s time for me to do the same.

A blooming tree with white flowers is an important neighborhood development.

Kathy and I frequently call each other or send messages to stay on top of what we consider important neighborhood gardening developments. “The fringe tree is blooming,” she’ll say. And I know just which one she means, so I change my route to the grocery store and check it out. I don’t like to miss a thing.

What’s growing on in your neighborhood? Take a tour of mine—and garden vicariously along with me—in this video.

See more by this author.

Vicarious Gardening