One of the greatest needs for planting exists among simple and cheap surroundings, and the very inexpensive place may be helped by planting even more, perhaps, than its showy and elaborate brother. On account of the item of cost it is assumed that all landscape work about inexpensive houses will consist entirely of planting.
FiGure 41. PLAN FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SUBURBAN RESIDENCE.
Suppose a small house of six or seven rooms, with a lot fifty or sixty feet wide and from one hundred to two hundred feet deep, is to be landscaped. Often in the smaller cities the owners of small houses keep hens, and there is frequently a tiny stable or a garage at the back of the lot. So far as the short-sighted owner can see, the idea is entirely utilitarian, for he has allowed the immediate saving to his pocket-book from the poultry income to usurp the place of the far more important problem of keeping his possessions in such a salable condition that he can get the greatest cash value for them at any time.
Almost everybody recognizes that a fresh coat of paint makes a house sell for much more than it would have brought without the new paint, plus the cost of the painting. Too few realize that planting may do more than the paint to increase the value of a building, and at a much less cost.
If there is any planting about such a house, it is generally a straggly flower-garden because the woman of the house loves flowers. She thinks of them, however, not in connection with the place itself, but only for their own intrinsic beauty.
Figure 42. PLANTING FOR COLOR EFFECT.
Clothes-poles straggle irregularly over the back yard, pitching this way and that at dangerous angles. The ash-piles and the chicken-coops hold melancholy sway over the rear of the premises (Fig. 22), which are so unkempt as to make it seem quite natural for women to appear there in unstudied costumes and curl-papers.
The picture has not been painted too black. In some of the most prosperous of our small cities and towns in the Middle West respected members of the community often allow their houses and grounds, exteriorly at least, to present a most disreputable appearance. Things that litter up the inside of the house and are thrown out to be carted away are frequently left where they are dropped, and allowed to remain there for months. It is not that way inside the house. There all is order and precision; but, as a rule, the average American citizen is so obsessed with his own individual opinions and problems that he does not remember that he has a duty to his neighbors, and that that duty may consist in keeping the surroundings of his house in a decent condition.
How may this hypothetical, and too often actual, place be helped without too great an outlay of money, and in such a way that its owner will take a greater pride in it and live in it more comfortably ?
As usual, the really utilitarian aspects must be considered at the outset. The chickens must be restrained and put in sanitary yards and houses which will not only look better, but will improve the condition of the poultry and keep them from straying away and getting lost. These houses should be at the extreme rear of the lot, unless it is bounded by a stream or lake, or a view of some sort. In that case they can be put at the side and toward the rear.
The clothes-line need not stay out at all seasons; indeed, it will collect soot and soil the clothes if allowed to do so. The posts to which it is fastened should be strong and erect, and planted firmly in the ground. It is an easy matter to paint them and allow vines to climb over them so that they will be useful and ornamental at the same time. If the line is supported strongly at the outside boundaries of the lot, it will not need much auxiliary bracing, and consequently as soon as the clothes are dried a lawn of considerable size is available for the rest of the week. This affords space for children to play, enables certain kinds of work to be performed out of doors pleasantly, and gives the "out-door room" sadly needed at the present time.
Figure 43. PLAN FOR THE DEVEENT OF A SUBURBAN RESIDENCE.
Thus by moving the chicken-yard and using sensible clothes-posts, the appearance of the grounds has greatly benefited. It will not be necessary to warn against dumping garbage and ashes in such a yard, because hardly any one is stupid enough to deface a large area of greensward, unless it is with the proverbial red geranium bed. That bed will not intrude in this instance, because the space must be left clear as a laundry-yard. Just so soon as the back part of the grounds have been set to rights, the result will be felt in the neighborhood, and the chances are that others will follow suit.
As has before been mentioned, the front part of the grounds are semi-public in nature, and that will not be the place for the indulgence of personal whims and vagaries. Often it is only the love of bright colors and the wish that their surroundings appear neat that lead people to disfigure their grounds. Behind the house one can be as independent as possible without ruining the appearance of a street. Of course it always happens that the house that is most noticeable is, in the owner's eyes, the most admirable residence on the street; but that is almost without exception solely on account of the point of view. It reminds one of the little Irish lady who proudly asserted that her son was the only man who was "in step" in his regiment. It is certainly the consensus of opinion that if the landscaping of a house is to be satisfactory for any length of time, it cannot be striking in appearance.
Simplicity will mean a saving of money, for it will appear that the simplest thing to do is to have an unornamented front lawn, and there is conse-sequently no necessity for purchasing plants for that part of the grounds. Of course shrubbery masses to emphasize corners and boundaries are very desirable (Fig. 13), but they cannot be considered where it is necessary to plant for the least possible outlay. When one comes to the house itself, planting of some sort must be done to break the hard line where the brick or stone walls of the basement appear above the surface of the ground.
There is often a porch at the front of the house, and this will make a good trellis for climbing-vines. A row of bright-colored plants about the edge will break the line so far as form is concerned, but, on the other hand, the brilliant color will call attention to the objectionable feature which it was intended to soften. Ten cents' worth of seed will supply enough morning glories, Japanese hops or wild cucumber vines to cover a very large porch in a short time. Even the edible "scarlet runner" bean can be used for this purpose.
Figure 44. ATTRACTIVE AND PRACTICAL SCHOOL SURROUNDINGS.
At the back there must be some planting to screen the hen-yards, and it is quite possible to use food plants for this purpose. Currant-bushes make a very good screen, or the handsome common sunflower will grow into an impenetrable hedge in a short time. The seeds will also serve as food for the hens, so a planting of sunflowers will combine esthetic and economic values.
Now arises the question of flowers and vegetables. Flowering shrubs, which make a good screen, and a background for perennials as well, can be planted along the sides of the lot, or if these are too expensive, vines, hollyhocks, or sunflowers may be substituted. The vegetables may go toward the back, as clear space must be provided for the laundry-yard. A very informal use of flowers will be perfectly satisfactory, as they will necessarily be massed on account of restricted space, and the other planting will not be so severe as to insist upon elaborate design.
The success of such a planting scheme will depend entirely upon its usefulness.