The house across the street has a front-yard planter that's shaped like a little wishing well. The planter portion is white with green trim, and the well's roof is shingled in grey - just like the house behind it. It's the kind of front decor that where one might expect to find a trickling pool, or delicate flowers of various heights with a good contrast of colour, tended, perhaps, by a well-painted garden gnome. This particular well, however, is overflowing with rhubarb.
It's the third spring in a row that planter and its abundance of pink stems and wide green leaves has graced the view from my front window. I'm still tickled by the sight of it. There's something daringly eccentric about filling something as whimsical as a wishing well with a plant as practical as rhubarb. Provided one wished for tart, pink, dessert fodder, and sprinkled the well's depths with water rather than throwing in coins, one's wish is nearly bound to come true. All other wishes shall be answered with rhubarb, like a jammed magic eight ball, stuck forever on "ask again later" or "have a nice day."
Front garden edibles tend to get a bad rap. It's as if growing food instead of flowers is somehow unsightly. Granted, I'd be less than excited if a walk around my neighbourhood included homes obscured behind rows of corn, or having all the bare dirt required for hilling potatoes blown into my stroller. What I have seen, however, has been delightful, if a little bit cheeky: zucchinis in a flowerbed, artichokes poking out in rock gardens (that one was in a book - I have no idea if they grow here), and, of course, sunflowers never go amiss, edible seeds or not. Different plants need differing amounts of sun and shade; depending on which direction a gardener's house faces, compounded with the placement of trees, tall bushes, and other buildings, the best spot for beans and tomatoes isn't necessarily going to be in the backyard. Surely vegetable gardens mustn't be restricted to the gardeners on one side of any given street. Such segregation calls for a quiet revolution: raspberries are bushes just the same as roses. Why must they be sent to the back?
I am currently engaged in my own little 'round-the-house gardening. The perfect place for most of sun-loving herbs and vegetables we'd like to plant happens to have a garage on top of it. The pad behind would also do, but ripping up concrete is out of the home-improvement budget for the time being. When we left our rental house to buy our own, we also lost our enormous garden. I don't miss turning and weeding that hard rich clay, nor do I wish that all my Saturdays from May through October were again consumed with planting and thinning, then tending and picking - never mind the snapping and blanching (we had a tremendous bean crop) - but I do miss wandering out back to pick a salad, or basil for the pasta, or chives for an omelet. And our current yard could use some more green space.
Last year, I borrowed a few pots and lined our south-facing pad with sunflowers on the hopes of cooling the concrete. It didn't work, but I did learn the importance of regular watering in container gardens - that dense deep clay plot of yesteryear held moisture like nobody's business. Plastic pots on a concrete pad? Not so much. This year, armed with daily smart phone reminders, I'm trying container gardening again. Over the last few days, between the wind and the rain, the kidlets and I planted the makings of many a salad: tomatoes and basil on the south side in full sun, facing our next neighbour's driveway, lettuce, parsley, mint, and cilantro on the partially sunny west pad behind the house.
The chives were special - given their hardy perennial nature, I wanted to put them in one of the few pots that we actually own so that the kids can divide them as part of their inheritance. Sadly, the one big terracotta I had tagged for chiveliness met a bad end: my littlest garden helper had had so much fun filling it with potting soil that he decided to dump it and start again, breaking the pot in the process (I had left it, of course, on the concrete). Fortunately - both for my love of chives and the mores of poetic justice - our house did come with one other little planter: a plastic one shaped like a great white swan whose back is just waiting to be filled with flowers. It just happens to be sitting on our front stoop.
And so, fellow front-yards-for-food warrior in the house across the street, I see your wishing well of rhubarb. I raise you a swan full of chives. May the first to plant a raspberry hedge win.