Driving and walking around Los Banos, I’m encouraged by the landscaping I see in front yards. More and more Los Banosans are taking care and pride in their landscaping, resulting in visual delight.
Gone are the days, in the depths of the housing recession, when it seemed every third house had a yard with weeds, knee-high grass, stray wrappers and flattened cans. There are still a few of those neglected houses, but only a few.
Today we see front yards that are green (using limited watering days) or aesthetically drought-tolerant, thanks to stone, bark and xeriscape shrubs and plants.
Complementing the residents’ conscientiousness is the diligence of city employees and commercial gardeners maintaining park, street and residential landscapes.
The people I admire the most, however, are the women and men who do their own front-yard upkeep. In my walks with Bella Mia, I have been impressed, for example, with the homes across from Meadowlands Park on South Creekside Avenue, a street with easements planted with leafy sycamores providing welcome shade.
Residents of large and small homes on this street, both owners and renters, have put time, energy and care into their front yards. Some use different varieties of trees to provide shade; some work hard to keep their lawns green and trimmed. Many have roses, azaleas and other flowers that dazzle.
Other residents have created alternative types of aesthetic landscapes that require zero water by using bark, stone and various shades of crushed granite. One yard on my walk displays smooth gray river stones contrasted with red bark and bright white rocks.
I consider the care and investment that goes into such lovely landscaping gifts to our community.
There are, unfortunately, an occasional dusty, weedy or otherwise unsightly front yard in Los Banos. Some of these homes are vacant after renters have moved out and the landlords haven’t bothered to take care of their property.
Some houses have people living in them who just don’t appear to care about how their homes look. I am tempted sometimes to knock on their doors and ask whoever answers why they are so inconsiderate of their neighbors.
But then I mentally step back and wonder: Maybe this is an elderly person or a disabled person living there who doesn’t have the strength or money to keep up their yard. Or maybe it’s someone who labors more than eight hours a day along with a commute of two hours or maybe longer, who’s just too dog tired to do yard work at home.
With this in mind, I’ve been patient with the resident who lives near my home. Parts of his front yard haven’t been mowed in years.
The other day I took my weed chopper (a stick with a blade on the end) and sliced his tallest weeds, then picked up papers clinging to his tall grass. I half expected to be accosted for trespassing.
Knowing how easy it is to let front yards go, I have developed a greater appreciation for those who keep them up, especially since I have such a hard time keeping up my front yard. Too often the grass refuses to stay green and the weeds multiply overnight in the flower beds.
That’s why when I walk past a home and see someone maintaining flowers, shrubs or grass, I make it a point to say, “Nice yard.”
People often use the term “quality of life” in describing a community in which it’s good to live. There’s much that goes into this quality – including zoning, safety and friendliness. But pleasing front yards contribute a great deal to a community’s quality of life.
So to all who take the time to pull weeds, edge grass, plant flowers or use colorful stone or bark to create a front yard that delights the eye, I say “Thank you. You have helped make my town a community in which I enjoy living.”
John Spevak is a resident of Los Banos; he wrote this for the Los Banos Enterprise. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.