My parents bought the house in which I was raised in 1936 in St. Paul, Minnesota. It was newly built on a “vacant” lot of the more prairie edges of the city south of Randolph, west of Fairview down to the Mississippi River itself. “Civilized” American urban areas were developed post Civil War with the arrival of European immigrants for the next forty years or so. Scandinavians, Germans, and Czech went rural. Slavs, Italians went Iron Range….East Coast AngloAmericans were moving westward to plot urban matters that counted as well as farm.
Suburbia occurred after World War II. My neighborhood was ‘urbia’ from its beginning; straight streets, mostly one-story houses, small lots, 45′ wide by 90′ depth with alleys in the back of the house leading to one-car garages all arising from plowed fields.
Then, as in so many communities today, the city demanded, as so many suburban communities command today, the rights to line these streets up with ‘shade’ trees of their dictate. In our neighborhood the tree of worship then was Slippery Elm. City folk needed shade whether they liked it or not.
Foundation plantings were the decorations the home owner would determine and it became a godlike worship that a maple tree should be planted in the middle of the front yard of lawn, whether needed or not. That Slippery or American Elms, Sugar or Silver Maples being planted streetside by bureaucrats reach ninety feet in height eventually, never seemed to cross anyone’s mind. It would take more than generation or two for humans to discover their downside….their size, overbearing shade, leaf tonnage, root conquerings, weedy seedlings, their effect controlling and even destroying the visual environment of the community. But, they were cheap and grew rapidly….and no one dared to complain about their intrusions. Eventually there came shade, whether needed, wanted or not….and storms.
Green ash lollipops and all of their seedlings, became popular during the early stages of suburban sprawl.
Recently, city and suburban human figures dictating urban plant disorientation today have found a special way to spread ugliness along streetsides….along Mississippi River Boulevard in today’s St. Paul, for instance….They ‘decorate’ new boulevard tree plantings with large green plastic sacs attached to each tree assuming, I am assuming, that no one will notice how ugly these ‘garbage’ sacks really are.
“Beauty” has long disappeared from the American art vocabulary, for according to current ‘intellectual’ talk, things have a right to be or made to be ugly. Besides, “Beauty” in the landscape takes too much time and knowledge to know the tricks of the trade. There are only so many notes in music to play with….millions of notes to play with in the plant world. Today’s American-made ‘music’ is supreme in its ugliness. Why should our landscapes have to be the same?
Because beauty to the eye and the ear, when it reaches the mind, inspires, uplifts the human soul. The more one lives in beautiful surroundings, the more inspired and curious one becomes about beauty itself. The more beautiful the neighborhoods become.
It is not the job of bureaucrats to sell ‘beauty’, something they know nothing about. Why, then, are they permitted to curse your ‘yard’ and the yards all around you by lining up the tree of their day up and down your residential streets unless they add beauty to citizen life?