Do you have a neat and tidy front landscape?  One where plants are pruned neatly and at the right time of year.  Where drip lines are covered up and where there is never a weed in sight?


Or maybe you would describe your front garden space as somewhat natural and untamed.  Where plants are late in getting pruned (if at all), drip tubing is exposed and where weeds can be found lurking in hidden corners?



Today, I’d like to share with you a story of two landscapes – the ‘neat and tidy’ neighbors have a perfectly lovely landscape filled with a combination of flowering plants and succulents.  There is always something blooming in their garden in all seasons.


They even planted the outside of their side wall with pinky muhly grasses even though they don’t see this area of their landscape.

Now, let’s look at the second set of neighbors who have a ‘natural and untamed’ garden…


While this landscape is also filled with flowering plants at all seasons, you’ll notice a weed or two next to the purple trailing lantana, exposed drip tubing and a smattering of dead leaves from the nearby tree.

The plants in the ‘natural and untamed’ landscape aren’t always pruned right away and sometimes grow into nearby plants before being pruned.

If you look carefully, you’ll often find a weed (sometimes two or five) hiding alongside shrubs and underneath groundcovers.

Despite their differences in their landscape maintenance practices, the neighbors are good friends and have lived near each other for over 10 years.   

Now that I have created the setting, I’d like to share with you something that happened this week that made the owner of the ‘natural and untamed’ garden absurdly happy.

As she was driving by her ‘neat and tidy’ neighbor’s house, she noticed something definitely out of place.


At first, she could hardly believe what she was seeing – a weed!  It was something that she had NEVER seen growing in her neighbor’s landscape.
And it wasn’t just a little weed – it was a really big one!

The sight of this unwelcome weed brought a smile to her face as she drove a couple of houses down to her ‘natural and untamed’ landscape filled with more weeds than she would care to admit to hiding among the rambling shrubs and groundcovers.  

This tale of two landscapes and a single weed leads me to ask you this question:

Which type of landscape does yours resemble?

Neat & Tidy or Natural & Untamed

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As you may have guessed (or recognized my landscape), one of the neighbors in this story is me and before I wrote this story, I got my neighbor’s permission to show their single, solitary weed.

While I like the idea of having a neat and tidy garden, I am frankly so busy helping others with their landscapes that I don’t always have time to tend mine as much as I would like.  

Maybe someday, we will have time to cover up the drip tubing, get rid of all our weeds and prune our plants at the right time of year.

But, I wouldn’t hold my breath….
Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a horticulturist, certified arborist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."

4 replies
  1. claudette
    claudette says:

    Ha ha! I would have guessed you were the neighbor with the single weed. 🙂 It makes sense that you wouldn't have time to do all the work on your landscape though since you're spending so much time helping everyone else with theirs!

  2. dryheatblog
    dryheatblog says:

    Ha – I would have guessed you were the neat one. I was schizophrenic – both people, though I had no drip tubing for that to come up! Most neighbors were neat, but their yards were really just gravel on weed fabric without plants, so not much effort needed – or reason for wildlife to stop by, let alone them enjoy it.

  3. Ian Baker
    Ian Baker says:

    My front garden has been very wild. Since moving in two years ago. I have spent most of my time on the rear garden whilst I decided what to do with the front. I think it will always be more on the slightly wild natural look rather than immaculately trimmed and tidy.

  4. Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ
    Nancy in Sun Lakes AZ says:

    Hi Noelle,
    I used to have a neat and tidy garden but when I went to a totally desert style garden I decided to let it be free. Mostly. My husband just has to trim a few plants due to HIS neat and tidy nature. But that's okay because we are both happy!

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