Several years ago, I visited Spokane, Wash., while on a west coast book tour. As it happened, my book signings were scheduled for lilac week.
Lilacs are everywhere in Spokane. The air is so perfumed with them that you almost expect the sky to be pale purple. When I think of Spokane, I think of lilacs.
We lived near Washington, D.C. for several years so, of course, we headed down every spring at the height of cherry blossom season. When I think of Washington in the spring, I envision the tidal basin surrounded by pink trees.
We spent four years in Michigan. Cherries grow extremely well there, and cherry pie is to Michigan what clam chowder is to New England. I had my first real cherry pie in Michigan, and that remains one of my good memories of my time there.
When I think of gardening in Barrington, no single identifying factor comes to mind. There's a lot of gardening going on. We have an active gardening club that maintains several small public gardens, another volunteer group that lines County Road with hanging flower baskets.
Yards tend to be well-maintained, and flowering trees and shrubs abound. You can't drive through Barrington or walk along the bike path without being struck by the contribution gardeners make to this town.
My whimsical side would be thrilled if everyone in town was beset by a sudden urge to plant drifts of daffodils along every road. But if I could chose one single identity for Barrington gardening, it would be a combination of community and back yard gardens.
During World War II, half the food produced in this country was grown in back yard gardens. For that matter, what's wrong with pottager gardens in the front yard?
There's a very pretty house a couple of blocks from me that has a small fenced vegetable garden in the corner of the front lawn. It in no way detracts from the property's appearance; to my eyes, it adds interest and character.
Community gardens, in my opinion, have the potential to become an important part of Barrington's gardening identity. When I talk to gardeners from other towns, they all seem to know about Walker Farm. I often wonder how it might be possible to expand on this.
There isn't a lot of open land in Barrington, but small gardens can be amazingly productive. A small area of lawn at the Tillinghast property, for example, would yield several garden plots. I see new clusters of houses going up and wish the plans had included a small area for residents to grow salad greens and tomatoes.
Church properties include expanses of lovely lawn, some of which could be providing garden space. I'd be very surprised if gardeners didn't welcome the opportunity to grow veggies and donate half to food banks, shelters, and local charities such as TAP-IN.
I realize that Barrington is, among other things, a bedroom community for busy professionals, and I know that many people barely have time to maintain the traditional back yard lawn, much less plant cucumbers and hot peppers.
But local identity can make a powerful impact and, let's face it -- gardening is contagious.