This whole thing is stirring up my inner Julia Sugarbaker (Issue 3) | PITH + VIGOR by Rochelle Greayer

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This whole thing is stirring up my inner Julia Sugarbaker (Issue 3)

Planning boards are the worst. 

In my career (and as a homeowner) I’ve been on both sides of the review table. I can report that there is absolutely no joy in a planning board meeting – regardless of your POV.😣 

I’m currently sitting on the board-side of the table. I’ll spare you the blow-by-blow (for now) of the pillock with the pig building whose main strategy for getting approval has nothing to do with actually following the guidelines, but instead is to constantly act like its construction is a fait accompli and that the we are all just there to help him pick the right color of lipstick for his porker. 🤯 

I’m losing sleep that his confident projections it might actually work. 


The whole thing is stirring up my inner Julia Sugarbaker.  I’m constantly tweaking my let him have it speech (in my head) – while also hoping that I never have to use it (also causing sleep loss).  Basically, I’m tired – and convinced there must be a better way. 

I read a tweet* this week where someone said (not sure if it is true) that the reason that Paris, France is the way it is (i.e. beautiful and arguably one of the most desirable cities in the world  to live in) – is because free building plans were made available. And these free building plans came with a free pass from planning boards.

By using the plans you not only saved the cost of design, but you got gorgeous building options that would dodge lots of soul crushing bureaucracy.**

And the city/town (by providing amazing, wonderful, pre-made designs that are perfect for the locale and that create a cohesive city) gets cheaper, (’cause less bureaucracy) faster buildings too. 

And I wonder if this could this apply to garden design too?  


Many organizations (like the National Wildlife Federation) and nurseries (like High Country Gardens) – among many others – have already started. Pre-designed pollinator friendly garden kits and prebuilt lists are pretty easy to find. But I think we can do so much more.  

Last week, I mentioned garden frameworks (which we generally think of as styles). And after some thought, I wonder if instead of ‘Cottage” or “Zen” or “Contemporary”, we should consider tossing those away entirely. 


Replace them with better ones.  

Ones that address climate change, and habitat loss, acculturation, and that instead are uniquely localized to resolve so many of our pressing environmental and ecological issues. 

Maybe we have “Boston floral” or “New England modern”, “Southern California casual” or “Seattle rockery”? The framework is custom to the types of architecture that are common in the area.

The plants are predominately native. Layouts are not only conducive to local customs and culture but also encourage and support regional heritage. And a vernacular is evolved with ready and easily accessed affordable materials from nearby sources.***

Here is where I am going with this:

>>>Can we make it so builders could more easily install one of these local garden styles than they could slap up a deck, throw down a patio pad, spray foam a lawn and plop down some mindless foundation shrubs? <<<


Can we make it radically easier to make residential landscape design radically better? 

Can we (as design lovers and professionals, amateur and experienced garden makers and landscape enthusiasts) rapidly change the way we design?  Can this type of thinking have a serious impact on reversing climate change?

My head is swimming with possibilities and how I can evolve this into action. If you have thoughts or  want to help me figure that out – feel free to drop me a note! I’d love to hear from you.   

In the mean time, I hope all you fellow northern hemisphere-ians enjoy the contemplative joy of the darkness during this week’s winter solstice. And for the Southern among us – I hope you are enjoying a warm and sunny holiday season.**** 

-Rochelle

*I am not linking it because I really don’t know if it is true. Regardless, true or not, the idea seems so great!

**Are any of you experts on the actual planning and construciton history of Paris?  Tell me more!

***Yes, I know this is how things once were – pre-globalization. 

****(And can someone in the southern hemisphere tell me how you all feel about songs like White Christmas and Jingle Bells. Do these tunes work for you at all??) 

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