By Gerald F. Schnepf, Executive Director

We have all heard the expression “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” Well, one of my recent walks took me on a trail past the back yards of about 50 relatively new duplexes. It became clear to me that there are as many definitions for “beauty” as there are people. Each back yard was different and apparently matched the definition of beauty for the owner.

The lesson from this is that beauty is a key ingredient in our lives. It sets the tone for how our communities look and for their economic and cultural vitality. In essence our communities are the face of Iowa. We need to help make sure we are “looking good.”

Some examples of the personal variations that we see in beauty came from that walk and include:

  • Decks and patios: In a few of the backyards the decks and patios were tied to the sliding double door entrance. In others the patio was built in another portion of the yard. The decks varied from very minimal to large expansive wooden floored displays. Some were decorated with flowers and plants – others were just plain. A few were covered with an awning, but, most depended on shade from trees. Some of the decks had railings / sidings, but many were without any “edge” treatment.
  • Landscaping: The yards ranged from those elaborately decorated with stone and plantings to those with grass only. A few had a handful of trees and shrubs while others had a floral base. In some cases, there were exquisite “miniature” gardens ranging from a few tomato and / or pepper plants to a full-scale garden with a wide range of expected produce.
  • Yard Fencing: Most were outlined with wood fences – some were so tight that you couldn’t see through, while others were semi-open, giving you a glimpse of the yard. Many were surrounded by mesh fences with either metal and / or wood posts. Some of the mesh was vinyl covered. In a few yards there wasn’t any fencing.
  • Accoutrements: If the above three features don’t give you enough of a choice for a wide mixture of back yards – how they are furnished and lighted will complete the picture. Furniture ranged from none to an overabundance of wicker or plastic wicker chairs, tables, etc. A few had no furniture at all. About half of the units had cookers / BBQ grills of all types and sizes. Lighting of these special places was minimal. Most depended on the outdoor lights under the eve by the sliding doors to do the trick.

This array of options made the walk enjoyable and an adventure. I became anxious in my walk to see what beauty the next duplex would hold. What was special and common to all units is that they were clean, without litter and well maintained. A special feature that drew my attention.

Remember “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” but taking care of your special places of beauty is both the challenge and the opportunity to show off your definition of beauty. It is also a reflection of that person’s pride by keeping it clean and tidy!!!

You can help us in our enhancement work with Iowans, public entities and communities! Become a Keep Iowa Beautiful sponsor and help us keep Iowa’s back yard and landscape clean, tidy and attractive. We need your help – join with us.