Townhomes and their associations often are known for the complex sets of rules residents must follow. From unusual to mundane, the list of rules is as long and varied as the number of associations in existence.
From garbage-can and TV-antenna concealment to restrictions on noise levels and grass height, the sometimes-severe rules are established to maintain a sense of order in the community, and a look of, well, sameness from the outside.
While many rules are often minor or inconsequential—for example, one association bans members from keeping poultry, cattle, or insects on their property—some rules can, and do, have an impact on daily life.
If you’re a weekend-project, fixer-upper fanatic, chances are that a townhome may not be the best fit for you. While associations sometimes will allow certain changes to the exterior of a home, major and/or permanent ones are likely out of the question.
For the avid, or even everyday, gardener, that may be disheartening, but all is not lost. Because permanently altering the exterior of your townhome is not an option, you simply will have to change your way of thinking. The best part is, you get to be creative while doing so.
If your yard was purchased with plants, trees, or shrubs already in place, you probably won’t be able to touch or remove them. In that case, you’ll need to work with what you’ve been given, planting flowers or shrubs that go with the existing setup.
Many townhomes come with a fenced-in patio or deck area that, even though not a large space, allows homeowners with green thumbs to make a paradise of their own.
Flowers or plants that can do well in pots or containers are your best bet. Most associations will permit outside containers, because they easily can be removed if necessary. When beginning your planning process, however, you need to keep in mind several things about what plants or flowers will work for your location.
Easily accessible water is one of them. Make sure you have an outside spigot capable of supplying necessary water to the area you are transforming. If you don’t have an outside source, be prepared to trek through your home with bucketfuls of water.
If that doesn’t sound like fun, or you’re afraid you will forget about watering, try planting items that don’t require lots of moisture.
Perennials such as sedum and day lilies, along with native grasses, should require less water—and less of your time and energy—because they have deeper root systems than nonnative plants. German irises, otherwise known as bearded irises, also prefer drier conditions.
A host of other plants may need a bit more watering, but still hold up well, and even thrive, in containers or pots. Chrysanthemums, pansies, daisies, petunias, black-eyed susans, zinnias, and marigolds all can thrive in contained spaces. Other plants, such as ivies and begonias, would work well with fencing or in hanging baskets.
If you don’t think flowers are worth your while, why not grow a vegetable garden in your limited outdoor space?
You could have quick and easy access to a host of fruits and vegetables, saving money, while avoiding the grocery store—plus the gas to drive there—at the same time. Your own garden is also a great conversation piece.
Spices and seasonings such as sage, rosemary, chive, dill, basil, thyme, cilantro, garlic, mint, and oregano all would do well. A variety of fruits and vegetables would, too. Fruits like cherries, figs, blueberries, and even apples are capable of contained growth. Vegetables including cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, eggplant, squash, cabbage, beans, potatoes—even corn—are possible as well.
So, while you may not be able to take full advantage of your yard, you still have several ways to make your home stand out.
Before you start any project, or even plan it, double- and triple-check the rules that apply to your particular townhome or its association. Even the best-laid plans of an extravagantly beautiful yard will be ruined if the association won’t budge. Do your research first.
What’s that old saying about measuring twice and cutting once?