Friendly front yard

Lessons in creating a garden with your neighbors

frfryard april 2006

Stacia Payne (in blue on bottom step) and her daughters host an impromptu gathering in their garden.

Steven Gunther

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It takes a village to complete a garden ― well, practically. More than 50 of Stacia Payne's neighbors had a hand in creating her front yard. They dug ditches, installed irrigation, laid flagstone, and planted up a storm. To understand how this extraordinarily neighborly gesture came about, though, you need to know what kind of community Payne lives in.

Larchmont Village is a compact area of mostly single-family homes located close to Paramount and other Hollywood studios. The development began in the 1920s and has the earmarks of that era. Homes, often Spanish colonial like Payne's, are small ― 1,000 to 1,800 square feet ― and yards are too. Garages are in the back, where they should be; in front are porches and patios. The intimacy of the setting encourages the formation of book clubs, babysitting co-ops, and emergency response plans, not to mention women’s nights out and numerous impromptu gatherings. In other words, it's not an environment for people who want to remain strangers.


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