If Boston has a Garden District, it is along Sydney Street, with tendrils branching out in the smidge of blocks between the Red Line tracks and Dot Ave. You can walk a straight line between JFK/UMASS and Savin Hill stations or you can meander for two hours or more. This morning I stumbled into a tourist group admiring the landscaping along Sydney and I listened in on what the tour guide was telling her fellow travellers and presumed paying customers.
"Look at the lawn here," she said loud enough for all her gaggle of two dozen of followers to hear, "This is typical Dorchester style meant to economize the work put in for maintenance while maximizing visual beauty and diversity. The dandelions are buttercups are allowed to ripen to add color and the proliferation of chickweed and onion grass adds repetition of form in confluence with the play of shade of the maple branches overhead."
A little farther down the road she rhapsodized about the placement of two resin frog statues placed next to a clam shell on a bed of cedar chips. "See how these homeowners have paved their back yard with polished marble slabs?" she asked, "This is indicative of the South Vietnamese influence that is making itself felt in the neighborhood. Among Vietnamese, marble signifies prosperity and brings more of it with its presence." Her listeners took snap shots with their cell phones and nodded in understanding.
Before I peeled myself away from the crowd they had stopped in front of a flagpole cemented in a front lawn that has miniature wooden figures of Uncle Sam and a U.S. Marine posed as if they are hoisting a flag. "You'll note," the tourist guide said, "That patriotism has its place in Dorchester and a place of pride, it is. This vignette is an expression of what all Dorchesterites feel and, while this particular example is more overt than most, I think you will agree that we'll see other examples not just of national patriotism but Dot Pride too as we continue on our tour." Everyone nodded.
I headed back down the street toward home. I pulled a few weeds by my doorstep. I've been aware I live in a garden district, but I didn't know outsiders were touring the street. I'd hate to disappoint them with slovenly grounds keeping. Best to put the best outward face on Dorchester when people are looking. Smile and the world smiles with you.