Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines a veranda as a large open porch, usually roofed and partly enclosed, as by a railing, often extending across the front and sides of a house. Did our space pass this test? The porch extends thirty-seven feet across most of the front of the house, with open sides, wooden columns and black metal railings on the front edge. The whole thing has an overhanging roof, shading the house from the Western sun. I began calling our porch The Veranda.
It sure didn’t feel like a veranda at first. The pierced metal ramp was handy when the movers rolled the piano to the door, but rain or water transformed shoes into skates. Visitors slipped and our family grew wary. After I flew off the slick surface twice, landing hard on the drive, Philo sawed off the ramp & then contemplated angles, as he designed and constructed new steps.
We added a wooden bench, a plant stand and two metal chairs from the deck of the previous house. Furniture and doodads made the porch feel more like a room, but greenery was essential to my idea of a veranda.
Philo attached metal hooks for hanging baskets; they’re stuffed with pansies in winter and they produce a veil of ornamental potato vines in summer. A parlor palm and houseplants spend most of the year out on the porch while the center steps are flanked by two large hypertufa pots filled with purple oxalis.
On many gardening sites, new owners describe how they transformed their older houses, removing old hedges to 'open up the view' to the porch. Abundant flowers replace the hedges, Smith & Hawken add pizzazz to the scene, and the happy owner stands on his new stage, while neighbors marvel at the improvement.
I like to read these stories, and am glad their homes have become the right setting for their lives.
But as someone who has spent years envisioning a Southern garden, I could not chop down my mature boxwoods . I rather enjoy hedges, shade, mystery, privacy and a feeling of enclosure. Rather than banishing our shrubs, we encouraged the boxwood hedge to grow slightly taller, clipping it level with the railing.
Now, after working in the yard I can lounge on the bench, waving hello and conversing with my neighbors, but my muddy knees & battered shoes aren’t on display. Instead of taking center stage, we prefer the Box Seats.
Life can be a little more civilized when you have a Veranda - a place to sit and sip, to read or talk, a place that’s not exactly inside, yet not quite outside.