Business at the front, party at the back.


Mullet Gardening


Keeping your garden looking good but also functional (ecologically) is sometimes difficult for gardeners wanting to provide habitat. They want to show that their yards and gardens are cared for and are maintained but don’t want to pull out the leaf blower and snips to clean out every last piece of ‘garden debris’. While there are many tips to maintaining a beautiful and ecologically functioning garden, I wanted to introduce the mullet method of gardening. The mullet method evokes the usually unfortunate and surprisingly long-lasting hairstyle that is short at the front and long at the back, or business up front and party at the back.

To relate this to gardening, I suggest we can have a front yard that is more formal or manicured, with a backyard that is more naturalized or wild. Let me be clear that our front yards don’t have to be hostas and lawn either. They can still be an oasis for wildlife, incorporating native plants and trees. Check out my blog on simple design tips for creating a beautiful and ecologically functional front yard. You can simply give yourself permission to have a more modern or formal garden in the front yard, while really going wild in the back. Drop some deadfall, create a brush pile, leave your stems up all year.

The mullet gardening method can also be applied to the garden itself. You can maintain a ‘tidier’ look at the front of your garden while letting the back go more natural. Establishing a well-defined garden edge (just not the plastic garden edger please) with a well-dug V trench softened by a border of small mounding perennials (I really love using sedges) will instantly make any garden look intentional and cared for. Leaf litter can be raked gently to the back of the garden and stems can be cut back at the front, allowing some of your taller perennials at the back to keep their stems up. Letting some of the sturdier tall perennials stand throughout the year can add interest in the winter too.