Classic Covers: Keeping Up with Yard Work

“Gardening requires lots of water — most of it in the form of perspiration,” said author Lou Erickson, and our Post covers prove it. Some people are downright persnickety in the care of their lawns and gardens while others are content to let Mother Nature take her course.

Definitely the odd couple. Mr. Felix is fastidious to the point where we believe the blades of grass salute as he walks by. Note how even the flowers stand at attention. But he isn’t all uptight: He is, after all, keeping up with the baseball game on his handy black and white TV while working. But in the July, 1961 cover by artist John Falter, Mr. Oscar next door is taking it easy, not at all bothered by overgrown hedges and toys on the sidewalk. Well, he probably had a hard week at work. Obviously, his dog did, too.

Thorton Utz<br /><em>I'd Rather Be Golfing</em><br />May 20, 1961
Thorton Utz
I'd Rather Be Golfing
May 20, 1961

On the other side of town, two equally fastidious neighbors are flummoxed—yes, that’s the word, flummoxed. In the May 20, 1961, cover by Thornton Utz, the lawn slaves work with push mowers and rakes while the guy from number 319 spends his Saturday as he darn well pleases, which includes lighting up a big cigar and taking his golf clubs for a walk, with nary a backward glance at his overgrown lawn.

Thorton Utz<br /><em>Painting the Padio Green</em><br />May 2, 1953
Thorton Utz
Painting the Padio Green
May 2, 1953

There’s more than one way to green up a lawn. In Utz’s May 2, 1953, cover, one man simply laid concrete and painted it green—and flummoxed neighbors appear once again. As the 1953 Post editors observed, “What sound-minded man would rest in a hammock when he can sprain his muscles spading the sweet earth?” Sound-minded or not, we have to give the guy points for ingenuity.

It isn’t only private lawns that need tending. Stevan Dohanos’ 1945 lighthouse, bold in red and white stripes, includes a busy groundskeeper neatly trimming the weeds, with no help whatsoever from the lazy pooch nearby.

Stevan Dohanos<br /><em>Lighthouse Keeper</em><br />9/22/1945
Stevan Dohanos
Lighthouse Keeper

Fond of finding gardens in unusual spots, Dohanos also painted the August 9, 1947, cover depicting three railroad workers watering a flower bed with the train looming right behind them—a cover to please both gardeners and train buffs alike.

Possibly the oddest spot for a garden was found by artist John Atherton. In a junkyard in Pittsburgh, no less, amid heaps of rusty scrap iron, the derrick operator planted a small garden. The enterprising man even made a fence around his plot using strips of scrap iron. “Gardens are a form of autobiography,” said Sydney Eddison, highly acclaimed gardening author and teacher, so it says much about the man that he seeks beauty amid the unsightly.

John Falter<br /><em>City Park</em><br />June 5, 1954
John Falter
City Park
June 5, 1954

In Falter’s June 5, 1954, cover, as a man tends a downtown plot of flowers, his territory seems to be invaded by a spaceman after his baseball. Okay, some covers are just hard to explain—you’ll have to click on it and see for yourself. The older couple in Stevan Dohanos’ May 26, 1951, cover do the watering. Well, at least he is, and we must say that’s a lot of garden to water with a hose. When Post editors asked Dohanos, “What ate some of the lettuce and radishes in your picture—rabbits?” the artist replied, “Certainly not. People. No pests in my gardens. They don’t like the smell of paint.” Well, we warned you that artists are an odd lot.