Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Rock On


Between the Orchid Show two weeks ago and the local garden tour this past weekend, I finally got the inspiration I needed to start tackling the neglected gardens here at our house. I got further inspired this past week as I read The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F...k by Mark Manson - particularly his bit about doing the hard yards. He talks a lot about how we all want our dreams and fantasies to manifest, but how many of us are actually willing to do what it takes to actualize these dreams?

He uses the example of how when he was a kid he wanted to be a rock star. (who doesn't?) He wanted it for years, but he came to realize that the truth was, he was not interested in the years and years of practice and rejection and hardship that paved the road to that moment on stage in front of his adoring audience. He wanted the destination - not the journey. We all do this. We want the goal but aren't too interested in the skill development required to score.

Hence, my present project. I wanted my garden to look great, but the task seemed so daunting, I kept avoiding it until Monday. When I got home on Sunday afternoon after touring some local residential gardens, I knew that the only way my garden was going to get restored to it's former glory was to roll up my sleeves and "git er done". Having hung up the paint brushes and rollers after completing the inside of this "fixer upper" we call home, it was time to start the whole process over again outside. Now, when it comes to gardening, I didn't "just fall off the turnip truck" as Dr. Phil used to say. In my past life in Canada, I had tackled two pretty major garden renovations already. My first foray was in North Vancouver and that is where I got myself educated. I immersed myself in everything botanical and lived and breathed the creation of my west coast patch of paradise. I went so far as to learn most of the Latin names of all my plantings. I memorized what plant needed which nutrients and which soils were required for my roses to thrive. I became a bit obsessed. When my daughter was born, I would take her baby monitor outside while she napped to care for what had then been demoted to my second baby.

Just when I felt I had perfected my Deep Cove plot, up went the "for sale" sign and I left my creation behind to head east and start all over again - this time in Toronto. I fell for what the real estate brochure described as "a charming character home with lovely English Gardens". Believe me when I say it was a stretch. The home had character alright and the sellers were English, but I think the adjective "charming" and the word "gardens" were exaggerations. It was indeed a fixer upper and I was able to see the potential. I am not sure if this ability of mine is a blessing or a curse. I keep saying I will never buy another old house but here I am again in yet my third "has potential" dwelling. Will I ever learn?

Admittedly, there is a sense of accomplishment associated with turning lemons into lemonade, but it is harder to do the squeezing with each passing decade. That is why this morning I am sitting here at my kitchen table gazing out at my half finished rock garden renovation and writing this blog instead of excavating rocks from under layers of soil and mulch. After two days of said task, my body is insisting I take a break. My glutes remind me every time I stand or sit that I am not 32 anymore, my knuckles are bruised, my triceps are tender to the touch and I have what is surely a case of dehydration headache. Ouch. It is one thing to garden in Canada, but it is an entirely different kettle of fish working in the semi-tropics with a shovel and Palm Tree roots.

The beds I am improving have not been maintained for many years. Some of the  plantings are re-usable and mature now but the rocks that would have been used instead of mulch originally have sunk and become covered in plant and leaf debris and dirt. The only way to bring this baby back to its former glory is to clear the debris, remove thousands of rocks, improve the soil, re-position some of the plants, add a few new ones and then re-use the rocks. It means doing the hard yards. Since paying someone to do this was out of the question, it was up to me. Was I willing (or able) to re-create these beds? Willing - sort of. Able - unknown. It has been awhile since I have summoned my major inner Manual Labour. Was he up for the task? Manual and I once removed an entire pool deck consisting of heavy interlocking bricks over a long weekend back in 2002. It was back-breaking work but worth the few grand it would have cost to have it done. Manual is 14 years older now. This morning I can see and feel he needs a siesta. The mind is willing but the body is rebelling.

This job will get done, but at a slower pace than it might have moved along 14 years ago. Like anyone, I love a quick fix. There is only one way to the desired result in life. You must do the work. Sometimes money can help move things along quicker. However, there was a story I read once about gardening that I have always remembered. Mick Jagger bought an old country estate and hired the famous English Gardener - Penelope Hobhouse to design his English Gardens, paid the money and went away. He came back a few weeks later to see what he envisioned as lush blooming borders of colourful flowers and was devastated when he saw what amounted to smallish seedlings spaced apart, with gaping chunks of bare soil. He was furious. Where was his beautiful garden -the one from the plans? What had happened? He had no idea that it takes from 5-7 years for a garden to mature.
Even his money could not hurry mother nature along. He had expected an instant garden.

Clearly there had been a miscommunication between them because I suppose he could have paid for fully mature plantings, but she was old school and she did things the old school way.

I took a few photos of my project. I am doing it in chunks. Here are some before and afters. There will be a new fence at some stage. For now, at least the beds will "rock it"!

Before - Mother-in-law tongue taking over, rocks buried beneath debris

Before - Removal of all debris and digging up of rocks to re-use later

After - Weeded, leveled, soil refreshed, rocks replaced

After - Mature Agave given new life 



New Bromeliads planted - generously donated by my neighbour


Fun with rocks...will erect a proper Inuksuk soon!
































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