Well, I'm able to stand up once again, after a long, hard slog in the garden yesterday.
Yesterday, I single-handedly conquered that lower flower bed that I've been gassing on about for the past couple of weeks... You know, that horrible, messy patch down the hill at the bottom of the garden, formerly full of evil, wildly overgrown rocket junipers... Jim the Arborist came and ground those buggers to a pulp last week, and since then, I have had the tremendous pleasure (well, when I wasn't obsessing about the neighbours' air conditioner, that is) of planning and designing the fresh, new space.
Well, I was pretty adventurous, as it turns out. Wildly, optimistically adventurous.
Because somehow, I convinced myself that I would be perfectly capable of Planting Large Trees All By Myself. I had watched a grown man effortlessly haul thirty foot trees OUT of the ground... Hell, how hard could socking a couple of six-footers back IN there possibly be?
Okay, I confess, it was also about the Money. Because I figured with the money I would save by NOT taking Jim the Arborist up on his kind offer to deliver and plant whatever I chose at Sheridan Nurseries, I would have a whole lot of extra cash to blow on good plantings.
And blow money, I did. Hey, good planting specimens are an INVESTMENT, people!! Especially if they're perennials, right? My plan was designed carefully, so that I would have something flowering, or at least "coming into colour", at all times. Including winter. The gorgeous Emerald Cedar I planned to plop in the far corner of the bed would take care of THAT. I even thought we could string some lights up on it, to kind of "twinkle in the background" during the Festive Season. SO WHAT if the tree will be so far away from our line of vision from the kitchen windows, that the only ones who will actually SEE the lights will be the Garden Critters (and that's only the ones brave enough to face the polar conditions at night time). The point is, this garden is going to look GREAT year-round, even if I'm not actually able to see it without leaving my cosy, warm house in the dead of winter.
On Monday evening, I began executing my plan. Right after my husband and I did a celebratory waltz on the patio, to the accompaniment of the distant hum of the neighbours' air conditioning unit which had FINALLY been successfully re-RE-located, we left our three children with a babysitter, and set off for the garden centre, armed with The List.
A new guy named Greg steered us around Sheridan that evening, pointing out where everything was, and helping us to select just the right plants. Unlike my beloved Bill, the more mature and considerably less spry salesperson/Garden Guru who usually advises me, Greg was so full of reckless enthusiasm and "go-to-it-iveness", it almost bordered on the ridiculous. "Trees?! Get 'em BIG!! Who wants to WAIT for them to grow?!! Six feet? NO PROBLEM!! The lady looks strong and healthy!! SHE can plant these!! Hey, why should it cost ya?!"
Once I had my rather embarrassingly large order assembled in a grouping by the front till, Greg convinced my now-brainwashed husband that, SURE!! We could fit ALL The Stuff, including SEVERAL six-foot trees, into the back of our volvo stationwagon!! As long as we were planting The Stuff ourselves, why not save the DELIVERY fee as well??!
Why not? Well, for starters, the plants had all just been watered, and the trees weighed about two hundred pounds. And then there was the MESS factor, in the extremely fresh and clean automobile usually reserved for "adults-only" ventures (we can only fit all of the required car seats into the Loser Cruiser... hence the ONLY reason why the Loser Cruiser was purchased in the first place. Space, people. It was AAAALLLLL about the space. Mostly, the space BETWEEN the children, but that's another story for another day).
Anyway, we HEAVED and we HAULED these plants, boosting up root balls to fit between the front seats, and cursing at each other like stevedores, while a team of bemused teenaged boys in green uniforms looked on. SURE, they had been employed to help with the job, but none of them actually OFFERED. In the end, I figured that we were scaring them, and didn't bother to request assistance.
Eventually, we managed to fit the entire load into the car, and my husband carefully steered us back home, while I held the branches of one of the Purple Leaf Sandcherries away from the front windshield so that he could see where he was driving... Every time we turned a corner, the entire load would shift, and root balls would ROOOOLLLLL... And we would CURSE and apply the BRAKE and turn AROUND to see what had been FLATTENED...
We made it home.
And then, the UNLOADING began, which I'm sure, gave the neighbours a flashback to watching a ridiculous amount of clowns emerge from a tiny car at the circus.
I decided to give the larger plants about 24 hours to dry out, so that they would be considerably lighter to transport to the bottom of the garden, and hopefully easier to get out of their pots. Yes, a "day off" from gardening was just what was needed.
The call for a large thunderstorm hit the television on Wednesday morning, and I knew that I had better get those plants into that flowerbed, PRONTO. I phoned a babysitter to take the younger two children to the park while I got the work done, and the schedule looked as though it was going to fall into place perfectly. The weather wasn't too hot, the wind hadn't yet started, and the storm wasn't called for till evening.
One of the things that I didn't actually think about, back when the idea of planting my own trees sounded like a great idea, was how enormous the holes that needed to be dug would actually be. According to my Gardening Bible, each hole needed to be deeper than the fibre pot by several inches, and at least twice as wide. The other thing I didn't think too much about was the enormous root systems left behind by the flowerbed's previous residents. Because, while Jim the Arborist had done a magnificent job of grinding out the stumps of those forty-year-old rocket junipers, it turned out, once I had started digging furiously, that he had done a CRAPPY job of pulling out the gnarled, tangled mess of roots, deep down in the soil.
I slogged away, digging deeper and deeper, hacking furiously at those roots with my freshly sharpened spade, and hauling on them with all of my strength (which isn't much, but hey, isn't too bad considering that I'm not exactly a massive person). After about an hour and a half, I went back up the hill to the garage, and hunted around until I found my husband's secret hiding place... for The Hatchet.
My husband is a good man. He doesn't keep lethal weapons around the house as a rule, but he DID purchase a small axe that we used when we were on our more adventurous camping trips, long ago, before children, when we lived on the West Coast. The rule was, HE was the only one who was allowed to use The Hatchet-- he was convinced that if I were to use it, I would instantly hack off one of my own limbs by accident, or, even WORSE, one of his limbs on purpose.
Well, on Wednesday, I NEEDED THAT HATCHET, people. It was the only way to get the job done before storm-time. Those roots were just too much to handle without serious weaponry.
And amazingly, I didn't lose any limbs that day, even though I was over-heated and frustrated and blinded by the sweat pouring down my forehead, as I hacked and dug, and dug and hacked...
And then, once the holes were all dug, I lined them with triple mix, chose the first tree to plant...
And I couldn't get the goddamn fibre pot off of the root ball.
The instructions in the Gardening Bible said clearly: you HAVE to take the tree out of the pot, or the wire and burlap off of the rootball, or you'll wind up binding those roots, and the tree will eventually die a horrible death of strangulation.
I tried everything people, everything short of The Hatchet (I was still lucid enough at that point to know that THAT would have been a bad idea). In the end, I took my trusty hack-saw, and hacked big gashes in the sides of those pots as best I could, and when I couldn't "peel" the segments away from the soil, I just broke off the heavy, top rims and jammed the damn things into the holes, fibre pot and all. What the hell. Time was running out, and after all, there IS a two-year warranty on the trees.
By four o'clock, my eldest daughter was being delivered home from school by a friend, and our babysitter arrived home from the park, pulling the two younger girlies in the big green wagon. Our babysitter, who is a nurse, took one look at my face as I crawled up the hill from the bottom of the garden, made a small choking-shrieking sound in her throat, and hustled me into the house.
One look in the mirror made me see why. My face, usually an English-pasty-pale colour, had turned bright puce with the effort of all that damned digging and planting. It would have looked like a sunburn, had there not been white rings around my eyes and mouth... a sign of "over-exertion", apparently. Well, YEAH, I GUESS so.
She hooshed me up the stairs for a long, cool shower and a major lie-down, clucking at me for doing a job that was so CLEARLY beyond me... and I have to confess, she was absolutely right. It has taken me a full twenty-four hours to feel like myself again, I was pretty much inert for the rest of yesterday evening.
Today, however, now that I'm feeling considerably better, am rested and sweetened-up with a fresh pedicure and everything... I look down at that garden from my patio with a sense of immense pride. It looks fantastic. It is finally the way I've wanted it for the past eleven years that we've been here, and as the plants mature, they're only going to get better.
Well, so long as those fibre pots hidden deep down in the soil start breaking down in a hurry, that is... Maybe I should just run down there and put the soaker hoses on for a FEW hours more, come to think of it...