Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Out With The Ferns, In With The...Oxalis?

My working definition of a weed is any volunteer plant that I am routinely asked to remove from a given garden. Since I have no garden of my own, the only weeds I can define for myself are the ones tenacious enough or of seed omniscient enough to sprout up in my numerous container plantings. I am not fond of these weeds, as I'd like to think one of the few benefits of not having a garden would be an absence of menial maintenance tasks such as weeding. Therefore, I have no great attachment to the grasses, dandelions and liverworts I disgustedly pluck from my pots when they begin to obscure my beloved plants.
It is considerably more difficult to align my weed definition with my gardening conscience when I am in a certain client's garden. Especially when said client is instructing me to "dig out those pesky ferns" because they are "everywhere". The ferns in question are two or three lovely western sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) of modest size and excellent health which, despite my being able to count them on one hand, are apparently everywhere. Now let's never mind that these are native to this area and so were springing up as "weeds" eons before humans slapped up their poorly-proportioned million-dollar ramblers-with-a-view on the site. Let's instead consider that this client puts her foot down on a few sword ferns, branding them weeds, while all about her sprout the immortal heads of at least a dozen terribly invasive species which truly are everywhere and which she herself introduced into her garden. Oxalis, Alstroemeria, Aegopodium, Ajuga, Digitalis, Aquilegia (not the native), and Angelica abound, to name a few.
I propose that we show some tolerance for sword ferns (which, by the way, are quite easy to remove and relocate if necessary) and show some discretion in the aggressive plants we willingly bring into our gardens. Future home-owners and gardeners alike will thank us.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Sod Knife...Really?

Thank you, but I'll pass on the sharpened, curved cheese knife handed to me as a sod-cutting implement today. True, this was my first real experience laying and cutting sod, but for the love of god a sod-knife should, unless I am comically mistaken, be able to cut... sod!
Tomorrow the toothbrush-handled cheese knife stays in my tool bucket and I shall once again employ my Leatherman tool to finish a job at which the nominally ideal tool has failed. (However, the next time I happen upon an unclaimed wheel of smoked Gouda tossed into the garden in a fit of Roman excess by an affluent client, I daresay it will be elegantly sliced and delivered to my tongue in no time at all.)

Friday, September 19, 2008


Not to make this sound too much like a teenage courtship from the good ol' days, but I would like to announce my intentions towards this blog. If you determine that my intentions are pure and that my rational facilities are not too much smothered by adolescent hormones, I beg your blessing to carry on. I will treat your precious gardening opinions with respect and try not to let my grubby hands wander where they are unwelcome.
During countless hours of "Zen Time" (our affectionate euphemism for the brain-dead state achieved by the repetitive-task gardener) the plants and gardens with which I work insinuate themselves into my subconscious until they eventually cross-breed with my preconceptions and give beautiful birth to opinions and (hopefully, if I'm a good parent) wisdom.
Here is where I will lay out these marinated thoughts on gardening, plants and life to be either digested and learned from or spit out, rejected. Let me know where you agree, where you disagree, and where you are so opposed that it causes you physical pain to read any further. Thank you and enjoy. Or do not, but still partake.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In The Beginning

In the beginning, there was a student. Smart, but not that smart; the type to crack a (hopefully) knowing smile at witty dialogue or nerd jokes, but never to join in, to chuckle derisively at improperly phrased Physics adages uttered by his friends, but never to explain (or even understand, necessarily) their impropriety.
He discovered, studied, found the meaning of life in, grew bored with and summarily discarded the following subjects: Anthropology, Physics, Astrophysics, Linguistics, Organic Chemistry, Volleyball, Quantum Physics, Molecular Biology, Anthrophysics, Astrolinguistics, Ethanology (not so readily dismissed), Frisbee, Philosophy, Molecular Volleyball and, finally, Botany.
Botany proved easily translatable into a college degree without requiring a whole lot of touchy-feely, confidence-building human interaction. Plus, it was genuinely interesting and allowed hedonistic, booze-fueled weekend nights in the botany lab poking at weeds under a pair of microscopes. Unfortunately, a Botany degree itself does not translate well into the language of post-collegiate job markets, as there are very few Fortune 500's willing to hire or even to sub-contract someone to hole up in a an expensive lab and count carpels 'til the cows come home.
Not willing to abandon a plant-based career, the (now) graduate sat down and thought very long and hard about how plants could be associated with money. "Well now, is there perhaps a place where people exchange money for plants?" He asked himself. The answer was yes, and the next thing he knew, he was up to his knees in the bark mulch of the glorious retail nursery industry. He wiled away nigh on two years thusly, then dusted off his dichotomous keys and expectations and moved to the city to seek his fortune (this being staggeringly difficult to come by in said nursery industry).
Like an injured person dumbly prodding their injury to establish that, yes, they are still injured and for crying out loud yes, it still hurts, the graduate secured a white-collar cubicle job to see it it really was as miserable as it gave every indication of being. It was. After four months of alternately staring at a computer screen, making scientific labels and envying the lucky immigrant workers blowing leaves on the sidewalks outside, he slapped himself awake with an immunohistochemistry diagnostic manual and got the hell out of there. He made off with naught but a snazzy collection of office-casual sweaters and mild claustrophobia.
An unspecified and inglorious period of unemployment was to follow, as he sought compensation for getting his hands dirty and correcting stranger's bad botanical Latin. Then, like a drunken fisherman piling fish in the boat after baiting his hook with bits of powdered donut and beef jerkey for a good laugh, he discovered that this was, in fact, the job description of a gardener. He became... a gardener. He wears a hori-hori knife and two pairs of pruners on his belt. You never know, he could be... your gardener.