Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, Seattle, my city.
Merry Christmas fellow gardeners everywhere.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Winter 1

In all this giving up
In the quick gloom
And drizzle
We unravel
But cannot become bare
Like the trees

We hold on

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas Trees Are Just The Beginning

Have you noticed how Christmas brings out the hidden botanist within us? People who, two weeks ago, couldn't point out a Douglas Fir tree in a forest full of 'em, are now looking down their noses at the folks who are decorating a Pseudotsuga menziesii in their living room instead of the far superior Abies procera or A. balsamea. Suddenly the Pinaceae is fair game for casual conversation. Suddenly I'm not the only one in a given room who can tell the difference between true firs and Doug Firs. That means I'm not the weird one anymore! The world is speaking my language and I belong!
But alas, the season is ephemeral and upon the New Year the populace will undergo a bludgeoning repression of its collective memory until all those beautifully classified conifers become nothing but "pine trees" once again. And it's back to blank looks when I try to explain to friends and clients that really, there are only two common evergreens you see in Western Washington, Douglas Firs and Western Red Cedars, and you can easily tell the difference by the way their leaves...

See, I bet you even trailed off while you were reading that.

Clearly what we need is a greater number of specific plant-related holiday traditions. You know, just to keep the nomenclature sharp (and, OK, to make me feel less like I spend half my time speaking an alien language). Therefore, please do your best in helping me to disseminate the following soon-to-be cherished rites.

*The New Year's Resolution-Maple: Everyone brings a maple leaf to their respective New Year's party and publicly (drunkenly is allowed, too) enumerates one resolution for every lobe of their leaf. Since different Acer species have different numbers of lobes, this will encourage people to find certain species that afford them a greater (or lesser) degree of optimism and resolve. The main challenge will be to find maple leaves at a time of year when the trees are bare. Big Box to the rescue! Next year, alongside countless Poinsettias at Home Depot, you'll find a sea of little maples just for the occasion!

*Sweetheart Cuttings: Valentine's Day pretends to have a green thumb what with all the roses flying around, but the only thing people really learn each year is that roses are freaking expensive. So let's take it up a notch. Instead of a bouquet of generic roses, really impress your sweetie with a bouquet of hand-selected hardwood cuttings. The successful propagation thereof would serve as a symbolic reminder of your love... and if the cuttings don't take, then your love was never meant to be. Sorry.

*The Easter Viburnum Hunt: Why just scatter Easter Eggs randomly throughout the yard? Let it be known that the Easter Bunny only deposits goodies in Viburnum shrubs and within each species can be found a trademark treat of varying caliber. I'd like it if the quality of treat would correspond with my own opinion of a given shrub. Therefore, Viburnum bodnantense or V. plicatum tomentosum would be automatic jackpots, while V. tinus would be the equivalent of coal in your stocking.

*Blow-Up A Boxwood!: This sure-to-be favorite of the Independence Day festivities is a patriotic way to rid the world of one more Buxus. Just find the nearest ugly shrub smelling of cat-pee, insert a large illegal firecracker, light fuse and get away!

That should get us through the next half a year, anyway. Let me know if you've got any other suggestions. Keep in mind these traditions will take on regional and personal variations as they spread; but try to remember that the point of such special moments we share with our friends and family is to make me feel more normal. It can be so easy, in the midst of holiday chaos, to forget that. Thank you.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Door To Door

I feel dirty. For a gardener, that's really something. Dirty is usually the norm, cleanliness being a fleeting and difficult condition aspired to with all the sincerity of a Holiday dieter. But it is no tangible dirt that makes me unclean this day; it is a soiled soul that won't be rinsed of its deeds; it is a stained conscience scrubbed raw in futility. In a cold sweat, I beg forgiveness, knowing none will be, none could be granted.

I have gone door-to-door.

One by one, I have darkened the doorstep of a neighborhood's innocent homes. I have crept, snuck, slithered about a cheery place leaving behind me a spoor of business cards and advertisements for the garden service which is my employer, hung around doorknobs and handles in the universally-recognized fashion of unsolicited marketing. Like junk mail, but creepier since an actual human being had the gall to tread each walk and step with the incriminating documents in hand. Like a door-to-door salesman who has nothing really to offer, who just shows up one day to point out that a random service exists, in case maybe you forgot how to use a phone book or search engine. It's not even a coupon for our garden service, it's just a piece of paper that seems to say: 'here we are, you clearly need help with your yard, so just this once, we're going to grant you the privilege of hiring us, it's your own damn loss if you fail to do so'.
I am put in this position because the economy and season have thrown our business on tough times, so we have taken to advertising in desperation. It is my humble opinion that advertising might have had its place a little earlier in this business plan. As it stands, it seems a Hail-Mary clause: Well shoot, what happens if we run out of money and no one knows we exist? Well then, and only then, we'll send out our crack team of gardeners/ninja marketers to flood random neighborhoods with business cards. Don't worry about incentives, people will be so impressed with the font of our cards and our well-spaced phone number that they will call and beg to pay for whatever it is we do.
One of the main reasons I like being a gardener is that I can usually convince myself that I am doing some kind of good; I am doing something which, even if it doesn't make someone blissfully happy, it might make them a little less angry at everything. Distributing door-hangers affords me no such reassurance. In fact, it goes a little bit in the opposite direction; I'm pretty sure that when people come home from a long day of work to find that piece of paper hanging from their doorknob they get a little angrier at the world, holding out maybe long enough to see if it's a coupon from a pizza place; but no, it's just some jerk saying their garden looks like crap and that means they're paying full price for pizza tonight.

Ugh, I can't stand it. I've got to go take another shower.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Breathe and Count To 10

It just doesn't stop. Raining that is. Now, I'm not going to complain about the rain, per se; because after all I live in Seattle and chose to become a gardener, so whose fault is that? But the problem is, being outside in the rain for 8 hours a day takes a certain amount of patience, or resilience, or stubbornness, or stupidity or something... anyway, I find that I have a limited reservoir of that something and this can become severely depleted during a month like November when Seattle averages about 20 days of rain. There is a whole mess of rain-related irritations (donning and shedding rain gear, swapping wet gloves with dry gloves until they're all wet, trying to sweep leaves across wet sidewalks when they are glued by suction to the concrete; just to name a few), each of which takes a little slice of my patience so that eventually, there is nothing left to deal with the normal, everyday irritations of being a gardener.
Thus I find myself in situations where the slightest nuisance can become so amplified rattling around inside my empty tank that a feedback screech of cartoon-like anger erupts within me. I am not an angry person in general, which I'm sure makes it all the more startling to watch me calmly raking up leaves, leaning my rake against something, rake sliding, sliding, falling and hitting me on the head, me pausing for a second, wait for it... then me lunging after the offending rake like a beast awoken, tongue ablaze with language usually reserved for the culminating target of a life's vendetta, promising to wipe the Earth of the rake's spawn and spit on their graves then spread tales of the dastardly rake, its dastardly deeds and it dastardly seed. Then, while throttling the rake's scrawny neck with one hand, I'll usually give a good long look around the neighborhood to see if there are any car windows I can inconspicuously slam the rake into a good 3 dozen times or so. Nope, just the tempting windows of my own car. Then back to yelling at the rake for making me think destructive thoughts towards my own car.
Fortunately, these rages burn hot, bright and quick, usually spent before they can be applied towards any explicitly illegal acts. Wait another 10-15 minutes though, and I'm sure to jab myself with my Hori-Hori or tip over my tool bucket, and then it's back to livid, nonsensical anthropomorphizing and detached wonder that people consider gardening a low-stress job.