Documents: Special Interest: Garden Musings:

'The Day of the Gardener'
by Eleanor Tylbor
November 3, 1999

Last weekend being the first really warm weekend of the year, 'they' descended upon our neighbourhood.

Arrving in their usual pickup trucks with a variety of tools and other essential equipment in tow, they went silently to work. This year their advent was a little later than usual due to a particularly harsh winter which threw their schedule behind, but I spotted them alright and observed their actions from afar. They are known locally by their first names - Gino, Nikos, Giuseppe, Giovanni - among others who are permanent summer fixtures in our area.

The gardeners have arrived. This year we decided to use the services of Giovanni to clean away broken trees branches and debris accumulated on the front and back lawns.

The minute his truck pulled up in front of the house, I experienced that familiar sense of anxiety in anticipation of a verbal confrontation which was a common occurence with us. I have always had a love/hate relationship with our various gardeners over the years, due to their inability to hear. It's not that they are deaf or anything but for one reason or another, they never seemed to hear my instructions or heed my advice.

Glancing accross the road I see my old friend Giuseppe absorbed in untying the shrubs in a neighbour's garden. He used to perform this task and more while working for us a few years back. Actually, the shrubs and related bushes were always a bone of contention between the brooding bush bruiser and me. Our back garden is fenced in with honeysuckle shrubs which grow very quickly and it's not unusual for them to reach great heights in a couple of months. Most of our spats centred upon his inflexible attitude about the "right time" to trim the bushes, which was any time he felt in the mood to perform this laborious task.

His usual excuse was "lady (he never addressed his customers by name even though he was fondly called by his first name), it's the wrong time of the year to cut your shrubs. You want they should die?" The right time came one summer though when the shrubs grew to a height of seven feet, requiring the use of a ladder to reach the top. It is doubtful that the colourful language spoken in his native Italian dialect while performing the job, was to extol the visual beauty of the hockey suckles.

Our most ferocious fight took place over the erroneous placement of my rose bushes planted in where he believed to be "the wrong place." For Giuseppe, the right place was anywhere that would not impede the path of his tractor lawnmower which he drove like a race car, over the surface of our lawn. The rose collection is located towards the side of the lawn, spaced approximately two feet apart. That meant that he could not cut the grass around the bushes with his lawn mower and he had to get down to perform the task manually with hand shears, which put him behind schedule.

Giuseppe made it abundantly clear to me that he did not like to fall behind schedule since it would necessitate him working well into the early afternoon hours, during the hottest time of the day. My response to this argument was that maybe he would like it if his customers would supply him with a small hand fan to assure his comfort.

Needless to say, he was not amused.

Our arguments came to a head one hot, summer morning when he solved the problem in his own inimitable fashion by barrelling around the roses, breaking two branches and then denying responsibility for the murderous act. Even when I waved the two broken branches with blade marks up and down the stems, he blamed it on marauding cats.

Oh yes, cats just love to chew on rose stems with thorns, he was chastised.

Next came Giovanni and although he respected my roses, he was a clean-freak who believed in clearing everything with a dead appearance in the rock garden, including the perennials. It was an exercise in futility to attempt to explain that dead-looking remnants of last year's crop should be left for future development. His philosophy was if they look dead, then they had to be removed.

So now I'm watching Giovanni clean the rock garden from a vantage point behind the vertical blinds and I'm wondering whether or not to intercede in his removal of some new perennials planted last fall. He has already eliminated most of the alyssum and is now moving on to a patch of campanula donated by my next door neighbour, Kathleen. After all, it is a one-shot, cleaning deal and he did make me that twig rake as a good will gesture.

Better think about it since the back garden will be cleaned next and I saw him talking to Giuseppe.

Gardeners do stick together, you know.

(Eleanor Tylbor is a freelance humor columnist and frustrated gardener who lives in Laval, Quebec. She welcomes letters from gardeners all over the world who would like to share their gardening successes and failures (she relates more to the latter) to be included in her articles.)

E-mail: tylborj@CAM.ORG

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