What it means

What it means

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Botanical Camouflage

Being the resilient type that I am, and desperately needing to assuage my gardeners ego and cover up my construction mistakes, I immediately started laying stones and preparing the planters. I had thrown all the construction debris and broken concrete into the bottom of the planters and filled them up with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of dirt. I knew I could plant specimens that would arch over the railroad ties and hide those architectural atrocities. The drainage would be very good so I took a tip from our rocky hills (and some really savvy gardener friends) and bought California natives and mediterranean specimens. Ceanothus, Rosemary, Rock Rose and Pride of Madera all would get big fast and eventually everyone would forget what was underneath.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Happy Landing

So, the decks were finally done by the onset of winter and I just couldn't believe I owned that clean, tailored structure! As it would be my Christmas & birthday present for the next 30 years, I figured I might as well get busy and decorate my cake. I decided to name it "Happy Landing" from the old Shirley Temple song, some will remember, "…happy landing on a chocolate bar".

I ordered more (you guessed it) Bouquet Canyon Stones and more railroad ties. I called up the nice boys I'd been hiring to help me build some planters around the decks. They worked so hard on that steep hill under my (inept, as it turned out) direction and it wasn't until it was all done that I realized they weren't asking "Is it level?", they were asking, "do you have a level?". They must have thought I was a nut, I kept standing back and squinting and saying, " yeah, yeah looks good guys" but I never went and got the level, I'm turning red just thinking back.

And the guy at the building supply who told me to use T-post…I just hated it, now I hate him.

Well, there was only one thing to do, cover it up…and do it fast before self loathing set in too deeply.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Contractor with the Devil

Despite my ambition and enthusiasm, things didn't go too well for the dock project. The contractor I thought I had so carefully vetted wasn't too keen on making me think my project was his only concern, quite the opposite, in fact, he used my deposit money to finish another job and left me in the lurch and went to Tahiti. It was my first time and he wasn't gentle. Neither was the building department or the lake "architectural" committee. Everything seemed against me.

In the end a couple of wonderful neighbors bailed me out with professional services, advice and encouragement and I ended up having to pay approximately the price of a permit to prove I didn't need a permit, jeesh! That's actually what it came down to!

I had really wanted to spend the summer next to the lake planting and decorating my new asset but it was winter before I could stand on the finished structure. As I stood there watching the sunset (finally) I looked up at my little house and realized the finished dock was a little over 700 sq. ft. and my house was 900 sq. ft.! Another example of my obsessive wanton desire winning out over the pragmatism of rational thinking.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Seven Levels to Paradise

So my lack of brute strength turned out to be not such an insurmountable obstacle after all. Now that I knew I could just hire some guys to carry RR ties for me, and now that I had a GIGANTIC bank account, everything seemed so clear. I got out my sketch pad and started madly planning out how I was going to build my paradise. I divided the lot up into 7 basic levels and I was going to make every one of them into a different thematic garden environment…with legitimate hardscape and everything. I couldn't sleep, I wanted it to happen overnight so I could get right down to experiencing true bliss.

The first thing I had to do was to build a dock and stairs from the road to the lake, it was a steep, steep hill with no real access down to the shabby little dock I had but somehow I had to make it the main focus. Now what was that contractor guy's name I met a while ago, I had his number somewhere. Found it, set up an appointment, got a bid, scary, I felt a little faint when I signed the contract (gulp) and made out a deposit check (yikes, way more digits than any paycheck I'd ever seen) but I was going for it…

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Strength of personality is not quite enough

I did suffer the shock of borrower's remorse the first time my whopping new mortgage payment came in, yikes! What had I gotten myself into? Oh well, shit, it's done I might as well get to work. The railroad ties were delivered and sitting in the driveway waiting for my creative attention. I threw the billing statement into the inbox, put on my gloves and went down to start laying out my design.

They were kind of smelly, creosote was leaking out of the grain and they were really splintery and rough. I don't know what I expected but I proceeded to lift the top tie and when I couldn't budge it I was certain it was hung up on the strapping. Nope, I tried again and again and no go. I became really exasperated and then dawned on me that I just couldn't do this, I had to face it, I sat down on the concrete and started crying like a girlie girl, my ex husband was right, I had no sense of practicality, no concept of concrete planning and my head was way up my…well, in the clouds.

My all around good guy neighbor happened by during my moment of despair and cheerfully offered his assistance. He mitigated my self deprecation by informing me that RR ties weighed around 95 lbs. and were awkward as hell to carry—even for a guy. Another neighbor drove by and joined in, he gave me a couple numbers to call to line up some workers he knew and they said they'd be down to help on Saturday morning. The sun came out again.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Steps through Thyme

My Bouquet Canyon stones, by this time, were winding through every available plateau of the hill that I could possibly dig out for an installation. In a most unschematic way they connected every little planting and actually turned out to have an organic cohesiveness that wasn't altogether uncharming. I had planted creeping thyme along the downside of each path way to hide the re-bar I'd used for stabilizing. I interspersed nasturtiums, irises and other delights, oh, I was having so much artistic fun, I never wanted this 3D painting to end!

I desperately wanted to show off my efforts to my new garden friends as many of my design ideas came from their suggestions, but the paths were narrow, steep and treacherous for those who were the least bit unsteady or hesitant. I realized that if I wanted to share my hill gardens with anyone who was not part mountain goat, I was going to have to build stairs that employed a little more engineering savvy, which I clearly did not have. I was quickly exceeding my monetary allocation for this ever growing project and my credit card was going into a meltdown so I went off to the local mortgage broker to see a guy about financing my dreamscape. I found that it was entirely feasible to trade my minuscule mortgage payment for a huge, huge wad of cash! I signed and initialed a bunch of papers and ordered two pallets of railroad ties.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Wisdom of the Aged

Novice that I was, I felt like I was finally becoming a real gardener when my first spring came in. I was astonished and pleasantly elated that I'd actually originated the marvel I was looking at. My ego was getting really greedy and possessive. I really didn't understand that what I was claiming as my own work was really the province of spring.

The the east side of my lot was beginning to receive favorable comments from some of the neighbors. A copious database of information was coming my way in the form encouragement, advice, admonishments and some downright criticism. Planting was all I wanted to talk about and suddenly I found so many of the elder statesmen (and women) in the hood knew "everything" and were willing to share!

I was amazed and flattered that they actually wanted to see what I'd done. Often I'd get a "tsk, tsk, delphinium would have been better there", or "oh boy, do you know how that stuff takes over?", "I hope that doesn't burn up on you during the summer", considerations that never entered my mind.

I started carrying my "Sunset" around with me while I was working and I had those little plastic id tags from the pots inserted into the pages as bookmarks. I was determined to learn the botanical names. Some of these seasoned gardeners would walk by and see me reading and actually quote direct passages to me, like, "you'll find that that is really a pelargonium, I think it's on pg. 407, oh you have the new edition… well, true geraniums are perennials …"

Some of my new found friends invited me to see their secret specimen plantings that you would never see from the road, they offered me cuttings. Whoa, was I getting into some esoteric inner circle? I felt like an initiate and couldn't wait for the day when I had some of my own cuttings to offer…