Friday, October 2, 2009

Survivor Extreme Home Edition, episode 2

Oh where to start today’s episode? The horror is almost too much to face again. I have always heard gardening referred to as a genteel activity. Something to calm the nerves and sooth the soul with all that gentle quiet nurturing. Lies!

In this next episode I will tell you the horrible dirty truth of gardening’s seamy underside. The underside of the all those pretty flower beds with their lush green foliage and bright cheery flowers decked out like two bit strumpets. Sure they say, “Come on over, take a little peek, get a whiff of my intoxicating perfume.” You take the bait, you look, you sniff and suddenly you’re hooked like an innocent rube on a free crack high. You can’t wait to get your next one, your next hit of horticultural ecstasy.
Suddenly your life is all about those little fantasy peddling pimps wearing the bling of the garden world, aprons and dirty garden gloves “Oh, yeah, we got what you’re looking for. We have some fine young ladies in pink for you just over here or perhaps you’d like something a little racier in deep red?” they coo at you with their compost scented breath. “Oh, but first you’ll need a few things if you’re to keep the little pretties happy. Let me direct you to our $ales a$$ociate

On you way over to the, ahh, $ales A$$ociate you notice the oddly glazed yet hungry expressions on the faces of the newly addicted. They shuffle along pushing carts full of bushy plants from seven different zones. A bell goes off in your head but you can’t hear it. The heavenly sprinkler system has just turned on and it is causing those tender young things to glisten with sweet moisture. There is a heady scent of rich lavender filling the air. Bees are hurrying to and fro rubbing their dainty legs in the fertile pollen dancing wildly in the… um, excuse me while I uh…

Ok, never mind all that. It’s better if we just move along.
If you bought the sales pitch from Guido the plant pimp and you expect those garden beauties to perform for you in your bed at home then you had better not be taking them home to this…

On the previous episode of Survivor Extreme Home Edition we learned how I had rocks and more rocks on top of one great big rock. So yeah, no dirt. No heavy clay to amend, no sandy soil to loam, no bone dry depleted desert baked dust barely able to support cacti. Nope- just rocks. Now don’t get me wrong, I could grow a mean crop of gravel if I wanted. I think there were even a few species of alien weed left over from the last ice age in there but, if I wanted the floozy cabaret that Guido the plant pimp promised me then this would simply not do.

First to tackle was… oh hell, who am I trying to fool? There was no “first things first” business because there was no plan. I approached it the same way I approach my paintings and sculpture. I want to create a certain feeling or express a particular emotion and that is my focus. I’ll admit a little secret here that I always try to hide from my art buddies; I don’t give a lick about the subject or the light. Gasp! I know, I know. Blaspheme. For me it is always about what I want the art to say. How I want you to feel when you see it? It is about plucking the chords within the soul to produce a certain song unique to you. And that is how I saw this space.

There was a tough issue with the layout of the house and driveway, it cut right through the middle. There was the problem a too large an area of weeds to kill and the total lack of soil. Then I also had an unexpected issue caused by a lack of visible boundaries other than the electric horse fence. The space right behind the pond/yard is the neighbors land; their horse barn is just up the hill.

I wanted to incorporate all those challenges rather than fight them, I wanted to highlight them. The “Rock” I wanted to dig out and make into a focal point. (That however was before I knew what it actually was). From the Rock the neighbors had a lovely view into the woods so I wanted to visually make that part of our space. It was important that the space felt like it was supposed to be there, that it blended in with the surroundings. I suppose I really just wanted it to feel like the land had risen up to meet us.

We started…OK, I started, Hubby had better sense than I did, started pulling in gnarly tree stumps and digging up large rocks. Well I suppose I should use my chiropractor’s words, huge boulders and giant trees. He was so finicky. I had put down light gardening on my activities list and he about had a hissy fit when I told him how big they were in terms of feet x feet. Of course he should have seen that coming when I first came to see him crawling on my hands and knees. He very deliberately and right in front of me I might add, scratched out my light gardening entry and put “suicidal.”

You may be wondering how we got the desert landscaping. Pretty aint it? (no offense meant to all my desert loving gardeners. I know this isn't what you mean by desert garden) I can not begin to tell you how awful it was to look out there and see that everyday. The chiropractor may have been right if I had to keep looking at all that ugly brown much longer. You see a neighbor to the side of us has a saw mill where he is milling the lumber to build his house. This seemed like a good situation for both of us. We went down and collected his sawdust to spread on our “yard” and he got rid of the build up. I figured the sawdust would smother the weeds and hopefully add some cushion. We went down to the mill every few days and collected all the sawdust we could and raked it out. We just kept going till we eventually got a pretty thick layer all around. After a never ending ugly blur of time everything looked like the Saharan desert. It was just the look I was going for!

In between sawdust runs I was working on hunting down and dragging home new and interesting stumps and boulders. Every day the poor man I am married to would come home to find me smiling some big dumb grin and saying “honey come look what I found! I just need some help…” It was usually something like digging it out of the earth or lifting this 50 foot tree. I was trying to build up natural structures to fill the space. Eventually each one of these elements became the framework of a bed. With every new piece added I would walk the entire area to see where my natural step wanted to travel then placed items according to that pattern. There is a very easy natural flow that encourages strolling the garden. Because of doing this at the beginning of the process I don’t have to fret about placing focal points or plants. There are natural breaks and flows. I even placed seating according to that rhythm.

Next time on Survivor Extreme Home Edition we discover how to turn a mole hill into a Big Freakin’ Pond. What was I thinking and why did my doctor threaten to send an ambulance?Tune in next time for those answers and more…

I just needed a little happy place at the end.


  1. What a great, true, gardening saga. I am enjoying this and thank you for the smiles that are starting me off today.


  2. I enjoyed this post... I too have had my share of rock excavating... my back is now wearing that toil mantle mostly fairly well. Your end results are lovely... and i love this "plucking the chords within the soul to produce a certain song unique to you." Beautiful. Carol

  3. What a story. You will have earned your garden by the time you get through. Kudos to you for your persistence and energy to keep on going. After all, that's what gardening is a lot of the time.

  4. Back-breaking work! I like the way you described the garden center. The pimps cracked me up,darling.

  5. FlowerLady I am so happy to see you following my little gardening saga. I am glad you can find some amusement in it. I think we have all had our little and major garden sagas. It's like a daily soap opera out there isn't it? This one dying, that one running wild and wandering parentage etc. LOL

    Carol I am so glad that you enjoyed this and thank you for the compliment. I am sorry to hear that you too have the scars of boulder moving on your back. At least there is something pretty to look at when it's done.

    Mary Dell, thank you for that. I actually appreciate that you said I had earned my garden. That makes me feel less of an imposter.

    Rosey, I was so amused that you laughed at the garden pimps. I think I was talking out of bitterness. hehe. It just seems like you go in for a bag of compost and come out with ten different plants that have no business being in your zone.

  6. And I thought I had the corner on digging out rocks, lol. It is worth it in the end, but oh our aching backs!

  7. I just found your blog and have really enjoyed reading through it. I'm also in Washington, just north of Seattle. I look forward to learning more about your pond.

  8. Anartistsgarden it grieves me to know that there are so many others who have been victimized by rock abuse. ;-)

    Catherine I am so happy you found your way here. Welcome! I look forward to getting to know you and your garden also.

  9. Hi LeSan!!!
    Aye, aye, aye! Holy smoley. You do sound like a woman after my own heart! I commend you, I salute you, and I bow down in reverence before your formidable optimism (for conceptualising this oasis in-the-making in the first place) and your eternal good humour in the face of daunting obstacles and huge boulders. I was laughing as I read your post and remembering my first boulder I ever dug out of my first little tiny garden back a number of years ago. Lucky for me it had an end to it - although my "focal point" ended up occupying 3 square feet of a 4x4 tiny foot garden patch. And now, after reading about your travails, I realise that was NOTHING and you are really in for the big time gardening Olympics of all time. You have gone to the mountaintop and it has said, "come on, I daree ya..." I can imagine you and your chiropractor have a long a meaningful relationship ahead of you - and I can already tell your husband must be one of those angelic, ever-patient people. God bless em. I am looking forward with baited breath for the story of the pond, and how you've managed to corral water into your mountain kingdom. Also, wanted to thank you VERY MUCH for your comments on my blog - they are really very appreciated and the admiration is absolutely mutual! Looking forward to hearing the next installment and remember we are all rooting for you from the sidelines! Sending you all the very best, Aliaena

  10. Hi Aliaena, thank you so much for this wonderful comment! I totally cracked up with your line "remembering my first boulder I ever dug out of my first little tiny garden back a number of years ago. Lucky for me it had an end to it - "
    I thought mine had an end to it. LOL

  11. Wow! Sort of reminds me of the Fred Flintstone! Ha. But from everything that I've seen of yours, it is beautiful and will end up being spectacular! Sounds like you've earned your gardening award!

  12. Hi Miss Daisy! Thank you so much!
    I have an acceptance speach ready...where do I pick up my award? ;-)