Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Drama of Gardening

It's amazing how much drama is involved in gardening.

To begin at the beginning, the caretaker takes reasonably good care of the building and grounds, although he doesn't have/use a weed-whacker to trim up the edges of things, and he pretty much ignores "gardening"... so there are plenty of dandelions in the grass, and there's grass and weeds growing up where the flowers are. Back in the spring I asked the landlord if he thought the caretaker would mind if I pulled the grass out of the flowers, and edged around them. (The caretaker is a bit odd, and I didn't want him to feel that I was stepping on his toes, or criticizing his work.) I got permission to do what I asked.

A little while later, I ran into the caretaker outside, and he asked if I was going to plant flowers. Still thinking he might be upset at me doing stuff, I said no, that I was just going to weed. He said he'd really like it if I planted flowers. So I started talking to neighbours with perennials that sometimes need splitting... but didn't get around to starting gardening here, because my gardening efforts started off at my mom's, dad's, and neighbour's (she's in her 80's, and lives right beside my mom, so the tools are right there).

Summer arrived, I ran into the caretaker again, and he mentioned that I hadn't found time to plant flowers, and sounded disappointed. I told him I was still planning on gardening here.

Earlier last week I was talking to a neighbour again, and she mentioned that she had two perennials that she wanted to split/dig out, and did I want them. We arranged that I would come fetch them on Friday.

Due to the rain, I didn't have time to prepare the bed in advance, so I ended up with quite a bit of heavy digging on Friday. (Stupid modern tools aren't designed for hard work... I bent the shovel, and had to bend it back.)

This is what the front of the building looked like before I started digging:
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Attractive, no?

Since I don't know what all I'm getting from different people, I decided to just dig enough space for what I have, get it in the ground so that it doesn't die, and then arrange things in the fall when I have all the plants I'm going to end up with. hence, I ended up with this oh-so-attractive placement:
That's a bunch of day lilies, several bachelor buttons, and two half-dead plants that another tenant stuck in the garden... one in it's original spot right in the corner, and another one that I moved so that it was easier to dig the bed. Here's how it looks from a distance:

So, now for the drama. I was talking to my neighbour across the hall (I'll call her J) on Thursday, and invited her and her kids to join me in the gardening attempt. She was quite excited about the prospect. When I went to fetch the tools from my mom's, there was no answer at her door. (Apparently she wasn't sure she heard a knock, and then she saw me walking away from the building. I didn't knock again when I came back with the tools and the plants, but I'm guessing that she had gone to her in-laws by then anyway.) Half-way through digging the bed, I saw her, her kids, and the kids' father (I'll call him "sperm donor") coming down the street. From a distance, their behaviour looked a bit odd, but I didn't realize anything was wrong. I continued digging, and then I hear the kids crying. I look up, and they're over near some bushes, and I thought that perhaps the kids had a spat (they're generally pretty good kids, though). I see sperm donor grab one of the kids, and drag him towards the door. Then a guy driving past stops, and starts yelling at sperm donor, how he can behave that way, especially in front of the kids. I ask him what happened, he sort of brushes it off, and the kids says daddy pushed mommy into the bushes. Just then J comes up with her other kid, who is bawling, and J is crying, cut and bruised too.

I ask J if she wants to borrow the phone, but she declines. I tell sperm donor that I think it's time for him to leave. He says he needs his work clothes from J's apartment. I'm trying to figure out what to do, because I don't really want to leave my mom's tools on the front yard for anyone (especially a pissed off sperm donor) to wander off with, but I want to help my friend. Shortly she goes up with the kids, then brings down his clothes. He complains that she brought stuff he didn't need, and didn't bring his work boots. Then he storms off.

I look at the half-done garden, the tools, and wonder if I should go up to see if J needs help. I decided to finish the garden... I didn't want the plants to die, and I had to finish before going to a potluck that night.

After getting everything planted and cleaned up, I knocked on J's door, and loaned her my phone. I told her that I didn't want to leave her without a phone because I was going out that night. She told me some of what had gone on. I'm not going to type that up, but one stupid thing that sperm donor said to J, because he's jealous/suspicious of her spending time with people other than him, is that "she's upset because she's missing her play-date" with me. Sheesh.

*Anyway*, turns out there was *more* gardening drama while I was out. Another tenant (I'll call her Mrs C) was startled to see my gardening attempt, and asked who had done it. J said I had. Mrs C then said, "She thinks she can do better than me, does she?" I'm not sure if J said it out loud or not (I suspect not), but J's response was, "She does garden better than you!"

Here is a sample of Mrs C's gardening:
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I saw Mrs C putting these plants in the ground. They didn't look like they had come from a garden centre. A couple of years ago, a neighbour of mine mentioned that she had caught "an old lady" pulling up flowers she had planted along her fence by the back lane. I have no proof, but I highly suspect Mrs C's plants came from my friend's garden, and probably without permission. (I'm not sure I want to know.) At any rate, Mrs C only cleared tiny spots for them, and then didn't water them so now they're half-dead. (The green thing in the first photo is a cosmos that grew from seed... I think it self-seeded.) My intent was not to show her up, but it would be pretty hard not to, unless I didn't do any gardening at all. *sigh*

To take the bad taste away, here's the lovely hollyhocks at the back of the building:
(Those two shrubby things are heavily pruned elm trees. I'm not sure if they're intentional, or self-seeded and never removed. Elm trees should not be that close to the building, and they look ugly pruned like that.) Hollyhocks close up:
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