Landscaper Woes: Part One

Many years ago, before I found my present excellent landscaper, I decided to do some small garden improvements–nothing too elaborate. I called a landscaper for an estimate. He arrived in a chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce. He was wearing an Armani suit and a wide smile that displayed more than a full complement of teeth. He handed me his card, on which there was an embossed crown and a proclamation that he was:

Earl le Baron

Majestic Landscaping

“We Cater to Aristocratic Tastes”

This was intimidating and depressing, for I had not even a nodding acquaintance with aristocrats. Let alone royalty! The card did not augur well for my bank balance. As we strolled around the garden, he kindly pointed out the mistakes I had made. He then launched into a description of the million dollar gardens he had installed. Deposed royalty, minor European aristocrats, and discredited third world dictators seemed to make up the bulk of his clientele.

“These clients had the good taste to allow me to capture the essence of ‘Olde Europe.'” He airily waved away my economical plan. “Leave everything to me, we want to start with a clean slate.” I had an uneasy feeling that his plan would rival that of Buckingham Palace–with a price tag to match. I pictured the face of my Better Half/Financial Backer; it would be sour. So I scratched him off my list (the landscaper, not my husband).

To steady my nerves after all the talk of clean slates, aristocrats, and royalty, I went inside and made myself a nice, strong cup of tea.

Have you ever hired a landscape service or someone else who turned out to work far beyond budget? Share your baffling experiences in the comments below!

Perennials: A Picturesque Portrait

Breathes there anyone with a soul so dead,

Who would not admire a perennial bed?

Most of us start gardening too late in life. When we are young and sprightly, we have too many other interests. The middle years are taken up with furthering our careers and/or raising families, so that by the time we should be hitting our stride, our stride has turned into a totter; bones are creaking and backs are aching. The spirit might be willing, but the knees are weak. However, it’s never too late to start. Procrastinating about doing a project is like looking at a wheelbarrow; nothing will happen until we start pushing.

Planning a Large New Border:

Study the photos in gardening books then choose the layout and the plants you most admire within them. Like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot, we must use the “little grey cells” in order to choose the best plants. Picture this large border as a stage and like Cecil B. de Mille you’ll soon be directing a cast of hundreds.

Digging:

Roses are reddish,

Violets are bluish,

But they won’t grow in soil that’s glueish!

Gardening is 10% preparation and 90% perspiration; most of the latter comes from digging.

  1. Make sure the soil is soaked but not soggy.
  2. The tines of the fork should go in the full length. Large clumps should be broken up with the back of the fork or spade.
  3. Spread large amounts of compost, peat, and manure then dig again. The soil will become friable. (For a vivid example of this, read page 39 of Too Late for Regrets.)

Planting:

Place the plants in the area where the holes are to be dug. Move them around until you’re happy with the result. Container plants bought from the nursery might have become rootbound; tease out some of the roots and spread them out before planting. Water thoroughly, and make sure that any weeds appearing are eradicated promptly.

Sun-Loving Perennials

  • Aurinia (Basket of Gold) – low growing, mid-spring
  • Rock Cress (Arabis) – showy racemes of pure white, late spring. Ideal for rock gardens.
  • Centranthus Ruber (Jupiter’s Beard) – has upright stems bearing fluffy clusters of pink flowers. 2 feet, needs staking.
  • Rudbeckia (Goldsturm) – Black-eyed Susan. Stunning orange flowers with a black center. Shasta daisy makes a spectacular splash of white, mid-summer.
  • Coreopsis (Tickseed) – “Early Sunrise,” “Sunray,” charming yellow flowers at the end of wiry stems, 1-2 feet
  • Heliopsis (Helianthus) – False sunflower, long blooming, 2-3 feet. Plant at rear.
  • Phlox Paniculata (Garden Phlox) – “Eva Cullum,” exquisite clusters of deep pink flowers on sturdy stems, stake. 2 feet, mid-late summer.
  • Aster Frikartii – lilac daisy-like flowers, late summer
Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Kniphofia (Red Hot Poker)

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Stacys 1.5 Feet, Upright Stems

Achillea (Yarrow) "Paprika"

Achillea (Yarrow) “Paprika”

Aster Novae-Angliae

Aster Novae-Angliae

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

Sandwort, Early Summer, Low Growing

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

A Well-Planned Perennial Bed

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia)

On Writing: Introducing a New Character

In Too Late for Regrets, I allowed Timothy and Elizabeth the luxury of developing their relationship in the first few chapters. Then I gradually developed Sir David Knightley’s character; the reader becomes aware of his importance in this story when he visits South Africa (page 97). Before flying back to the U.K., he sits in his hotel room thinking of Elizabeth. How he has adored her for so many years, his determination to marry her. He resolves to be more assertive with her when he next visits Hamilton City. Surely he will be able to persuade her and make his dream come true? When he meets Timothy and Elizabeth at the Botanic Gardens, it becomes obvious to him that this is no light romance. The sexual charge between Timothy and Elizabeth is palpable, and David mourns his loss.

“Elizabeth, why did you go for a walk that day?” (Page 112)

As he comes to know Timothy, David’s admiration for him increases. He admires Timothy’s keen intellect–his heroism and his devotion to his duties. When David realizes that Timothy is in danger of losing everything, he devises an ingenious plan to thwart the villain’s intentions.

David is an aristocrat and successful business man with a military background. He is a gentle man. What reader could fail to feel a fondness for him? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

Great Romances – A Memorable Love Affair

Moon tiger is a green coil which is placed in a saucer; when it is lit, the smoke repels mosquitoes. Moon Tiger is also the name of the 1987 novel by Penelope Lively; winner of the Booker Prize in the U.K. For those of you looking for an epic love story to read after finishing Too Late for Regrets, here is the first part of my Moon Tiger review.

An elderly woman lies dying. The story of her long life is told through her memories. The central section of the book is her heartbreaking love affair with Captain Tom Southern, a tank Commander.

The Time: 1941-1942

The Place: The Libyan desert where tank battles are being waged. The British tanks are pitted against those of the Germans under the command of the Desert Fox, Rommel.

Claudia Hampton is a journalist; she is beautiful, independent, and willful. She wangles a ride in a truck which is traveling through the desert to headquarters where she is to interview some of the top brass.

The truck becomes bogged down in the sand. Through the murk of a sandstorm, a jeep appears. The driver is Captain Tom Southern who offers to take her to headquarters. Sitting next to him and dazed from lack of sleep, Claudia naps. Through half-closed eyes, she observes his hands on the steering wheel.

Forty years later, as she lies dying, she can recall with clarity those hands. The author’s description of the carnage Claudia sees as the jeep ravels through the desert is vivid and unforgettable.

To Be Continued Next Week…