Individual articles on this website are copyrighted. Articles may be downloaded for personal use; users are forbidden to reproduce, republish, redistribute, or resell any materials from this website in either machine-readable form or any other form without permission of the author and NHLA or payment of the appropriate royalty for reuse. For permissions and other copyright-related questions, please email your question to: editor [at] nhlaonline.org.
By Peter Kidd, July 2012
Well, here we are again. Back in the metaphorical saddle again. I seem to have one foot in and one foot out in the metaphysical saddle. At times I feel as though it is but a ghost of me walking through the routine. But that is okay too. After all my Kousa dogwood is in full bloom, the peony out front is wide open, the ants have done their work in this dance of nature. I broke down and set my crew to work on my house for three days, after tune-ups, before starting installations. Every weed is gone, shrub or tree pruned, some holes in the landscape have been addressed. My Knockout rose ‘Sunny,’ a gift from Millican’s last fall, is beginning to profusely bloom its subtle yellow/white mix petals. My hostas have aged enough that they play an important part of shaded areas.
I noticed another gift from decades ago from Kurt Tramposh, a Krossa Regal hosta that needs subdividing, so already a new list begins. Funny how that works, how the landscape as an art form is a constantly dynamic art form. And that fact reaches back into every aspect, from design, and the craftspersonship as well. (Spell check just went off at the word “craftspersonship.” Ha! Even Bill Gates must be chauvinistic in his subconscious.)
For a start the ground that seems so still is ever so slowly shifting, add to that, hydrostatic pressure, and mindlessly built stone walls blow out, topple from the top, on and on. Hopefully we all learn from our mistakes. Back to the point, the handling of the plants involves living entities, often ones that have been root pruned and dug having to deal with that new mass of root systems. We certainly handle plants differently at different stages of the season. In the spring they are forgiving, the weather is cooperative, and we can almost form an assembly line to plant: dig lotsa holes; a person to face and put at proper height, unwrap burlaps, take out of containers and scratch the roots, loosely back fill; someone else can follow with a hose, soak in the loose back fill add to it and heel the plant in properly. By August, to start, we need to hose down the bed of the truck to even move them to job site. They get set and faced, then a plant is handled by one person, who does the entire procedure themselves, often doing one plant at a time. Ever leave a potentilla out of its pot on a 90 plus degree day, roots exposed, for any amount of time?
Some plants grab and do wonderfully in a certain spot, microclimate, and take off running. Others simply do not. The better one gets to know the wants and needs of each plant the less often design mistakes occur. No one masters horticulture, if they would be honest, as the more one knows the more infinite the knowledge grows. But we hopefully learn two ways, first by experimenting and taking note of results, and secondly, from others.
I have always considered my role as the designer and manager of artisans. I never pretended to be a plant scientist. The fact that I may have become one over 40 plus years is accumulated knowledge from others. I knew from the very beginning to defer to others, not try to be a know it all. My vendors teach me, part of what I want for my loyalty is to be able to access their knowledge. They introduce me to new plants, give me honest feedback, discuss cultural problems with me. Palmer Koelb once told me “plant people are good people.” He is right, too.
Anyway, back to my yard, I cleared out the woods filled with 8-10 foot rhodis and Brower’s Beauties in a canopy of pines. The ferns I planted 20 years ago have propagated. It has been probably five years since I have seriously addressed my own yard, and I can’t tell you how much pleasure I am finding in it. Splashes of lamium mostly overtaken by lily of the valley, with their lovely little bells. Old fashion bearded irises from the original owner. My copper beech now completely shades my patio, which was impossible to sit upon mid-summer at one time. Gradually the time capsule is unfolding.
Along my driveway on the banking is an old fashion form of spirea that I have never seen elsewhere, a banking of vinca like a mat, some goats beard, jap cutleaf maple contrasting out of the mass of blue/green vinca. There are tall, lanky fernspray cypress and royal ferns, hay scented ferns and painted japanese ferns in the front. It is a joy to pull up my driveway these days.
I reckon this is my last season. Guys like me and Dr. Dirt who get divorced at 60 have already tossed away that great American dream of financial security, accumulation of wealth. Ha, one can only subdivide one’s small version of wealth so many times, between exes, lawyers, kids, and alimony before it becomes laughable. For me the real decision is that I no longer want to quit writing in the spring and put up with shallow clients and manage younger people. That is fair enough. I genuinely thank god for having been blessed making a living working with nature, being proactive with the ecology, a chance to leave some artistic footprints all over the county. I have always enjoyed my career. It is a great way to make a living, nurturing life, be it plants, tress, or young people passing through my purvey. I shall with great joy walk through this season saying hello to those who I have shared with. My Medicare and supplement kick in, in 30 hours. My alimony has one more payment. I have a gal who comes north each spring and we return to Texas each fall. She owns a house and I shall sell mine and follow her to Texas. I have become quite enamored with the West the last five winters. I’ll sell my house, pay off my home equity loan, and take my various poker chips with me. I have no regrets and will be back and forth to visit kids and grand kids. I am not the kind of person who says good bye, instead I prefer “see ya later.” I’ll make a point of writing some more columns this summer. I wish you all the best of fortune and health. Ha, and if anyone needs a Bobcat, I have three. Be well. u