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You get out of a garden & life what you put into it

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POSTED January 8, 2010 2:18 a.m.
I’ve paid for a new roof as well as a new fence that I stained by hand. I painted the outside and ripped out most of the inside carpet.  I tore down an outbuilding and ripped out brick flower beds as well as two concrete pathways. I’ve ripped up four trees and the grass in the back yard and removed the grass and three trees in the front yard. I’ve planted seven trees and 128 shrubs so far.

The latest projects entail taking out a stately old walnut tree that has been dying a slow death, putting in brick paths in the backyard, and planting 20 more roses.

Luckily I bought what I still believe is the perfect house or else I’d probably be tearing it down to the foundation.

My desire to keep changing things – primarily outside – has prompted some to reference Sarah Winchester. The heiress of the Winchester fortune may have believed continuous construction of her famed San Jose mansion helped keep angry spirits of her late husband’s guns at bay. In my case, it’s just a restless spirit.

I’ve got nothing against grass although I’m not too sure it doesn’t have something against me.

Bermuda, crabgrass, grubs, and gophers have all conspired to make a lawn care an exercise in futility. It doesn’t help that I’m about as wild about mowing grass as I am about a full-scale IRS audit.

Besides, there isn’t much to enjoy visually when it comes to grass –at least the types that survive in Manteca’s climate.

Trees, shrubs and flowers – on the other hand – offer a road map to the seasons and the passing of the years. It is interesting to note the progress of a California pepper tree that I could wrap a finger around fairly tightly with a skyward reach of six feet expand to a size where I can’t even put both hands around the trunk hidden by a thick evergreen canopy of leaves that is now six feet wide in just 21 months.

Then there are Japanese maples that offer a change of both leaves and bark colors from winter to summer. Grass in winter is still grass. Japanese maples become colorful lacey skeletons that come alive with the approach of spring. You can study a Japanese maple and take note of its growth and changes as the months roll on. Grass is as predictable as putting out the Toters each week for Tuesday morning collection.

Someone asked me not too long ago what statement I was trying to make with my yard.

Besides the obvious that I’m not a connoisseur of lawn, I could say that it is all about the visual pleasures. I’d be lying, though. Working – or puttering as some might call it – in the yard whether it is hand watering, digging out grass by hand, ripping up tree roots, or weeding is its own reward. You get out of a garden – and life - what you put into it.

At the previous house I went kind of crazy with nearly 1,000 shrubs and trees including 167 roses.

I told myself I’d never plant roses again because they were too much work. But that is exactly what I missed about roses the four years I was living in an apartment after moving out.

They are work and they reward you accordingly. Yes, it is a pain to constantly prune them, pick off the Japanese beetles that share my affinity for white and pink roses, fertilize them, and stay on guard for rust. And the thorns can be a pain.

But in the end it is being able to see shoots pop out from pruned back wood in late January while fog still blankets the slumbering almond orchards in refrigerator – like weather that keep going until the first buds of spring opo out that serve as the precursor to seemly endless blooms. It makes you realize that what you do today prepares you for what is to come.

Perhaps that is why the cold weather doesn’t bother me. The dead of winter is when I scour the nurseries spending time looking for the “perfect” bare root roses and other plants as if I’m searching for gold.

In a sense I am.

What better way to make you realize that rebirth is a constant only if you are willing to help it along whether it is in your garden or your heart.
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