there was no doubt that i had to attack the back garden today. it’s a long narrow space, probably 60′ long by 15′ wide (the house sits on the edge of a coastal canyon) and i’d ignored it for much too long.
it was planted to take care of itself should we take a few weeks off from maintaining it and most everything is in pots (the ground is nothing but rock, good for stability in earthquake-prone southern California, miserable for a gardener. there’s sprinkler system for most of the plants, but i still drag out the kink-free (i love that!) hose every week and give the plants a good soaking, especially in the summer when it’s so dry.
so. when i’ve set a date with the garden i like to start early when the fog is just starting to pull back, it’s little wispy fingers slithering down this pine tree or a last little pull on the live oak we planted 6 years ago and which is finally starting to cast some shade. as i’m sure you know working in the garden, no matter what you plan to do, is composed of much up & down movement–your thighs get an amazing workout.
there is a weeping eucalyptus next to our house that hides our garden shed from our neighbors backyard — a natural fence, hey good neighbor! — and i had to drag the ladder down from the garage and trim the top of it so it didn’t act as an access point to our roof for a subset of mammals that make the canyon their home. there is nothing worse than being woken up by raccoons playing on your roof (trust me on this.)
a boundary faux split-rail fence keeps you, should be so inclined (not a joke), from tipping off over the edge and rolling down the hillside. years ago, when our dachshund, nicky, was still alive, we used to let him out the backdoor to do his thing and one day, he didn’t come back when called–i heard faint, faraway doggy whimper and when i finally figured out where it was coming from, i peered over the edge of the canyon edge and there he was, probably 50 or 60 feet from me, laying on his side on a ledge. m., by this time frantic (and in his morning robe and p.j.s) jumped the fence and butt-slid down the slope to the dog.
i had to throw m. a rope so he, carrying poor little nicky (actually not so little, he was a standard and weighed in at about 35 lbs.), could work himself back up the canyon. nicky had a little scratch and m., of course, was muscle sore for days afterward. but it appears that i’ve lost my thread here, so, yes, the fog lifted and the sun started coming over the hill above us (we’re on the western face of the canyon) and the sweat started rolling into my eyes (that salt just the slightest irritant and i wiped my glove hand across my eyes to sweep it away), clipping, cutting, trimming, thinning, weeding, stand up, squat down (a moment of dizziness and i had to sit down on the ground so i wouldn’t fall down,uh, i really mean faint — damn blood pressure pills) clippers in hand, use them, lock them, put them in my back pocket while i pick up what i’ve cut back and toss it into the gravel path…do you really care at this point?
many years ago, m. & i were in paris and doing some gallery-hopping on the Left Bank and we fell into a smart looking gallery with a show of erik desmazière’s beautiful dry-point etchings. as happens, we fell in love with a little print titled le petit jardinière and made the decision then and there to add his work to our collection. a handsome, muscular, curly-haired young gardener in knee breeches and pouf-y shirt, is carrying a large pot with a blooming a protea. he’s facing the viewer and has a look of such seduction and innocence (but not) that you think to yourself that you would never get any gardening done if he was helping you.
which is what i thought of when i saw the little lizard in the above photo, he did a few push-ups and shot a quick look at me, blinked (was that a wink?) and disappeared into the plant next to the rock he’d been sunning himself on (an unavoidable sentence ending with preposition, but what is one to do?)