Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Constant Regardener

I once had a neighbor who grew lavender in her front yard. Once a week or so she would don her gloves and straw hat to tenderly care for her small plot. I watched her from my window, fascinated but horrified. Beautiful and refined, she gardened in a dress, its waist cinched close with a belt, the full skirts flowing around her as she bent her knees and turned to the side to snip bouquets of lavender. She was always clean, the pink fabric ironed to perfection.

Brand new to gardening, it had never occured to me to garden in anything other than shorts and a t-shirt. I didn't own a beauitful pink dress, hated to iron, and didn't grow lavender. I admired her ability to stay so clean and to grow something so well while doing it. She and her husband moved, another took their place, and I wondered how the new neighbors would care for the tiny garden they had inherited. They ignored it and it continued to bloom. The idea that there as many types of gardeners as there are plants in a garden began to grow and flourish. And then I met Katie.



Impatiens and extra tradescantia from my garden  filled out her beds before getting whacked by the black walnut.

Katie is a regardener. I have lost track of how many plants have met their demise in her tiny backyard. Just across her property line a massive black walnut tree towers over her garden, keeping her dogs shaded as they destroy whatever the walnut tree hasn't already killed. Big dogs in a small area are always a problem, but Katie assumed they would burn off their energy by playing with each other insted of collaborating to destroy her garden. A canine combo of Einstein and Houdini, Fergie plots and schemes while pretending to sleep. Maddie, with a mane of fluffy golden fur and the IQ of a potato, eagerly agrees to all of Fergie's evil plans.


"If I can repeatedly thread a wire through the key creating a strong enough degree of tension, I can turn the lock on the door by tying the wire to Maddie's collar and convincing her to run in circles. It just might work. If I can't get the lock to turn, I think I'll keep working on my renovation projects by eating another hole through the wall. It really expedites the process of going from one room to another. My humans were so proud of my last project they jumped and screamed for joy." Fergie




"Yum, yum, yum. When I'm done with the peanut butter, I'm gonna bury my bone in the pot of dirt on the deck. Uh-huh, uh-huh. I'm gonna bury it straight up and down so it looks like it's growing outta the dirt. Uh-huh uh-huh. Katie's gonna be so proud of me." Maddie


When Katie and her husband bought their house, they spent the first summer removing overgrown shrubs, improving the lawn, and turning the tiny backyard into a garden. It was beautiful. After adopting Fergie and Maddie from a local shelter, the new improvements took on a different tone.


It's almost impossible to see the small pear tree growing in the corner of this bed.  After discovering Fergie had gnawed off all the lower branches,  Katie quickly located chicken wire, despite not having chickens, and began to cordon off the area. Fergie waited and wagged, while scheming silently to destroy the tree at all costs. But she looked so cute, Katie was fooled. And Fergie wagged some more.
 
Undaunted by a coop's worth of wire, Fergie continued her assault, chewed through the base of the six foot tree and ran gleefully around the yard with it dangling from her mouth. Tree 0 Fergie 1. Katie ranted and raged and then continued with her garden plans. A stupid tree eating dog was not going to stop her from gardening. Buy thorny plants, I advised. Maybe a quince. She tried roses. Served on a warm bed of soil with a spattering of petals, roses are delicious, countered Fergie.
 


 Hostas, astilbes, pieris, tradescantia were ravaged equally as Fergie and Maddie joyfully helped Katie with every regardening project. Eager to prove themselves worthy of her continued love and affection and sensitive to the difficulties of gardening while heavily pregnant, they dug this four foot wide hole just for her. Had the concrete slab been just a few feet to the left, they would have contiued to help. They wagged their tails and stood proudly by their work.



Sensing how difficult it is to care for a baby when threatened by bags of peat moss, Fergie and Maddie decided to help by eliminaitng the forces of evil hidden within. 


Most people would have given up after having to regarden for the hundredth time. But not Katie. The dogs are still there, the baby is safe from the horrors of peat moss, the black walnut tree continues to poison the soil, and Katie still gardens, more determined each time to create a solution that will outsmart the dogs and the tree. I may have a larger garden, but she is the ultimate gardener.



Phlox and coeopsis seedlings from my garden thrive in Katie's front yard, the only garden the dogs don't have access to.

21 comments:

  1. What a story! I can't imagine gardening in a ironed skirt! I admire Katie for her determination. I really laughed at bits of this story since my two puppies are in the digging and chewing stage, can't differentiate sticks from live limbs and run around not paying any attention to where they are stepping or what they bump into. They currently chew on the roses I am pruning...they don't seem to mind the thorns a bit. I'm glad to see that at least her front yard remains untouched.

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  2. and I thought deer were bad. I love dogs but I think I would absolutely lose it if one chewed down a tree. Katie must have the patience of a saint.

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  3. How I admire Katie! I have had my own experiences with pets, including a rose eating pup who nibbled thorns and all! Fortunately, I never had to deal with a black walnut tree.

    I think the neighbor in the dress must have got out at night when no one was watching and did her digging and weeding in less stylish attire. Or did she have someone else to do the dirty work?

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  4. I too had a tree chewing Akita, so I can sincerely sympathize. Luckily, I made sure it did not become a habit, so future trees lived. Watching him constantly was my only immediate defense. There is always something tastier than a tree. The chewed peat moss was scary.

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  5. This is really funny. I see that you are able to translate dog language. Do you use Google Translator? My dogs do all the above. They even dig up roots. Sometimes, they open up packets of soil and drag them all over. Maybe that explains my weird posts. I guess I'm no longer sane.

    Btw, glad to see such a beautiful patch. Wonder how they keep the dogs out.

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  6. Whenever I go on a garden consultation and I see that the homeowner has a large dog or dogs, I just cringe and warn them that gardens and dogs do not mix. I was at a job last week where the dogs had trampled the nice fluffy compost in the beds down to something akin to concrete. I think the Koehler Method of Dog Training might be in order for Katie's pups. Yeesh!!

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  7. One - The only reason Katie's dogs haven't ransacked the front yard is because they don't have access to it. And yes, I speak fluent dog! ;o)

    Deb - I'm not sure how the lavender actually made it into the ground w/o my neighbor getting dirty! I never saw her look less than perfect.

    Karin - Your puppies sound adorable! It's amazing how dogs can devour a thorn and not think twice.

    Marguerite - Fortunately for the dogs Katie loves them more than the tree. But whenever she advertises "Free dumb dogs" on Facebook, I know another plant/bag of soil/?? has bit the dust.

    GWGT - What's yummier then a tree? Let me know so I can pass it on to Katie!

    Toni - If Katie had smaller more lethargic dogs, I think her garden would be ok. She's planing on installing an Invisible Fence around her gardens at her next house. Either that or enclosing them in one of the bubbles being developed by NASA for colonizing Mars.

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  8. What an inspiring story! Katie just didn't give up. I would have given up a long time ago. That's why my garden is enclosed in a 7-foot, no climb fence, reinforced with 8-foot cedar posts! I love my pups AND my garden!

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  9. AAAGH, what a story. I don't think I could have kept going, especially after the spilled peat. I guess she loves those regardening helpers! My woes are because of indoor houseplant regardeners (two Siamese cats, not dumb at all), but outdoors it's always all about the deer.

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  10. Bahahaha! This is a hilarious post - in the sort of "oh dear, I'm so glad it's not me" kind of way. Kudos to Katie for her persistence! wow!

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  11. Katie here! I just about peed my pants at the line "Served on a warm bed of soil with a spattering of petals, roses are delicious, countered Fergie." It's a good thing I love these stupid rescue dogs so much, or I would have un-rescued them after the Incident of the Curious Dogs and the Peat Moss in the Nighttime. Tammy deserves some long, slow clapping for donating plant after plant after plant to me!

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  12. Yes, I think we all agree that Katie is a saint! What patience you must have. You'll be a great mother to teenagers! I was just lamenting today as I noticed Blitz had trampled some seedlings and continues to sleep on my new lorapetalum...shoot, he has nothing on Katie's sweet dogs!

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  13. Such cute story of the dogs and their antics but poor poor Katie and her garden and she still has not given up!

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  14. So very funny, this post should be published!
    Katie, you deserve my utmost respect. You are a true optimist. Casa Mariposa, you are a great friend, and I am sure you try not to laugh too hard.

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  15. Dogs and gardens- always a challenge! As playfully destructive as they can be, I can't imagine life without them! Based on the final photo of her garden, your friend and neighbor seems to have managed to create a beautiful garden where dogs are no doubt as comfortable and happy as the humans.

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  16. Dogs, well, they're a challenge. lol Even my little JRT could destroy a freshly planted bed in less than 10 minutes if not supervised. Katie's front garden looks beautiful though!

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  17. Hi Casa Mariposa, i am new here, and see that many of my blogmates are here too, One for instance. I laughed at your dialogue about dog-talk. I like your story the way you said it. But i am still curious about the lady with the pink skirt who always managed to be clean in gardening! About our nuisance gardeners, they are not dogs or cats but my mother's chicken. When i was younger i throw a stone when a rooster was picking on my newly planted rose. I wondered why it hit the head, and it suddenly run all around the place for a few minutes and then dead! I am so sorry, but I was not intending it to be like that, i promise i was just trying to shoo it away. It was a big rooster and we just buried it, we did not dress it for dinner.

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  18. What an extraordinary tale of persistence. Though in her place I think I would have moved, or at least constructed a steel dog run for the canine contingent.

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  19. Kudos to Katie for loving her dogs more than her plants.

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  20. OK, so I can't grow indoor plants because my cats eat them and use them as a litter box. Will I have worse problems with my outdoor gardens if I get a dog? Now you have me worried! But those cute little faces are irresistible!

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  21. Too funny! It might be easier to stay mad at them if they weren't so cute.

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