to work in their gardens! Well, one person does. That's the newest wrinkle in my life. The lady I'm working for--ahem, the client--called the Botanical Garden looking for a gardener. Someone there that I respect and admire gave her my phone number. So now I'm a gardener.
Is that how it happens?
The client had some hardscape put in last year. Besides stonework, the contractor installed some instant landscape to show off the new backyard. Six months on, it's not looking so good. Besides needing seasonal pruning and weeding, there are too many trees.
Two Maytenus boaria planted about 6 feet apart. (Why would anyone do that?) Three Crataegus of some sort, each planted about 3 feet apart. Three Dodonaea viscosa seemingly planted as a hedge 3 feet away from the wall they should nearly abut. Two Populus nigra cv. Italica planted in back, about 2 feet apart, and intended to serve as a sort of privacy screen from the neighbors across the alley. Note to hardscapers everywhere: for privacy screens, choose evergreens with spreading crowns, not deciduous pencils.
Speaking of deciduous, there's an astonishing amount of deciduous plant material for a California garden. Readers from other states--excluding Florida or Hawai'i--may be surprised to learn that Californians have an aversion to deciduous plants that are not Japanese maples or fruit trees. People come here to get away from all that, and people born here don't understand that bare winter branches are the norm in many places around the world. Me, I've come to appreciate the subtle pleasures of a little extra deciduous in my life, but this guy went overboard in my opinion. Or, maybe he's from back east.
And then there's the problem of an inadequate number of mid-sized shrub-type plants. Mostly, the size regime goes from trees, straight down to Armeria and Ajuga. And the shrubs that were included are all mis-planted. No, don't put Abutilon next to the north-facing wall. No, don't put dogwood in full sun. And while you're at it, don't use three aggressive vines to cover a fence when one will do just fine. Also, Bougainvillea needs something climb on. You can't just plant it next to a wall and leave it at that.
Anyway, whatever. I know how the game works. The clients want instant landscape--so you put in a lot of plants. It's not really a garden. Heck, it's not even a landscape. It's just a yard. So the clients hire someone else to take out the extra plants that they just paid for last year. I'm sad for the plants, mostly.
Anyhow, I'm on the job and I'm fixing things.
The client is wonderful--not least because we have similar tastes. She doesn't like red flowers. I'm not a big fan! She doesn't like the Ajuga. Me neither! The Bergenia makes her wince. It's outta there! She likes Armeria. I divide it and plant drifts! She likes fuchsia. I grow it from seed!
So far, I've worked in her garden two days--weeding, some pruning, moving things around. I'm not comfortable rolling out a design proposal. I've never done that before, and I'm not sure how. She wants me to come regularly--long-term--to edit, add and subtract, maintain, et cetera. She seems content to let the design evolve organically as we proceed. I like that. That's how I am in my garden. I say, let it evolve!
I don't feel comfortable charging her the going rate for professional gardeners in San Francisco just yet. I asked for $30 an hour and she said that's fine. I know I'm supposed to mark-up plants I buy for her. How much? I went to Annie's Annuals yesterday and spent $240. I may or may not use everything I bought, but I think I'll use a lot of it.
I recommended a few arborists--she knew one of them and picked him; name rhymes with "Head Tripping"--to consult on tree removal and a crown reduction for the Metrosideros excelsus in the front yard (two of them--again--planted right next to each other).
The David Austen catalog came in the mail the day she called me. He suggests a half-dozen different roses for coastal gardens. She wants me to pick them. Dahlias from Old House Gardens? Yes! Some vegetables, an herb garden? Yes, yes! Somehow I missed Pam Peirce's article about coastal tomatoes last Saturday--the client pointed me to it.