Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Gardening in the Desert (vol. I, part 2)

The first summer we lived here I fell hard for Caesalpinia pulcherrima, the Mexican Bird of Paradise. Went to my favorite nursery and bought 3 gorgeous just about to but not quite in bloom 5 gallon plants the day before the yard guys were coming to spruce up our little piece of the desert for the first time.

I always liked working along side the garden guys. In Marin, Jose and his crew loved the plants as much as I did. They'd randomly stroke the tops of the agapanthus as we talked, slight grins on their faces as the leaves tickled their palms. You can't go wrong with landscapers who caress the plants they tend.

So, when Len and Linda drove up with their worker bees, I was there to meet them. Dressed in long sleeves (I do learn, and sometimes I remember, too) and my pants with the rubber pads in the knees and my yellow waterproof clogs and my wide-brimmed hiking hat, I was ready. Trowel in hand, I offered to dig the trench for the spaghetti tubing to the first Bird of Paradise.

They looked at one another. They looked at me. They looked at one another again and began to smile. I thought they were surprised that the homeowner would want to dirty her hands, so I pointed to my trowel and reassured them that, really, I loved it and it would make me happy to help. The smiles grew broader. Undaunted, I smiled back and bent to the task at hand - a trough 6" deep and a trowel's width across. I lifted the trowel. I plunged it to the earth. And it bounced right back up at me. By this time, the workers had given up trying to smother their laughter. They paused while unloading the jack hammer to show me their desert tools - sharp, scary, pointy metal forged to crack the sunbaked dirt. Then, they used the jack hammer to create the planting holes and the trenches for the tubing, while my poor trowel and I looked on and pouted.

Clearly, I was going to have to find a way to do this on my own. Without a jack hammer.

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