Dangerous with a trowel

A miracle happened yesterday.

A troop of Master Gardeners knocked on our door at 9 a.m., armed to the teeth with pruners, trowels, hoes and weed-whackers. Their mission? To whip our 2/3-acre garden, which has been growing wild and mean for the last two summers, into shape.

Mr. Wren is a Master Gardener himself, but he’s been severely slowed by osteoarthritis and has simply been unable to keep up with the fast-growing gardens he’d planted before the disease left him jobless and mostly housebound. I’m not in any way, shape or form a Master Gardener; I’m barely an apprentice, and the jungle that’s been rising around our little house is way beyond my modest skills.

So this was a gift of magnificent proportions. While I kept cold drinks and sustenance flowing to the troops, they set to work, eschewing my initial offer of coffee and bearclaws in favor of tackling the monster head-on. A greatly surprised Mr. Wren wandered between the front and back gardens, talking, laughing and answering questions – and there were a lot of them.

Other than hiking and fishing, his two great loves (he catches fish, then releases them after giving the little ones a chuckling talking-to about being careful about what they bite), gardening is his joy. He can’t hike and fish anymore, but over the years, he’s transformed our little chunk of fertile hillside from a field of weeds and three ancient apple trees into a glory of flowers, fruit trees and greenery.

He also developed a serious nursery jones. He’d pop off to one of the local nurseries in search of a couple bags of soil amendment and return not only with 300 pounds of the stuff, but also five or six pots with new plants and a couple of flats of ground cover in the back of his Toyota pickup. He did this at least twice a month, but he supplemented his addiction with the odd bagful of bulb flower or a couple of potted geraniums from grocery store runs, too.

The result was that we have many, many plants that never quite got into the ground, but that he’s watered and tended carefully anyway, hoping one day to be able to get them planted. Our own, hodge-podge nursery.

His MG friends took care of a whole lot of them, yesterday. We now have two small peony bushes ready to thrive with their roots in the ground, a half ton of daylilies, and geraniums in strategic spots. That’s just a small sampling. The perennial morning glory he planted to climb a trellis in front of the fledgling’s window a couple of years ago, which proceeded to grow right up the trellis and then down over the rose bushes and out over the cement patio and even sent tendrils in through the cracks in our front door, was forcibly removed for being a bad boy. The roses are breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Out back, a grizzled MG with a gas-powered weed whacker strapped to his chest took care of the burgeoning foxtail and vinca minor invasion while three other gardeners planted the vegetables Mr. Wren bought in 6-packs in early May but had been unable to get into the ground. They were getting a bit desperate, those tomato and cucumber plants. Some others dug up a willow he’d brought home a couple of years back and set down in the middle of the front garden where it would benefit from the sprinklers. It sent roots out through the pot and into the earth and grew to a healthy but oddly placed ten feet tall. With much love, they planted it, sans burst pot, in a much better location.

Bags of mulch were opened and spread out by hand. Gardens the hens had scratched up and mostly destroyed were replanted – and the hens have now been confined to their coop and little yard. A master gardener who loves trees nuzzled up to the two dogwoods and very carefully pruned away dead branches and those that were crossing over other branches, saying with reverence “I love getting into trees.”

At 1 p.m. I served up grilled hot dogs, potato salad, chips and salsa and chunks of melon. They inhaled the food and went back to work, and at 3, they holstered their trowels, bid us a good day and wandered off home. Mr. Wren donated a 5 hp chipper-shredder that he can no longer use to the MG cause, which elicited much merriment.

The gardens look incredible, and they’ll be a lot easier for Mr. Wren and me, between us, to maintain now. This was a priceless gift of love, friendship and camaraderie. I’m still a bit dazed. And I have nothing but good things to say about the U.C. Master Gardeners of El Dorado County, volunteers all, who gave up a beautiful, warm Saturday to help a friend and fellow Master Gardener.

Thanks, guys.


8 Responses to “Dangerous with a trowel”

  1. treepeony Says:

    Some of the thirty-five peonies in my front yard are still blooming after others started two weeks ago. (The earliest don’t usually open until June 5 here in Minneapolis.) Several bowers of roses threaten to overtake the yard, if not the house.

    Can you post before and after photos of your garden? I would love to see them.


  2. My peonies are raging, and it looks like a nice crop of blueberries this year. And BTW, you and my aunt are kinda-neighbors. She lives in the greater Truckee area….absolutely gorgeous country.

  3. Lance Mannion Says:

    Are you sure these were master gardeners? Sound more like angels to me.

  4. Jeremy Cherfas Says:

    How I miss my garden and the cameraderie of helping and being helped. I don’t even need the before and after pix; I can see it all clearly. Thanks.

  5. Kevin Wolf Says:

    Beautiful story.

    There’s been a lot of gardening going on lately in the blogs I read!

  6. Kevin Wolf Says:

    Beautiful story.

    There’s been a lot of gardening going on lately in the blogs I read!

  7. patrick Says:

    photos! We need photos!

    I have some garden photos of my own up, actually. You can see them here!

    Behold, the power of horse poop!

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