A good gardener is hard to find

How to tackle all the work there is to do in the garden

In good hands

I need staff. My socialist friend is appalled with me when I say this, but she doesn’t watch Downton or garden like I do – an hour a day and most weekends. There are so many things I can’t do: prune tall trees, move hulking shrubs, trim towering hedges or weed for hours without cooking, or suddenly deciding I need to run to the village.

I need help, but neither can I socially afford classist comments about staff, I truly can’t afford to pay anyone much (and still keep my budget for plants, and uh, food). Plus: I haven’t found anyone who is quite up to snuff.

I’ve tried various self-proclaimed earth-loving people with trucks. There was the frisky long-haired fellow who when asked to shape a mangy holly, topped it a whopping five feet, exposing not only a power pole, but also an offensive streetlight. An edenic hippy chic followed, one that couldn’t do paperwork, or rather only to her own advantage. I tried a man who had cottoned onto the gardening biz without learning very much about plants. And finally a backhoe boulder-moving man who used workers from the day labour pool downtown; people who didn’t know a weed, save one.

I’m exaggerating and being snobbish for effect. I have worked alongside every worker (the best conversationalists were the day labourers), save the holly-hacker who could greenwash so well I left him in the hands of my husband. Ahem.

My first-world gardening problem: Good help is hard to find.

The best gardener I’ve had specializes in installations. He single-handedly plants trees. I had him put in 10-foot hornbeams, with burlap-wrapped clay-coated roots. He used his body for leverage.

Dutch and Gouda-powered, at the age of 60 he is a gardener of the old sort: conservative in movement, practically energy-saving in design. His hands naturally gloved, one missing a tip of finger. His feet, size 14, if you count the workboots, and count the boots you do when delicate perennials are sending up shoots. No tiptoeing through the proverbial tulips for this man. And therein lay the problem – I’d ask for a plant moved, watch him wield a wheelbarrow like it was Tonka toy and then seize up, staring fixedly at his humongous feet.

I’m no angel to work for: I dither, preferring to design on the fly until the garden “feels” right. And I’ve been dropped as a client for having a lawn lousy with rocks. Recently, I invited over a gardener who I thought would be perfect for me (he mentioned soil over dinner) and while he didn’t take the job, he did offer to help out for free in exchange for my teaching him, which I’m trying to count as a blessing of sorts.

At this time of intense clean-up, when trips to the dump have lost all charm, it’s time to admit to one’s limitations and call for help. Gardening is hard work, true horticultural educations are rigorous, take years, and the work is not well-paid. But if we’re willing to pay for people to design and sell our homes, why do we balk at the price and knowledge it takes to create living beauty, to care for greater part of a property – that outside?

I’ve decided to divide and conquer: an intern, an irrigator, an excavator, a pruner, a helper. Many hands. Let’s just not call them “staff.”

Christin Geall is an Oak Bay gardener and Creative Non-Fiction writing instructor at the University of Victoria.

 

 

Just Posted

Victoria’s Other Secret not so secret anymore

How six Mount Doug teachers turned a lunch jam into $11,000 raised for charity

Take your opportunity to sing at the Royal Theatre

Great Canadian Sing debuts Sept. 8 with inspirational music, talented performers, singalong format

PHOTOS: Inside the opening of the expanded Westhills Stadium

The grand opening of the expanded stadium in Langford is on schedule for Aug. 24

Award-nominated Snotty Nose Rez Kids headline Indigifest 2019 coming to Victoria

Scheduled for Aug. 24, the event is a showcase of Indigenous musicians from around B.C.

Cycslists were all smiles during ninth Tour de Victoria

More than 2,100 cyclists participated

QUIZ: How much do you remember about Woodstock?

Weekend music festival in Bethel, New York, was held 50 years ago

B.C. VIEWS: Log exports and my other errors so far in 2019

Plastic bags, legislature overspending turn out differently

‘It’s just the freedom:’ Paralyzed Broncos player pursuing life on the water

The former Humboldt Broncos goaltender, who started in the net when he was nine, was paralyzed last year

Canadians killed in Afghanistan honoured during emotional dedication ceremony

One-hundred-fifty-eight Canadian soldiers died during the mission

It’s snow joke: Up to 30 cm of snow expected to fall in northeastern B.C.

Alaska Highway, Fort Nelson to be hit with August snowstorm, according to Environment Canada

Sea-to-Sky Gondola in B.C. likely out of commission until 2020

Sea to Sky Gondola carries between 1,500 and 3,000 people every day during the summer season

Helicopter-riding dog Mr. Bentley now featured on cans of new B.C.-made beer

Partial proceeds from every pack go to Children’s Wish

PHOTOS: Weapons seized at Portland right-wing rally, counterprotests

Not all who gathered Saturday were with right-wing groups or antifa

Ferries employees participating in Denman Island cleanup for plastic-shedding ferry

The cleanup comes a few weeks after one organized by residents of the Island

Most Read