A good gardener is hard to find

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

In good hands

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.

 

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Victoria Hospice staff Brianne Ohl, left, Angela Chalmers, right, and Sandi Ogloff, at back, show off their buttons that show a picture of them smiling. Staff has worked hard to maintain the connections with patients despite the barriers of PPE and rigid COVID-19 protocols. (Victoria Hospice Photo)
Hospice provides compassion in a time of COVID

Victoria Hospice 40th anniversary on pause during pandemic

Look for the Random Act of Kindness Day colouring contest in Black Press issues Jan. 17. Physical entries can be mailed or dropped off to local Black Press offices. A scanned or photographed entry can be emailed to info@victoriafoundation.bc.ca. Winning entries can get a $50 gift card to Bolen Books and a $100 donation to a charity of their choice from the VIctoria Foundation. (Pixabay)
Colouring contest coming for Kindness Day

Kindness Day colouring contest in partnership with Victoria Foundation

Sidney has moved the remaining parts of its public consultation phase part of the Official Community Plan online. (Black Press Media File)
Sidney moves to an ‘all online engagement’ process for OCP

Staff says OCP charrette scheduled for mid-February

(File photo)
‘Very lucky’: Two passengers, dog escape rollover crash in Saanich unscathed

Vehicle flips on Trans Canada Highway after hitting median, possibly due to ice, firefighter says

The large metal gate stolen from Muddy Valley Farm in rural Saanich on Jan. 18 reappeared less than a week later. (Muddy Valley Farm/Facebook)
Large metal gate stolen from Saanich farm makes mysterious reappearance

12-foot gate returned to Muddy Valley Farm less than a week after it was stolen

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2017, file photo, Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey prepares to speak at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. A mythical, ape-like creature that has captured the imagination of adventurers for decades has now become the target of Rep. Justin Humphrey. Humphrey, a Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season, He says issuing a state hunting license and tag could help boost tourism. (Steve Gooch/The Oklahoman via AP, File)
Oklahoma lawmaker proposes ‘Bigfoot’ hunting season

A Republican House member has introduced a bill that would create a Bigfoot hunting season

Economic Development and Official Languages Minister Melanie Joly responds to a question in the House of Commons Monday November 23, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Federal minister touts need for new B.C. economic development agency

Last December’s federal economic update promised a stimulus package of about $100 billion this year

FILE - In this Nov. 20, 2017, file photo, Larry King attends the 45th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton, in New York. Former CNN talk show host King has been hospitalized with COVID-19 for more than a week, the news channel reported Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. CNN reported the 87-year-old King contracted the coronavirus and was undergoing treatment at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP, File)
Larry King, broadcasting giant for half-century, dies at 87

King conducted an estimated 50,000 on-air interviews

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for witnesses after the theft of a generator worth thousands of dollars. Photo supplied
RCMP asking Vancouver Island residents to watch for stolen generator

Vehicle may have been travelling on Highway 19

Most Read