We were barely in our new home a year when my husband informed me that while gardening was my passion it was not his. He was willing to help with an occasional heavy lifting job (digging up shrubs or spreading mulch), but not the weekly planting, weeding, dead heading, overall care that dozen plus flower beds required.
It didn’t take long before the back aches, sore limbs and total lack of any free time convinced me that I needed help. I placed an advertisement in craigslist and immediately had several well qualified helpers lined up. A few emails, some phone conversations and finally a face-to-face tour of my gardens and I had my first garden assistant.
She was young, well informed on garden lore and very pretty. She had a college degree in … I think… French Literature but was paying the bills with yoga instruction and helping home owners with their gardens. In the end yoga was a year-round income and paid better so she moved on. I missed her cute notes letting me know what was ‘coming up’ now. I think my husband liked bragging to his friends about the highly flexible young woman who worked for us that summer.
The next summer I went through three different gardeners. A young man who was full of promise but petered out when he realized how much work two hours a week in the garden could tax you. A young woman who decided that retail work was more fun. And finally a young woman who said she knew what she was doing because her father owned a landscaping company, and yet (amongst other errors) she pulled up my foxglove because she was sure they were weeds.
With that bad luck behind me, the third summer I hired a landscaping firm. It was very small. Just the owner and her two helpers. She was efficient, fast and really got a lot done. Our views on pruning were different. She took a power hedge trimmer to all my shrubs – flowering, evergreen, spring bloomers, fall bloomers – all of them were shorn within an inch of no greens. But I was okay with a difference in gardening preferences until she disappeared. Literally. Gone. Not a word. Then a stranger showed up in my garden one day using tools out of my garage. I asked who she was. Turns out my garden assistant was ill, didn’t want to give up any of her accounts, and didn’t want to tell her clients she couldn’t deliver. So her friend (who didn’t know a daylily from an Asiatic) was trying to help. I sent a nice note with “get well” money and told her friend not to come back.
You would think at this point I’d give up and start attacking the flower beds with Round-up. No perseverance paid off.
I met Patti. I love Patti. She has several degrees and I think at least one masters on top of a couple bachelors in a variety of learning disciplines. She works for several non-profits and has a real gift for giving. Most importantly she is a Master Gardener and if I let her pick her own schedule willing to help me. She’s older than me, but not by a lot… just enough that I try to be careful to not give super heavy jobs to her and have drinking water available. She’s a dream come true!
Every spring Patti and I trade email on when she wants to start. She works two hours every week from early spring to fall. She weeds, deadheads and prunes with skill, and will guide me on what to do when she’s not around. There are times when my avant-garde approach to gardening drives her nuts – I can tell by the little notes suggesting that if I transplant something it’s always good to water it too. But she’s one of those can-do people who’s willing to help with whatever I’ve got going.
In closing… don’t try to do it all yourself. There are good people available to make your gardens beautiful. Don’t give up if the first person isn’t a good fit for you or your gardening style. The right person is there if you just look a little harder.