M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Tuesday, July 29, 2003  

Ground Rules

I’ve discovered one of the drawbacks of renovating the outside of one’s house, in terms of landscaping and so forth: It’s the kind of work that doesn’t stop when you’re finished.

It’s not that I mind doing work around the house, as long as I know I can get to a point in a project when I’m done. You paint a room, it generally stays painted. Replace a two-prong electrical outlet with a three pronger and you’ll find that it’s pretty easy to prevent that third hole from filling itself in. If you fish a fist-sized clot of hair out of the bathroom drain, it’s going to take weeks for the thing to crawl back in there.

But I’ve realized too late that if you install a bunch of flowers and plants in the back yard, your work is just beginning. Did you know you have to water those things? I thought we could just stick them in the ground and be done with it. Why do I have to be always hosing them down now? Isn’t that what rain is for?

No, apparently these salads with roots need as much attention as cats or dogs or children simply by virtue of being living things. Except it’s worse, because things that aren’t plants can tell you when they need water. Even if they can’t speak, they’ll send clear signals like standing next to the water dish and screaming, or licking the bathtub spigot, or precariously balancing on the seat while they lap out of the toilet. Pets also do those things sometimes. But the only thing plants do to tell you they need water is go all yellow and wilty and make your whole yard look like ass. And by then it’s too late. This is nothing less than blackmail. Extortion, even. This is the situation in my back yard. I am being held hostage by flora.

And now it’s spreading. Last week, Trash and my mom did a bunch of landscaping in the front of the house. There’s an area that runs from to our front stoop to the corner of the house that used to be occupied by a few bushes in a bed of red lava rocks. This spring we were down to one bush, a dwarf willow that grew seven feet high before getting smacked down to a more appropriate height by the glaciers that slide off our roof every winter. The rest of the area looked like ten square yards of the planet Mars.

Trash and my mom pulled the rocks out, extended this area further out into the yard, and planted half a dozen prima donnas from the local nursery. Now I’ve got a soaker hose winding between them that I turn on and off for a while two or three times a day. Supposedly the new plants will get to a point when I won’t have to water them quite so assiduously. That’s what they tell me, anyway, but they won’t tell me when that will be. I assume I should stop before I rinse all of the dirt down the driveway, though.

In the meantime, I’ve got a growing number of botanical specimens depending on me and my wife for survival. Factor in the cats and all the blades of grass making another go in the back yard, and we’re responsible for tens of thousands of tiny lives each.

I don’t want to make it seem like I don’t appreciate all of the hard work that Trash and my mom have done to beautify our exterior space. I do. They’re the ones who did all the planning and heavy lifting and getting their hands dirty. All I have to do is some occasional moistening. And when these plants really take hold and start growing on their own and have roots that go halfway down our foundation, it’s going to be worth it. We’ll have a lush, verdant enclave of colorful life that’ll bring us cheer as we pull up to the curb.

When it’s not covered by a three-foot blanket of snow, that is. And when that’s the case, I won’t have to water the plants at all. Pleasure, year-round.

* * *

Today’s best search phrase: “instructions + ‘shotgun shell’ + ‘Christmas’.” You know, I have people who are hard to buy for too, but let’s try to keep hold of ourselves, shall we?

posted by M. Giant 4:20 PM 0 comments


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