“We’re booking into June,” he warned. That was back in March. Almost six months later and my landscaping project is no closer to completion than it was when I made that first phone call.
“June would be great,” I said, too eagerly I now know. Mistake number 1.
He played a good game of stringing me along. Asked for pictures, which I sent immediately. That was mistake number 2. Never send pictures. If they’re interested, they’ll make the effort to come and see the project. After he saw the pics, he sent along a reasonable estimate, making me certain that I had found The One. I looked no further. That was mistake number 3. Never believe you’ve found The One until they prove they’re The One.
Honestly, you’d think I’d never dated.
After sending the pictures (Oh, how I regret sending those pictures. They’re probably all over the internet by now.), I insisted that someone come over and take an in-person look at the job. The project is nuanced, I explained. After I dropped the word “nuanced,” the landscaper ceased all contact. Eventually, I broke up with him over email, a formality given that I was clearly the dumped one. But I wanted this unfortunate chapter officially over because him and me, we’ve got history. This relationship is not over for good. Mark my words, he’ll be back in the spring just like he has been for the past 20 years, faithfully delivering 3 yards of dark pine mulch.
And I’ll be waiting, grateful to get that 3 yards of dark pine mulch. Since mulch is what he can give, that’s what I’ll take. It’s not nothing. If I call on a Tuesday that mulch is dropped off in a tidy pile by Wednesday, provided I leave an overturned trash can in the desired delivery spot and a check in an envelope on the front door. Every year he takes the check out of the envelope and then pushes the empty envelope through the mail slot. In this way, the landscaper makes it crystal clear that our transaction is absolutely, positively done. He doesn’t want so much as an empty envelope to remember me by.
I’ve come to accept that I’m just a spring fling for him. Wham, bam, here’s your mulch, ma’m. Because he delivers good product, I choose to accept this bark-with-no-benefits relationship. I had hoped to take things to to the next level, but it turns out he’s just not that into my yard. Ah well, not every landscaper can fulfill my every need.
The next guy I called had done a job for me about 15 years ago. Since then he’s begged me to come back, sending marketing love-note materials every spring. I gave a call, careful to keep things casual and light. We set a date. He was supposed to show up Friday at 3. He did not show up Friday at 3. Not at my yard, anyway. Maybe he showed up Friday at 3 somewhere on the Cape, and Friday by 4 he had a beer in hand. My call went directly to voicemail. I left a message, which was not a casual, cool-girl message at all. I talked too fast. My voice cracked. “Hey, what’s up. I thought we had plans. I’m here. Call me!” He never called back.
This was annoying. I’m not the one who chased him around for 15 years. He’s the one who’s been direct-mail stalking me for 15 years. I feel spurned and have cut this weed-tease out of my gardener’s heart. If I receive marketing love-note materials from him next spring I shall scrawl “please take me off your mailing list” in red lipstick, or blood. Then I’ll send his trashy, glossy garden porn mailer—the one he sends to all the gardeners—straight back to him.
Next, I took the subtle approach. I hunted my prey close to home. While pretending to garden, I waited until the friendly neighborhood landscaper drove around the corner. Then I emerged from the garage border and pounced. I tried to stay cool, like I really didn’t care. “Hey, I’ve got a thing that might-maybe need doing in the yard. Can you come over sometime and take a look?” I asked.
“I can come over right now,” he said.
My heart skipped a beat but I knew by now to hide my excitement that one of the cool landscaper guys was not only in-person talking to me, but was actually coming over to the yard. As we walked down the street, I hoped the neighbors were watching.
I slouched ever-so-casually across the yard, over to the Rack and Ruin Garden. He took one look. “Nah. We don’t have heavy equipment. We just keep it simple. You need a bobcat in here,” he said.
And with that, this Wellesley cougar was placed into the high maintenance category and dismissed. I slouched again, this time in defeat. Later I looked back at the encounter and remembered how I stood on the street corner and flagged him down, and I felt common, and cheap.
Mr. Swellesley is in a panic because he can tell I’ve reached the “pay any price” stage of project desperation. During a backyard party I spied him and one of our practical-minded friends deep in conversation over by the Rack and Ruin Garden. Their ideas seemed to hang on putting our sons’ friends to work. Thankfully, the young men are all back at college. I happen to like having those young men around when they’re in town and don’t want to chase them off by putting them to hard labor.
Meanwhile, I’m so annoyed with the Rack and Ruin Garden for putting on a show while guests were here. Here’s a cropped shot of the Rack and Ruin Garden showing off. The strong phlox showing is an obvious pitch by the Rack and Ruin Garden to be allowed to remain. But the garden is too big, and it’s gotten away from me, and I just can’t manage it anymore.
And here’s the truth about the Rack and Ruin Garden:
Here’s what the Rack and Ruin Garden looked like when we were all ten years younger:
Over the past decade the trees have grown, as trees do, and put the Rack and Ruin Garden in the shade. On a slow path to degradation, first the bee balm got powdered mildew. Next the rudbeckia got black spot. Then the coreopsis stopped blooming. They have all cited a lack of sun and a high dew point as reasons for their demise. And neglect. There was a lot of neglect.
It’s gotten to the point where, just to have a guaranteed successful exterior project under my belt, I’m seriously thinking about getting the house re-roofed. We had that job done two years ago, and it was the most lovely, drama-free experience. The Connell Roofing crew was very vini, vidi, vici about it all, then they moved on with their lives. And let me get on with mine. So it wouldn’t be crazy to re-roof a house that doesn’t need re-roofing, just to get some project momentum going. Right?