Tuesday, July 12, 2011


When we moved into our house almost eight years ago, it came with a garden. Not just a little side-yard, white picket-fenced patch for a couple of tomatoes and some daisies...a full-blown, professionally designed, perennial garden. It takes up the entire front yard. Or at least very nearly all of it. The problem was, the woman who had put in this masterpiece had moved away three years earlier and the family that had moved in pretty much--apparently--ignored it. Then we came along to buy the house and after we ripped up the gold shag carpet out of the dining room and hauled  out the dilapidated stove out of the kitchen, we stood with wonder at what to do with this wild and unruly Eden in our front yard.
I immediately had a friend come over and diagnose the patient. She took us on a tour of our own yard and pointed out things to nurture and things to get rid of. I conscientiously took notes and made drawings so as to be able to go back the next day and go to work. But naturally, by the next day, I had forgotten just about everything she told me. Even though I still have my drawing in a handy file folder titled, "Garden". I couldn't match the drawings with the actual plants. So I weeded and watered and basically tried to keep the whole thing from dying off.

Flash forward 8 years. (You can do that in a blog.) My sister, Susan, poet extraordinaire, entered the Uconn Master Gardener program last winter. By this May, she had passed her test and begun working down her 60 hours of community service to complete the program. Susie (ok...Susan) has been taking care of her yard and the yards of others for a couple of years now and has a keen eye and deft hand at doing it, so getting validated in a program was simply a natural progression of her talents.

Meanwhile, I had been hacking away at my poor little garden trying to keep it alive and give it a little dignity. My husband can be a little crazy with the weed whacker so I consider it a personal victory that I rescued the hydrangea a couple of springs ago. It lives today.

But it was a bigger job than my husband and I were able to manage. Able mulcher that he is and ready weeder that I am, we needed help. I sent my sister an email with the subject line: Garden 911. I included pictures.

She responded to the call. And even though I offered to be the muscle and do whatever she told me to do (and who can resist an offer like that?) she did all the work. She dug, pulled, moved, wheelbarrowed, contemplated, watered, assessed and sweated. She sweated her astilbe off. And now, after a mere day and a half in my yard, my garden now looks like this:

UConn may call her a Master Gardner, but I call her a Miracle worker. She also left me with instructions and this time, I'll try to remember them. (I probably won't) And when I forget, my sister will come back. That's what sisters do.

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