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  • Kate Forest

Landscaping for the City Girl

Growing up on the ninth floor of an apartment building, I didn’t have a yard to play in. We would roller skate up and down the long hallways until a neighbor popped his head out and yelled. We’d take the elevator down one flight and repeat the process. With seventeen floors we could get in a full day’s activity.

But now I live in the suburbs and I own land. By land, I mean the smallest yard on the block. But there’s actual grass and foliage. I have never tended to any of the green stuff outside. It’s dirty and prickly and often there are bugs. My husband is from Wyoming and California. He drove a tractor and a harvester for his uncle on the family’s tomato farm. It’s a no brainer who is in charge of our tracts of land.

(this isn't me even when I'm not mowing the yard)

A few years ago, the giant, one-hundred year old maple tree that was in our front yard fell down. It didn’t just fall. I’ll set up the situation. We were returning from a trip to California (yes to visit that side of the family) and when we got to our car at the airport, it wouldn’t go. AAA said they would be 2-3 hours. It was already almost midnight. Husband took the kids, rented a car and started for home. I waited until about 2AM for the tow truck. Meanwhile, husband’s cell phone was running low. The car charger was with me. The PA Turnpike was closed and they could barely eek out enough juice to keep the GPS app open. They basically kept shutting the phone off to preserve the battery. Upon arriving at our house, they discovered two things. One, the mighty maple had fallen into the street, taking out 3 cars and the power line to the entire block. Two, I had the house keys. They slept in the rental car until I arrived in the early morning.

This is all to say that we needed a landscaper to fix the front yard. We called an eco-friendly company who dug everything up and made our front yard look like the Gaza Strip. It stayed like that for months. We had to wait for whatever was there to die off before they replanted. Replant, they did. And now the front is the Versailles of suburban Philadelphia.

(somewhat exaggerated image of our front yard)

As often happens, when you fix one part of your house, you notice how crappy the other parts look. The backyard had become an overgrown Amazonian rainforest. So a few years later, we again called the eco-friendly company who had since become much more successful and well known and the prices had risen accordingly. Unwilling to pull the progeny out of college to afford the landscaping, husband has taken on the backyard work.

This involved something called a French Drain (which involved a ditch, a tube, and lots of gravel).

He planted two gum trees (no kookaburras have nested in them yet). One tree is named Truth because the hole for its roots had filled with water and it looked like Truth emerging from the well to shame humanity.

(Don't mess with Truth. Painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme)

The other tree is named Jimmy Hoffa because of the deepness of the hole it required. He also planted five spice bushes, named the Spice Girls, in hopes of attracting bees. Because attracting bees is a good thing, apparently.

Meanwhile, I’m staying on the back porch sipping a drink and watching the progress. There’s no need for both of us to have bee interactions. Besides, I’m moving back to the city where it’s safe.

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