Tuesday, November 22, 2011

My First Ornamental Gardening Lesson

Way back when I was young, we lived in a very multicultural neighborhood where my parents managed and maintained an apartment building that made the UN look tame. At the end of the block was a single family home where we knew a Japanese woman lived. To say her yard was immaculate and her flowers perfect would be an understatement.

Every evening, as was the custom back then, after dinner, my mother and I took a walk. My father was seldom home from work, yet. We would admire the yard and one evening, much to our total surprise, the lady was out working in the yard. My mother absolutely could not resist asking how she created such a perfect yard.

You must remember that foreign women marrying GI Joes was not a popular thing and they were more often than not ostracized. This was no real exception and it turned out she did not speak English very well so she ran in the house to get her husband to make certain of what we wanted. My poor mother was mortified to cause so much trouble. She was even more mortified when the lady wheeled her husband out and it was apparent he had no legs. This woman that everyone in the neighborhood had shunned for years had married a combat veteran she met in the hospital where she was treated for the after effects of Hiroshima after the end of the war. No one had ever bothered to find this out but my mother was just plain nosey. She was his constant caretaker. She even drove the car, something most women could not do at that time.

Anyway, when her husband translated the question, she held up a tiny pair of gardening shears, the first bonsai shears I had ever seen. The look on my mother's face was a combination of abject horror and sheer amazement.

I was not so easily convinced anyone was crazy enough to take care of an entire yard with a tiny pair of shears, so I now detoured around the block on the way to school just to observe. I had a bike at this point and was mobile. I made two shocking discoveries. The first was that she did in fact use these tiny shears to trim all the plants, every darned day except in pouring rain. She was even out there in the mist. The last thing I noted was the grass didn't seem to grow. I have no idea what variety it is, but it is very fine, grows in a mat and only requires mowing less than once a month and she used a manual push mower. I dutifully reported back to mother that all was exactly as stated.

I learned a very important lesson. Gardening requires constant work and due diligence. You have to love what you are creating because it is a constantly changing masterpiece of Mother Nature's work. If you love something, it is not work. I also learned to love green tea.

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