Monday, March 4, 2013

Turf Wars and Victories

T. S. Eliot may have written that "April is the cruellest month," but for anyone who lives in Florida and works a job that involves sitting all day in a cubicle, March is absolutely brutal. Although I am bundled in wool socks and fleece while writing this post, I can anticipate all of the wonderful things that will happen in the coming days. Anemones will be poking their heads out of the ground, adding a shock of red to the secret garden. The lavender will begin to bloom. The fig tree will start furiously putting on leaves. I will wake up on weekday mornings, greeted by a clear blue sky, perfect temperatures, and be blissfully happy. I will tiptoe, recently showered and robed, into the garden to snip fresh chives for my soft-cooked eggs. I will sit outside, dipping my toast soldiers into the runny golden yolk flecked with green, and I will ingest my garden. I will sit, basking in this loveliness for as long as I can. Then I will ready myself for work, thinking of the day ahead that will be, not as I wish it to be (spent plunging fingers into fresh earth and tending to my garden). By the time I arrive at the office, I'll be in a perfectly foul mood. I'll be Charlie Brown again, a cloud hanging over my head.

I have a magical way of lifting my spirits while I am at work, though. I do it by thinking of my garden. And when the images of that space are firmly fixed in my mind--the textures, the soft petals of flowers, the beautiful palette of colors--my land lust takes hold, and my thoughts turn toward expansion.

I mentioned in my first post that my husband has an affinity for turf. I have never asked why. We don't play baseball in the yard. We don't lie in the grass. I can't imagine that mowing it twice a week in the blistering Florida summer is particularly fun. He frets over it like I fret over my plants, but I'm not sure what it gives him in return. I get food and flowers and joy from my plants. He gets aggravation. Yet he loves it like he loves golf (which also gives me nothing in return for a lot of work and is equally aggravating and is why I won't play it anymore).

I, in contrast, hate the turf. I hate it all the more in Florida because I don't think it really wants to grow here. We had sod laid when we moved into the house. It was dead (even after much fussing and fluffing and watering) within 8 months. We replaced it. Then patches started to die. So he replaced the patches. And every day, the turf-lover is out there, on his knees, begging for the grass to grow. For those reasons, I have been working on him. I have been trying to change his mind about that fickle grass. In short, I have been trying to wear him down. I'm evil, you know.

At first, I proclaimed that the next time any bit of grass died, I would claim it for myself. That was too aggressive, I think, as it was met with fierce resistance. So I started posing questions, such as, "Wouldn't it be nice if we had a little tree here, maybe with some flowers around it?" or "Did you see that gorgeous cone-shaped topiary? Wouldn't that add a nice bit of structure if we extended the garden?" I still wasn't getting anywhere. Then I began emailing him photos of yards that were tastefully landscaped without any use of grass because I clearly was not describing what I wanted very well. The last photo I sent him must have hit the mark. It was actually a series of photos from Rebecca Sweet's website.

Now, anyone who has been married for a while has most likely learned this very important lesson. (For those of you not yet married or not married for long, take note.) When your spouse has a moment of weakness and relents on something you've been pressing for, quickly find a way to make the proclamation irreversible and exploit it for all it's worth. Don't judge me. We all do it.

The contested territory

I had that lesson in mind when he took me outside last week, one day after I sent him a photo. He pointed to a patch of weedy, suffering grass and said, "I think you should just tear that up and plant something. Just get rid of everything between the two trees." I was uncharacteristically dumbstruck. I blinked a few times. Then I gathered myself and calmly said, "Okay." With that, I turned and walked back into the house. My eyes probably began to glow red. I began to plot. I wondered if I should run out in the middle of the night to tear out strange patches just to seal the deal. But I hate getting up in the middle of the night, so instead I went to the nursery, bought a bunch of plants, returned home and set them in place, my version of raising the victor's flag. When he came home from playing golf this weekend, he helped me create this (really, he is so generous). 

My new bit of earth

A little extra splash of color and form

This really isn't as much as I wanted to tear out, but one must choose battles carefully. But if you look closely at the photo, I did make the shape of the bed rather strange, like half a pitcher. I'm hoping a certain someone will be out in the yard one day, see how really nice it looks, but think the shape needs smoothing out a bit, and then...

Room to grow?

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