Friday, May 11, 2007

Working with a master gardener

(Kristin, my master gardener, pruning the apple tree in our front yard)

Recently we found out that there is a good reason why our yard had been looking so messy in most parts. According to a neighbor we met a few weeks ago, our previous homeowner who was a IU music school faculty loved gardening and she was always working on the garden while she lived here. However, the homeowner moved to Australia three years ago and the tenant who kept the house for two and a half years was apparently not much of a gardener, and she was hardly seen working on the yard. That is how, Amar and I reasoned, our yard is very well developed but looks so messy with lots of undesirable weeds, invasive grasses and tree seedlings everywhere.
And, being such a gardening novice myself, I had no clue how important to pull out all the weeds and tree seedlings when they just started to shoot out. I mean, I knew that it was important, but I couldn't identify which were the weeds and which were not at their earlier stage. So, even though I have noticed a lot of shoots coming out since February or March, I didn't/couldn't do much weeding by myself.

Now that everything is growing so rapidly, even I realized that lots of them were actually undesirable weeds and tree seedlings. (Tree seedlings which are everywhere in this garden are quite intimidating, because some of them have really deep roots prehaps from 2 years ago, and if you leave them they will grow really huge! @@.) Learning about our previous homeowner's love of gardening, I felt an urge to start learning and doing gardening seriously myself.
So, Amar and I went to May's Greenhouse (a highly-acclaimed plant nursery in this town) two weeks ago and asked them for a reference to a good master gardener who can come out to our place and teach me gardening, working with me on our yard.
That is how I contacted Kristin, who runs a landscape consulting business called New Leaf. I picked her up among a few choices because I liked her profession of "organic approach" on her business card.

Kristin came to see our yard for the first estimate last week. We walked through the garden together, and after this half-an-hour session I was totally convinced that I should hire her. I could quickly tell how good she was, from the way she identified almost all the plants (both desirable and undesirable ones) on the spot, could tell me what to do with each of them, recognized the trees that need a serious pruning, and gave me good visions about both short-term and long-term goals. So we agreed that she would come back with one staff and that I would work with her staff on weeding while Kristin prunes a big apple tree in front yard. Before she left, she even assigned me some homework: weeding the "bindweeds" that are growing really fast and invasively around the foliages of daffodils and irises at the side of the house. "These creeper plants tie up all the desirable plants around them", Kristin explained, "and believe me, they would be incontrollable if left for more than a week!". Wow... you can guess how relieved and glad I was to have decided to contact Kristin before it was too late.

(Left: Before the weeding: you can see the bindweeds on left-hand side of the picture. Right: After the work)
Ohhh, by the way, I have to mention that Kristin really approved my job on this area, and she even said, "Wow! Do you want to work for me?!"... well, maybe that was just a compliment, but I felt so rewarded because I spent as much as 9 hours over 2 days just on that area.)

Kristin came back with her staff "Shodo" yesterday, for pruning a big tree in front and helping me weeding. ("Shodo" means "True Path" in Japanese. She is a Zen practitioner, she explained to me. What a coincidence!) We worked together for 3 hours from 9AM to 12 noon, and it turned out that all three of us were really serious and diligent workers! At the beginning Shodo and I talked a little bit about her interest in Zen and Japan, but after 15 or 20 minutes, all of us naturally focused on working without talking much at all except for asking Kristin for a help.
You can see how our work came out in the following pictures:

(Left: The apple tree BEFORE pruning Right: The apple tree AFTER pruning)

(Left: The Groundcover area BEFORE weeding Right: AFTER weeding)

(Shodo working on the groundcover area)

(The garden AFTER our work AND Amar's loan-mowing on Sunday)

And a little more pictures of flowers that are in bloom in the garden now:

(Left: geraniums Right: Irises)

(Left: The name unknown - forgot to ask Kristin ;-) Right: Peonies. this picture was taken last week)

(Penoies bunch --- the penoies have come in full bloom this week, so I picked some of them for indoor use.)

So, as you can see, our work made a significant difference! Though there is still much more to do, I started to get a hang of it, and that gives me such a relief. I hope I can get rid of most of the weeds and seedlings before my departure for the UK toward the end of May... fingers crossed ;-)


mum said...

hi kristin was a great find for you will enjoy with a little more knowledge x

Michiko said...

Hi Mum!

Thank you for the comment! Yes I agree with you - Kristin was a great find and that I surely have started to enjoy gardening more now with a little more knowledge :-)
I look forward to working on the garden with you when you visit us in the near future :-)