Tuesday, April 06, 2004


APRIL 6, 2004

We started planting the garden yesterday. My back is VERY aware of this fact. It’s been 5 years or so since I put in a new garden, and although I love doing it, working in this soil is certainly back-breaking. We’ve unearthed enough rocks and pottery shards to fill a dumpster, and Art has had to chop away a several large tree roots so we could plant things where we wanted to. At least they were roots for the two trees that will (eventually) be cut down.

It was because of Art’s persistence and impatience that we got someone to come to our house to give us an estimate as quickly as they did. Sometimes I wonder about him. He actually seemed surprised that we wouldn’t have the estimate the next day. Or even the day after that. Doesn’t he realize this is Italy, where no one is in a hurry to do anything? Anyway, he did call the garden center and they told him the estimate would be ready the next week. When we still hadn’t heard anything by Thursday, he decided we would just go to the garden center to see if we could at least get some information.

We found Antonella, the girl who had come to do the estimate, and she told us that although the design (her part), was ready, the estimate itself…the names of the plants, their variety, their cost, and their quantities…was not. This was someone else’s job, and wouldn’t be ready until Monday. Okay, how about some ideas for the two large planters out front? She suggested a tall taxus and a jasmine. I don’t like taxus, and picked a dwarf Alberta Spruce instead. Already I’m beginning to regret that decision….the taxus would have been much taller and more cylindrical, as opposed to the spruce which is still quite short, and is cone shaped. Oh well, if I hate it in a year or two, I’ll take out the spruce and plant a taxus.

So then it was supposed to rain the whole weekend, but it never happened. I was wishing I could have had the design so I could have spent the weekend planting. Oh well…Monday would be here soon enough. And then Monday came, and STILL no estimate! Finally, in the afternoon, Art couldn’t stand it anymore and called the garden center. And they told him yes, it was ready, and that they had emailed it to us on Saturday. Damn! I could have been planting after all! What happened to the email, we don’t know, but they promised to send it again. That was fine, but there was certainly no need for us to wait for it…we just headed to the garden center to begin buying.

Once we arrived at the garden center, Art went across the street to the office/flower shop part to get the design and estimate. When he returned with only the estimate, I pointed out to him that without the design, we had no way of knowing what plant went where, or which plants to buy first. I had to explain that we needed to plant the larger plants that would be in the back of the garden first. So, back he went, only to return empty handed. Antonella was off today, and we couldn’t get the design. WHAT?!? Okay, now I was impatient and MAD!!! What kind of a way was this to run a business? I wanted to buy stuff, and they were keeping me from doing that! I asked to see the boss, and was told he was across the street. Back over to the office, we waited fro him to finish up with another customer, then explained that we needed to know WHERE to plant the things we were about to buy! OH! Okay…now he calls for a young man, who I think may have been the one to do the estimating part.

At first this young man told us that we couldn’t have the design. After some confusion on both our parts, we realized that he was saying that we couldn’t just take the design and leave…they didn’t want to be spending their time only to have people buy the plants somewhere else. Of course we understood that, and had to tell him, no, we want to start NOW, what are the first plants we need? And slowly, we gathered the beginnings of our garden, and I even recognized a few of the plants! A red twig dogwood! I know that one! And ajuga! And viburnum! The rest were completely new to me…as I said in a previous blog, a shade garden is always a challenge, and under the specific conditions of San Venanzo (humid winters and volcanic soil), I had no idea what to plant.

I was pleased to see that we did have a nice variety of bloom times, and also some color. Of course the red and yellow twig dogwoods will provide some color in the winter, but we also have one plant that will bloom in January/February, and several others that are evergreen.

Once we got home, the planting began….after we dug the holes, which proved to be no easy task. Because of all the trees, the age of the house, and the volcanic soil, we had to deal with rocks galore, tree roots, and assorted things buried in the dirt. I found an entire pot that had apparently been sunk in the ground with the plant still in it, and once the plant died, the pot was never unearthed. I also killed two more scorpions, and two other things that might have also been scorpions, but I’m not sure. They were smaller than the scorpions, and red in color…they just didn’t look like something that you wanted to have around, so I squashed them.

We were glad that we had bought some garden tools, especially the one that looks like a hoe but has a really sharp edge on it. Art used this to cut the majority of the tree roots. Apparently we didn’t ship our tree saw from the states (who knew?), so we had to use what we had here. We worked until dark, digging, amending the soil, planting and watering. When we finished it was so dark I couldn’t even see what we had done! And we were both exhausted. We fixed a quick dinner, soaked in a hot tub….I’m glad I insisted on a house with a bathtub!...and went to bed. We knew we would be up and at it the next morning.

Tuesday morning found us at the garden center once again, ready to buy most of the remaining plants. Because we want to put in a new patio, some of the smaller plants will have to wait, but we wanted to get as many of the larger plants in since we will be going back to the states in a few weeks. Since we won’t return to Italy until May 22nd, we didn’t want to wait that long to start planting. By then it may be getting hot, and we would like for the plants to be at least partially established before the hot weather hits.

Elvio, our electrician stopped by, and we asked him about the lights for the outside, specifically for the patio area. We weren’t sure where we could put lights, and with the new patio in mind, we needed to know what our options were. We think we’re going to put in one light on a pole by the back door, and then one wall mounted lamp on the side of the house. Art wanted more/bigger lights, but I just don’t think it’s necessary. First of all, the hotel has lights by their pool, and I’m sure those lights will be on in the summer. It gives us just enough light to see on our patio. And we can always use candles, but really, how often are we going to be outside after dark when we need a lot of light? I think I finally convinced Art, or else he just gave in. Since I know I’m right, I don’t feel guilty.

Today we worked from about two in the afternoon till maybe seven this evening…not as many roots today, but still lots of rocks, and lots of bending and stooping, Our backs are even more sore today than they were yesterday, and why I can’t think to take an aspirin it beyond me. I’m just not a pill taking person, and since I’ve retired, I have a hard time remembering to take my vitamin and calcium pill in the morning. I used to take these before I went to work, but now, with no routine to follow, I’m lost. Anyway, after several hours, it finally dawned on me…hey! Some Tylenol might help!

The good news is that we have all the big stuff planted! And tomorrow we’re going to look at OBI for some outside lights, then meet with Wendy to look at patio stones. The garden center gave us an estimate for the patio too, so this will give us something to compare. We also want to get a grill for the yard, but we’re not sure what type. The garden center gave us an estimate for a grill that uses gas, but I don’t think those get hot enough. We’re still gathering info on grills. The advantage with gas is the immediate readiness, and the fact that you don’t have to have charcoal, or worry about disposing of ashes. With the other type of grill we could use either charcoal or wood, meaning that we could have a fire outside…not that it would provide heat, but it WOULD look nice!

Next I need to find out about mulch…do they have it in Italy? What are my choices? And can I get everything finished before our lunch guests arrive on Thursday?


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