You may remember a few weeks past, the newsletter featured speakers Glen Withey and Charles Price who presented the “conundrum:”  “With the concern growing every year over the impact we have on our environment, can a garden actually be ‘sustainable’?  For the two of us, the jury is still out.”

The jury has a lot of evidence to consider.

For the last week I’ve been installing a garden on a shank of Bernal Hill. Before I began, the more-or-less trapezoidal space between 2 houses boasted dusty pyracantha, undaunted anise, 2 wan badly-pruned apple trees and the most dejected agaves you’ve ever seen.  The agaves were under the windows of the facing house, planted years ago as a burglar deterrent.  Are burglars deterred by ugliness?

I had arranged for a delivery today from a local supplier of 3 yards of rhododendron blend and 3 yards cedar mulch.  A delivery day is always good for stress, especially when the destination is a site where streets are narrow and steep and creatively angled, where if you meet another car you might have to back up.  When you order from this supplier the dispatcher gives you a window of 7 to 1, to mess with your head, I guess. I called this morning at 7:45 to see if could narrow the window, and was told, “I don’t see your paper work.  I don’t know why she wouldn’t have written it out.” “It wasn’t a she,” I said.  After further discussion, he managed to locate the information in the computer and we agreed a delivery would occur.  I gave up knowing more nearly when, except “sometime after 10.”

At 9:30, the driver called, “I’m here.”  He was cool, waiting until I got across town, and cool backing the truck onto the driveway, just missing the red Toyota by 1/16th of an inch, and cool when the front tires jumped the opposite curb, his fender nearly smashing the elaborate iron fence of the sensational garden opposite.  “It’s enough to give my poor insurance adjustor’s heart an attack,” my client said.

While the bed lifted to dump the soil blend, I said to the driver who, despite all, I did trust, “You have a problem with your truck.”  This was not cool. A black fluid was pooling under the engine and around the wheel. He finished unloading, and managed to move the truck a half a block away.

John and I hauled in the 6 yards.  We planted camellia sasanquas under the sad apple trees along the drip line.  We planted aeoniums and Agave celsii, sages and grasses and ceanothus and day lilies called ‘Orange Empire’.  Except for the drip line, everything was organic, green, sustainable in the sense that someday it would all rot happily away, return to earth. Here was the green cherry, the beginning garden, in the sun (metaphorically) ripening.  Who would not want it?

But what it took, the not-so-sustainable, sat down the street, waiting for a tow truck.  Three hours later it arrived.  (A big window of arrival time, too.)  I didn’t want to watch the procession, the tow truck, surprisingly long, hitched to the dump truck, inching down the street. I felt a bit like it was my fault.  When they passed my truck, I looked.  The cab of the dump truck was empty.  Maybe the driver took the rest of the day off. Maybe his day would get better.  Mine was. The tow truck driver’s, on the other hand, was not improving, you could see that in his face. He stopped the truck momentarily, taking a breath, before the plunge downhill.


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