photo by Dominic Martello

Today’s garden is near the Painted Ladies of Alamo Square, probably the most photographed row of houses in the Milky Way. (The lowermost is for sale; 545 thousand will get you the garden unit; the main house is listed at 2.75 million, or “Make offer!”).  The place where I work is downhill and downscale, an 4-apartment building from the 1920’s, unassuming, but graceful in its way.

The garden at the back has felt under-loved from the start, like a long-closed room. The dog in the “garden unit” starts barking when I arrive but stops soon enough. I never see the tenants; I guess they’re at work or sitting in front of their computers.  Somebody set up a Weber, so the garden presumably gets used once in a while.  The owners live in Las Vegas, and hired me by email.

Passable flagstones passably placed, pandorrea vines, a couple of diffident mimosas in the back corners, cannas that the snails turn into crochet at the pace they grow; these were the middling features when I was hired, and still are.  I do the minimum.  I kill neither the snails nor the cannas.  What I don’t need: another thing to care about.  I might run out of inner resources, after all.

Last year I dug up 3 roses named ‘Sixteen Candles’ from a nearby garden and transplanted them here.  There they were in too much shade, worm eaten and mildewed.  This garden, a little sunnier, was a last resort before the green bin.

Instead of demise, the roses flourish.  The petal color is a wan yellow, but that’s a quibble.  Vigorous, shiny growth is a vivid refutation of these fog-shrouded days.  They are trying to make me love them and I refuse.  I fear I might be seduced into loving the garden, too.


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