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.