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'I Love You - You're Perfect - Now Change'

 


The delightful musical comedy by the above name is about people in love. It’s not quite the same thing, but my perfect love is my garden. Not a month ago, I said to Leo, my garden helper, “I’ve now done everything I want to do with my garden. It is perfect.”

It is. Truly. Leo rolled his eyes and grinned.

Last week I met a couple from Seattle at the nearby campground. They wanted to know which house is mine. When I described my location, she said, “Oh, you are the garden.” That’s how I’m known. I am the garden.

Then — Bingo! Two unrelated incidents have led me to look at my perfect garden with jaundiced eyes.

Along my north wall, in a narrow garden area, among canna lilies, oleander and a crowd of bushes and flowers, I planted three flowering trees. In the summer they give me months of purple, pink and white pleasure. And no problems.

In the grass along my south wall, I planted five of the same variety trees. Leaf-cutter ants plague these trees. Overnight, an army of ants stripped an entire tree and proudly marched off holding aloft green canopies 20 times their size. I cannot even count the number of times last year we had to apply the stinky yellow poison. I run ant patrol every morning, as if it is war.

“The trees on the north wall flourish. The trees on the south wall are puny. It’s a constant battle with ants on the south wall. Why?” I asked Leo.

“Ants like the easy road,” Leo said. “It’s hard work to eat the trees crowded in the garden with other flowers. They like the grassy highway.”

“Ah, ha! The solution is simple,” I said, “Let’s dig out that strip of grass where the trees are planted, make a border with bricks and plant flowers and herbs. Plants that will fill the space, like mint. ” So that’s my first project in my perfect garden.

At the same time the ants were munching every leaf from their first free tree-lunch of the season, Jim, a snowbird from Missouri, found a used hot-tub for me. Yesterday he sent me a picture of my tub, tied upside down over the bed of his pickup.

“It’s old like us,” he told me. It was cheap. Nearly a gift. The owner needed to get rid of it. We hope the electronics will work.

The logical place to put my new-old tub when it arrives next week, is in a patio area to the south side of my house, where 14 potted plants flourish. Hibiscus, climbing vines with trumpet flowers of yellow and violet. Large plants in large pots.

I figure the climbing trumpet-flower vines will easily train on my wrought iron fence in the west corner of my yard. We seldom open that gate and all my large projects are finished. I admit to a twinge of apprehension at blocking my gate. But, everything is in pots. Pots are movable.

I’ll put the four hibiscus, natural showoffs, in front of the climbing vines. Smaller, lower pots I’ll arrange around the hibiscus. Beauty and a bonus: the plants will curtain that back entrance with privacy.

I lay out my tentative plan in front of he-who-does-the-work, Leo. I design. Leo muscles the heavy pots and bags of planting soil. Leo suggested we make a concrete slab instead of placing pots in the grass in front of the gate. It will make it easier to care for the plants and he would not have to move pots to mow.

“Oh.” I don’t mow so I didn’t think of that. See how a simple little project to make a perfect garden “more perfect” grew and grew. Oh, well. My projects for improvement might last the summer. I have Leo only a few hours each week.

In Mexican folklore, the cicadas sing down the rain. When they get wound up they sound like a roomful of table saws with crooked blades. They brought our rainy season early this year. I hear them morning and night. The “bedsheets butterflies” have arrived. Those huge white ethereal wings make me smile. The leaf-cutter ants have decimated their first victim-tree.

My love is perfect. And, I’ll always find reasons for changes.

——

Sondra Ashton grew up in Harlem but spent most of her adult life out of state. She returned to see the Hi-Line with a perspective of delight. After several years back in Harlem, Ashton is seeking new experiences in Etzatlan, Mexico. Once a Montanan, always. Read Ashton’s essays and other work at montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com. Email [email protected]

 

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