As if on cue, the first hellebore opened this week. More crocuses and primroses are blooming each day, and I spotted the first daffodil bud yesterday. Yes, at long last spring has arrived! Although the calendar's marking of spring doesn't automatically mean warm and sunny days here in central Illinois, there were several beautiful days this past week--even reaching to 70 degrees on Thursday!--that put me into a happy spring mood. I cleaned up most of the flowerbeds, and now I'm anxious to start spring planting, although I know it's much too soon.
This year there is some added stress to the spring ritual of gardening: my daughter and son-in-law-to-be decided they wanted to hold their wedding reception on our front lawn. While we've been busy reserving a tent, hiring a DJ, and checking out caterers, to me this also means I want my garden to be perfect by the first of June. While waiting for the weather to become more cooperative, I've been busy making lists of chores to be done and plants to buy this spring. I've also talked to the garden staff, making sure that each understands his/her duties and the importance of getting everything done early this year.
"What garden staff?" you may ask. That is a valid question, since I am always
Sophie: Head of Excavation
Duties: Digging holes, assisting in soil prep and in weed pulling.
Sophie is eager to help in any way in the garden, but she excels in digging deep holes and pulling out stubborn weeds and debris when given some direction.
She is also the keeper of the garden gloves. When she is let out of the house, she finds the gloves in my garden tote by the back door and takes one with her to let me know that she is ready for some garden time. Unfortunately, by the time she hands them back to me, they may be missing a fingertip or two, but we are willing to overlook this minor flaw because of her overall work ethic and enthusiasm.
Other than myself, no one is happier to spend time in the garden than Sophie. When she's not busy digging or assessing the fragrance of new plants, she enjoys spending time bird-watching or chasing the occasional squirrel or rabbit away from the garden.
Marmalade: Head of Wildlife Management
Duties: Patrolling the garden and the surrounding area for small rodents and other pests.
Quiet and rather shy, Marmalade is a true outdoorswoman. Although her sleeping quarters are in the garage, particularly on cold winter nights, she will not enter the house and prefers to spend most of her time outside. Her quiet demeanor helps her to excel in this position--not a mouse has been seen near the house in years.
Although Marmalade is the head of this department, she is assisted by all the other staff members. An incident last summer illustrates the cooperative effort of the staff: Sophie discovered a vole near the front garden bed and unearthed it, then, when it ran up on to the porch, Toby and Tarzan (not pictured) kept a watchful eye on it until it eventually disappeared. I'm not sure of the actual fate of the vole, which is probably just as well.
Sasha: Head of Quality Control
Duties: Collecting data on plant varieties; assisting in garden design
Sasha would rather work alone and prefers the heated/air-conditioned office to being outdoors in the middle of the day. Because of this, her forays into the garden are limited to short periods of time (between naps) and used for general inspection. She is particularly interested in aromatic plants, such as catmint, and offers her expert opinion on their quality. Various vantage points in the garden also give her a different perspective on the overall design.
She is also the resident "plant sitter" if I am away, though her technique leaves something to be desired.
Tarzan: Vice President of Employee Relations and Head of Arbitration
Duties: Providing encouragement and support to all staff members, including the head gardener; resolving any employee disputes.
If Tarzan attended kindergarten, he would bring home report cards with high marks in "plays well with others." Sometimes living and working together twenty-four hours a day can cause team members' tempers to flare. But Tarzan always keeps his cool disposition and is ready to offer a calming gesture. He was the first of the feline contingent to embrace Sophie when she arrived. and he displays a remarkably open mind to all species, be they human, feline, or canine. Besides Sophie, Tarzan is also the one most likely to accompany me as I garden, offering me encouragement and occasionally lightening my mood with his silliness.
And after a long day in the garden, Tarzan doesn't quit--to help Sophie unwind,
he even gives kitty massages!
Toby: Garden CEO
Duties: Whatever Toby wants to do . . .
Whether it is his aristocratic lineage or the fact he spent his formative years entirely indoors, Toby has less interest in the garden than in the creatures that inhabit the yard and trees. (If you would like to know more about Toby's background, you can read earlier posts about him here or here .) As the senior member of the staff, Toby finds manual labor distasteful and prefers to oversee garden work from a comfortable perch. Make no mistake about it, though, he is the lord of the manor and our little fiefdom.
Staff orientation was held this past week, including some stern reminders about unnecessary digging and "fertilization" in the garden. Last year's perennials have been cut back, seeds have been purchased, and garden gloves washed. The team is anxious and ready to work--let the gardening season begin!