Monday, March 21, 2011

The Garden Team Welcomes Spring

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 complaining explaining that I do all the garden work myself and that my efforts are limited by my time and stamina. However, I do have some full-time garden team members, and actually, some of you may have met them before, but perhaps didn't realize their valuable roles here at the Prairie.   Since I am depending on their assistance more than ever this year, I think it's time to properly introduce them and describe each one's important position on the staff:

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!


  1. Wow! You have really great help around there, Rose. Tarzan looks cute to my eyes, not that others aren't but he stands out. :D

  2. Wow, I didn't realize your staff was so large or multi-talented! My hellebores have no blooms again this year which bums me out more than just a little. Obviously need to read up more on its needs and move it to where it would be happier. Give a little scritch to all your furry helpers for me.

  3. How lucky you are to have such a helpful staff - and maybe they're lucky to have you too, as you seem to have a lot of patience with their idiosyncratic methods :) Beautiful hellebore shot!

  4. Hi Rose. I am amazed at the garden team you have assembled. This must be why you have such a lively garden. I know your garden will be beautiful for the wedding. I would be having a heart attack just thinking about having all those people there. You have the perfect space for this shindig. Try to have fun. My gardening helper dug up some lily bulbs that I put bone meal in with. I wonder if they will ever take root now. Sigh~~

  5. How wonderful that you're going to hold the reception at your house! You're very brave. At least you've got a wonderful staff to help out. It looks like a dream team to me!

  6. Loved the pictures of your cats! I've got one outside cat and two inside cats. Your descriptions of your cats were precious!

  7. A wedding in your garden... talk about pressure. So much to do to get it ready. Thank goodness you have staff. (I am normally not one for posts about other people's pets, but this was so entertaining, I loved it!) I'm looking forward to some summer shots of the perfect garden, and the wedding of course. Will the gardening staff be invited?

  8. My goodness Rose, you are going to be busy! But with such a talented team of assistants I am sure it will all be perfect ;)

    I was thinking that in addition to her garden duties and given her interest in fashion (gloves et.) perhaps the delectable Sophie might, after the event, write an article describing what the bride and her guests wore on the day. I am sure she would have an interesting 'take' on it ;)

    Rose, I can't believe that one week you have snow and then not long after you have temperatures of 70!!! We may reach 55 in the next day or so but that is unusually mild for us. And yet Spring is more advanced here with lots of Daffodils in full flower already :)

    I was thrilled to have flowers on my Hellebore this year after none at all last. They are terribly neglected and in a place where nothing else grows...I must get more!

    A beautifully written and most entertaining post :)

  9. The garden team is a wonderful team! So glad to see they are ready for spring. Too cute!

  10. You have a great garden team. Buy some extra gloves and enjoy spring!

  11. I love your garden team and I think they are all very photogenic.
    Great news about the wedding reception on the lawn!
    Maggie X

    Nuts in May

  12. You and your garden team have a tall order to fill!! How wonderful to have the reception in your garden. I would be a nervous wreck! I know June will bring a glorious showing of your garden as a backdrop to the wedding party. Enjoy!

  13. You are so lucky to have such a large staff of garden 'helpers' Rose, lol. ;) I can't believe you have 4 cats!!! My cat Mooch doesn't like other cats or my dogs, so that would be interesting to say the least. Ha! ;)

  14. LOVED seeing all your helpers, though I admit to favouritism because of my own lost pet, but Toby wins every time for me!

    Love Hellebores! Can't wait to move house so I can plant some for next year, really trying hard not to visit garden centres at the moment!!

    Happy Spring :-)

  15. Chandramouli, Good to have you back! Tarzan is definitely the most sociable of the cats.

    Monica, I used to be known as the "cat lady":) This is the first year I've had more than one hellebore bloom, so they must need patience.

    Cyndy, If you can't tell, I'm an animal lover. Otherwise, I probably would get a lot more frustrated with their "help."

    Lisa, Actually, I am very stressed about the reception--I'm hoping we don't have a wet spring, or I am really going to be stressed out. I've lost a few plants to my "helpers," too.

    W2W, Their "help" is not always appreciated, but they do add some fun to the garden.

    Mary, Thank you for visiting!

    Laurrie, I know the garden won't be perfect...but I'm hoping for some pretty blooms at least by June. Sadly, the staff will have to remain indoors during the reception:)

    Songbird, Glad you enjoyed this; yes, Sophie has been wanting to write something, so perhaps one day I'll let her. This is typical Illinois spring weather--you never know what it will be like from one week to the next, so I've been trying to take advantage of these rare warm days.

    Tina, Sophie especially has been thrilled to have me working in the garden. She'd spend most of the day outside if I let her.

    Gardener, I should buy gloves by the case:)

    Maggie, I'm just praying for no rain in early June!

    Janet, I will be a nervous wreck as the time gets closer:) Probably most of the guests won't even notice the garden, but I'm not taking any chances.

    Racquel, We used to have even more cats:) But three indoor cats is definitely enough. Tarzan and Sophie are best buds, but the others just tolerate her.

    Suburbia, I know that Toby and Tarzan are favorites of yours. How exciting to have a new house soon and the chance to finally put in your own garden.

  16. Very cute! Kitty massages are the best! You're lucky to have such a good staff to get the yard reception-ready. I imagine they will provide a lot of emotional support in addition to other tasks.

  17. Congratulations on your daughter's upcoming wedding! I suggest you get lots of good looking containers and fill them with lots of blooming things to use as filler if there is a gap in the garden for some reason. I love the pictures of Sophie. She has such a sweet face.

  18. Rose. I did not realise just how many feline companions you had.
    All very different......
    Sophie, of course, I remember with affection. Such a lovely girl.

    I do hope that the wedding arrangements go well Rose. Such a stressful and busy time.

    The hellebore is you know I have a passion for them.
    I never tire of seeing the blooms.
    I would love to have a winter garden absolutely full of them.........

  19. Hmm, with such big plans for your garden this year I can't help thinking you could do with slightly less cute but more effective garden helpers! Hope you really enjoy preparing the garden for the reception, and that it doesn't become a burden.

  20. Adorable critters! Thanks for sharing your spring – we still have snow, sigh. This post is reminding me that I need to contact local golden breeders about summer litters.

  21. wow i am envious of your garden staff. i have a lot of onlookers and not too many contributors. all have something to say but don't add to the workforce.
    spring has given us some amazing work weather this past week...i am in heaven.
    happy spring.

  22. What a fun (creative!) post. :-) I cannot believe you had your camera when your Marmalade cornered the vole! Happy Spring, Rose. YOU have hellebores blooming. We're behind you over here.

  23. Hi Rose,
    I could use some help like that! I count on the hawks and owls to do some hunting of voles for me. I consider them a part of my team.
    Your team is adorable! I bet they are wonderful company to have around your garden.

  24. My goodness, what a great staff you have. I also have one who excavates, and several kitty staff on mouse patrol. Congrats on the upcoming nuptials. I'd be nervous, but I know you can do it!~~Dee

  25. Sweetbay, I've been hoping Tarzan doesn't use his claws when giving massages, but so far Sophie hasn't complained:)

    MMD, The container idea sounds like a winner! I know my favorite flowers like the lilies and coneflowers won't even by blooming by then.

    Cheryl, You didn't meet all the cats because, unlike Sophie, they're rather shy around company. Only the two granddaughters can get them to come out of their hiding places. I'm so excited to have the hellebores bloom this year.

    Janet, You're absolutely right--I wish these guys could actually hoist a bag of mulch or wield a hoe:)

    Sarah, I know it must be hard for you to see Sophie--it took me a long time after our last dog to be ready to think about another one. But Sophie has brought us so much joy; you won't regret visiting the breeders.

    Marmee, I do exaggerate their usefulness a little:) But they do add a little more fun to gardening. We've had beautiful weather, too, until today--winter has returned.

    Shady, The poor vole was cornered for quite awhile, so I had time to run for my camera. Things are really moving along here--I now have a few daffodils blooming! But the cold weather returned today.

    Rosey, Yes, it's their companionship that I really appreciate. But all kidding aside, they're great at keeping other critters out of the garden.

    Dee, Thanks for the encouragement! I'll probably be frantic by the first of June.

  26. Hooray for hellebores!

    Your garden staff is top-notch Rose! How lucky you are having them, especially the plant sitter! ;)

    Wow - a garden wedding! How exciting! I hope the weather's wonderful, and you don't stress too much over the preparations. I'm sure it will be lovely.

  27. I'm so pleased I discovered hellebores. I first saw them at my sister's new place, and decided I wanted some, but didn't know what they were. Then, I saw them on blogs, and was able to go out and buy some. I had asked my sister for a start, but all of hers but one had died.

    The time until June 1 may go by pretty quickly. I hope you informed your garden staff about that date. They look like a great bunch!

    Fun post!

  28. OMG ! Rose this was too cute : )
    I love seeing Sophie (because I have a Sophie too of course) Toby and Tarzan are just perfect as well ... and they seem to know it? haha .. a wonderful crew to help you garden even if they do think they are in upper management ? LOL
    Joy & her crew

  29. Brilliant post, rose! I want a Tarzan!

  30. Your adorable staff members have stolen my heart and made me fall in love with them. In fact, they made me forget every word you wrote about rain gardens and wildflowers. ha-ha



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