Extreme Makeover: Garden Edition

I wrote a post just last month about how much I despise gardening. I despise it so much that there are truly no words to describe my feelings.

As it happens, my friend Jen adores gardening. I think she loves it as much as I hate it. In spite of that obvious personality flaw (I kid, I kid), Jen is a sweet person. She has mentioned several times over the past few weeks that she would be willing to come over and give me a consultation on the garden in my front yard. You know, the one that has become overrun with weeds.

Yesterday I called her and said, “Um, I just remembered that I am getting a mulch delivery this Friday. Can you give me some suggestions on how to get the garden ready, short of burning it down?”

Jen said, “How about if I just come over this afternoon and give you that consultation?”

I said, “Sure! That would be great!”

As the time drew near for Jen’s visit, I started to get a little worried because she told me via Twitter to get my shovel out. I laughed, and then I didn’t get my shovel out. Surely she was kidding. She wouldn’t need a shovel just to tell me what I needed to do with this stupid garden.

After she set up her boys with a snack, we went to assess the garden. She stood there looking at it for a minute and said, “Where’s your shovel?” Sheepishly I told her that I didn’t pull it out of the shed. “Go get it!” she said.

I retrieved it, and then she started digging. And digging. And digging. She made piles of the plants that I wanted to keep (lilies, liatris, zebra grass, lamb’s ear…), pulled out the invasive ground cover and a bunch of other greens that I can only classify as garden squatters, trimmed the climbing rose, evened out a portion of the dirt, and more. She claimed that she couldn’t see the garden through the weeds and therefore couldn’t really visualize a plan; that’s why she jumped right in. She’s the Ty Pennington of gardening.

She barely let me help, not that I really wanted to help because, well, you know, but I didn’t expect she was going to go whole hog on my garden and I didn’t feel right about not attempting to labor on it with her. But still, yeah, blech. In fact, at one point she told me I could go in if I wanted to. For a second I considered it and then I was on to her: she’s a master of reverse psychology. I said, “What would I do inside, blog about how you’re doing all the work on my garden??” She said, “Sure! That would be fun!”

The thing is, she likes to garden SO MUCH that she was totally serious. Yet I stayed out there, being (as my sister called it) Jen’s sous chef, taking dug-up plants to a shady spot under a tree, getting pulled weeds out of her way, and asking her endless questions.

One high point was when she discovered I had a toad in my garden. She looked at me in all seriousness and declared, “I AM SO JEALOUS. I HAVE NEVER HAD A TOAD IN MY GARDEN.” I told her she could take him if she wanted to, but she just moved him away from where she was working so he wouldn’t freak out too much.

I was amazed at what she got done in two and a half hours. If I had attempted the same, it would have taken me two and a half days and there would have been tears and shrieking involved.

I wish I had taken a “Before” picture, but I didn’t know she was going to dig right in…so I drew one. Here’s what my garden looked like before Jen tackled it.


See all that green? Those are weeds.

There’s a climbing rose on the left and a Rose of Sharon bush on the far right.

And yeah. Weeds.

When Jen’s boys were about done entertaining themselves (they were great at playing together while we–and by “we” I mean Jen–messed with the garden, even using two six-foot Asian lily stems that I wasn’t keeping to sword-fight each other!), she got ready to leave and told me that my next steps were to dig out the Russian Sage, spray the remaining weeds with Round-Up, and even out the terrain a little bit.

“Okay,” I sighed.

She took a picture so she could design a plan, and we said goodbye.

And Jen said that she would be back Friday. This was happening. Oy vey.

Here’s how the garden looked when Jen finished yesterday.

2012 05 16 11.45.58

Today I received a text from Jen after my Zumba class. It contained her sketch of my new garden. The girl can design. Seriously. I called her to say how excited I was about the design, butnotaboutthegardeningpartofitmindyou. She just laughed.

I grudgingly went to Home Depot to get garden soil, Round-Up, some stepping stones, and some new gloves, and then went home so I could get started on my assignment.

I tweeted my misery along the way. Jen says that gardening really works for me because I get so angry that I’m funnier than usual. I hate to admit it, but she’s right. I wish I could be as funny without gardening, though. Here are some tweets that I furiously sent out on my mini-breaks from my homework:

Considering starting a new blog: “The Rage-filled Gardener”.

@thenextmartha I just made that Russian Sage my bitch.

About to plug in the weedwhacker. It’s about to get all murderous up in here.

I enjoy tweeting about gardening a million times more than gardening.

I don’t know, maybe you had to be there. At any rate, I completed my homework with only one injury: when removing some thorny branches that Jen trimmed from my climbing rose, I accidentally hit myself in the leg with them. I was trying to figure out how to junk punch a rose bush but couldn’t, so I had to let it go. I weedwhacked every remaining weed down to the ground and then sprayed the entire area with Round-Up. Tomorrow I have to go clear out the deadness and ohmygosh I am exhausted just thinking about it. Gardening sucks.

I told Jen that the degree to which I adore her almost balances out my hatred for gardening, because it was really fun being outside chatting with her while she was wielding the shovel. She thinks I might end up enjoying gardening. I think she’s delusional. But I love her optimism: my kind of girl!

Stay tuned!

EDITED: Want to see the finished product? You won’t believe it. Click here!


  • TheNextMartha

    Jen does weeds. That should be my company name. I’m glad I can help you with this process of hatred of yours. It makes me giggle that you could hate something that I love so much. And then there’s the toad. SIGH.

  • Grandma W

    Once you two finish you just have to keep the weeds under control. That would help a lot. Can you plant Hydrangias I think they would look great under your window and they don’t need a lot of maintance.

    I have to cut off my dying rose buds this week they were so pretty and now the dead flowers need to be cut off. So that should keep me busy this week.
    Grandma W

  • megryansmom

    I didn’t laugh I really didn’t. But now I feel so much better about my garden. Oh wait, I didn’t think that either. Just think of all the other ways you are more talented.

  • Michelle

    We are so the same person. Did you ever see my post on my gardening project last year? Did you see it get abandoned? *sigh* I have REALLY good intentions but it just gets overwhelming.

    Do you think that if I offered to feed Jen and provide alcohol that she would come help my ummmm “garden” too? I am just afraid to start at this point, which ummm I think you can relate to 😉