Let me tell you a how-not-to story. When I first moved here I started on the wild patch by planting big spreading horizontal junipers beside the front steps, edging the city strip in front of the sidewalk with pavers, and putting in one beautiful large yellow-flowered shrub. I worked on ripping out the nearly dead lawn. I also cultivated the slowly recovering holly which the renovators had cut down to the ground.
A neighbor persuaded me to look at Dingleberry’s landscape design. (Name changed.) Dingleberry himself came out. Dingleberry was a man in his late thirties, stocky and round-faced, with cynical eyes, and pressured speech like a manic in a poorly controlled manic upswing. He spun around himself several times pointing and talking. He said he hated junipers. Rip them out! He looked at the pavers and shook his head: “Don’t do that.” He said he liked flowering shrubs, and named the same genus as mine, but when I pointed out I had one, was at first surprised, then said he didn’t like that species. He said he imagined a big square of pink annuals by the steps. (I hate pink, but I never got a word in edgewise - so didn’t tell him so.) He made a joke about sex to my husband - “If I argue with her, I’m not gonna stop you gettin’ any, am I? Because I know about wives and getting their way and gettin’ any.” When I managed to get out a faint protest about our ideas not being the same, he said, “Thass all right, I wrassle with housewives every day.”
Wrassle. Faintly sexual. Housewife. Demeaning. Suggests that I am out of my sphere of proper expertise (the house) and subordinate to him.
The last straw was when he looked at the 90-foot magnolia tree and said, “I’d cut that down.” I pointed out that, entirely aside from its beauty, and its scent, and the fact that we inherited it with the house and were going to pass it on to the next owners, it probably saves us $350 a month in summer, since it shades the eastern side of the house. He narrowed his eyes at it and said, “I’d pay it.”
He told me he’d get back to me with a price for a “rip and strip” on the lawn patch. I said i was trying to bring the holly back. He looked in derogatory astonishment at the struggling branch. “No, honey,” he said.
He left one phone message. I never replied.
Four years later, the magnolia is still here and will always be as long as I have something to say about it. Four years later, the junipers are wide and beautiful. The pavers still edge the city strip. The perennials decide every year if they will come back. I have some annuals, but none in pink.
And the holly is nine feet tall.
Oh, by the way, about the rip and strip – my neighbor said, “Why would he charge you to do that? The renovators did it a month before you moved in.”
Don’t be like him.