Okay, folks, I realize I’ve yammered on quite a bit about our garden over the past couple of years. So let me apologize in advance for bringing it up again.
But trust me, you’d have plenty to say too.
To begin with, the garden we inherited from the previous owner was an unqualified disaster. Not only was it overrun with scraggly, deeply unattractive plants, including a diseased avocado tree that yielded a couple of bowls’ worth of homemade guacamole before giving up the ghost…
…it was also ornamented with such choice items as a rusted Buick chassis, several massive blobs of cement that looked like petrified cow patties, and four concrete pylons we dubbed Stonehenge South.
That was the back yard. Sad to say, it constituted the good news on the horticultural front.
The yard facing the road was even worse, though in an entirely different way. Whereas the back yard featured an over-abundance of singularly unattractive features, the front yard boasted almost no features at all.
It was bare and rocky and unloved. And every time we planted something in it, said thing either expired of its own accord or got eaten by horses.
Or was dug up and thrown out by our gardener.
I’m not kidding. It was like we’d put an ad on Craigslist for “Worst Gardener in the Caribbean.” The guy who de-forested our garden and threw out our favorite plants even came with references, including an alleged stint as a gardener at Disney World. Come to think of it, he was pretty Dopey.
So we canned him and spent the next few months replenishing our garden and building a privacy fence…
…at which point Hurricane Irene thoughtfully swept through and knocked our prize coconut tree right over onto the fence, splitting it in half.
We paid $700 to have that tree replanted and within two months it was certifiably dead. Then we paid $300 to have its carcass hauled away.
Next—well, next we hired a new gardener, who started out gangbusters. He and his cheerful, rawboned girlfriend completely transformed our garden in two days.
We could hardly believe our luck. But on the third day he came over with a chain saw and climbed up into our mango tree and boy, did I smell trouble with a capital T. Before long, several enormous branches came crashing down onto the other end of our lattice fence, pretty much flattening it.
I swear, something about that fence said, “abuse me.”
We tried to be philosophical about the whole thing. Nobody’s perfect, accidents happen.
Then one day about a week later the same guy severed our gas line while trimming the bougainvillea bush near the back door. That was almost the last straw, until Michael reminded me that an even-moderately-okay gardener is hard to find in Vieques. So we kept quiet.
But pretty soon the guy seemed to lose interest altogether. As in, he quit showing up.
Our garden reverted to its former self within a month. As Jane used to say, nature happens fast in Vieques.
We have a new gardener now. He came with sterling references and seemed like a truly great human being when I interviewed him by phone.
When we finally met him in person we liked him a lot. He seemed to think our ideas were great and said “perfecto” a lot. I’m a sucker for anyone who thinks my gardening concepts are anywhere within ten miles of perfect, so I was pretty much sold.
He trimmed and replanted our garden, wired together our doomed fence and generally made everything right again. We were in love.
Until the next time we visited. “I give your garden a nice haircut,” he announced the day before our arrival.
He wasn’t kidding. In fact, he had scalped it.
All the lush tropical plants he had installed three months earlier were now pruned within an inch of their lives.
“Why?” I asked him the next day.
He scratched his head thoughtfully. “They will come back very booshy,” he replied.
“I want them booshy now, while I’m here.”
So Michael and I went to the nursery the next day and bought a few hundred bucks’ worth of plants. After four or five hours of backbreaking work everything looked swell again.
After that, I told our maybe-not-so-fabulous gardener “no more haircuts.”
He laughed and said “okay, sure,” as if the whole thing was one big joke. Which, of course, it is.
Unfortunately, the joke’s on us.
If you enjoyed this anecdote, check out my book Tropic of Sunshine (www.tropicofsunshine.com)