We got a taste of winter last year, staying up north to remodel the new house. Till February. In the worst Minnesota winter ever. Yeah. I know. None of you northerners feel sorry for us. You still had March. And April…
If the taste of Minnesota winter was cold, the taste of home remodeling was…bitter.
Not to my liking at all. Decision after decision…I thought that would be fun. It wasn’t. Who cares about the color of the switchplates? Honestly.
So why, oh why, would I decided to “work” on the south place as soon as I got here this year? I’m not sure.
I hadn’t posted to this blog in over a year and am 94.75% finished with a novel. Maybe working on the house was avoidance. A way to put off getting started writing again.
Or maybe it was the Jurassic ferns threatening to swallow the whole house. The avocado tree next to the house was dying. We had been needing to landscape the back fence for the 7 years we’ve been coming here. Rumor had it the house behind us was going to be torn down. We didn’t want a construction site view.
Well then. What took so long? Um. We didn’t want to sweat in the Florida sun. Unless it’s at the beach. Didn’t know what to plant.
Florida gardening isn’t like Minnesota gardening. You might think it would be better. Tropical paradise versus Tundra. But this is not the case. Down here plants shrivel and die or take over the house. Literally.
In a place where you can buy lime trees, orchids, and bird of paradise at Home Depot..I got them all. I garden in Mn, ok? This should be a breeze, right? No. Take over the house or shrivel and die.
Nothing died right away. The Bird of Paradise had a really nice bloom for months and months. It turned out to be plastic. The Key Lime Christmas tree is still with us after seven years. I know it’s not plastic because I’ve tasted the limes. It’s a dual purpose tree. You put the presents under it and you make a gin and tonic with Key Lime.
All of this…laziness, procrastination, and a not-so-tropical green thumb…is why, when the back fence project finally happened, I went to an expert…
The “Mayer” of Riverland Nursery. Owner Mayer Berg.
At Riverland, in Fort Myers, “their plants and landscape aren’t just pretty, they’re smart!”
The “moms” and I took a field trip to the Nursery. This place is a botanical garden. Free admission ! Take it all in…walk, look, smell and learn. Although, I’m sure Mayer would rather you buy something.
We bonded with Mayer over being Minnesotans. He’s even smarter than the plants. And enthusiastic. Very enthusiastic. A literal tree hugger.
“Hey, look over here!” he’d say, wrapping his arms around a tree, “It has nothing to do with your project but it’s cool, isn’t it?”
The enthusiasm was contagious.
I feel in love with a Buddha Belly Bamboo, even though it didn’t really fit in to my fence line project. I hugged it anyway.
Mayer spent two hours with us planning a project that was, at that point, just a “maybe”. We followed him all over the nursery – they started calling us his fan club. He is a rock star of landscaping. He’s a walking encyclopedia…water and sunlight needs, size, and bloom time.
After 2 hours in the humidity, I was a wet noodle. He was fresh as a…well, a daisy.
I took some notes. I sent him an email, photos of the yard, ideas. I got email right away, then a phone call. I explained I was trying to get this done
before Rollo caught me as a surprise for Rollo. We had less than 10 days to design the project, choose plants, prep the ground, and install plants.
The ground prep part was a problem. I did have two 76 year old ladies (the moms) willing to dig it up themselves. But me? Not so much. Combine the sweating in the Florida sun part with the thickness of our grass down here and the 50 foot x 8 foot area that had to be dug up? Um. Let me think about that. No thanks.
But Mayer had a plan.
He was gonna get this thing done. And done fast.
He knew A GUY.
He made a call, I got a call and, within a few hours, I was introduced to Issais.
He came to the house, measured, estimated, and listened to my growing list of ideas for this transformation.
I said – There’s this vine on the utility pole that’s eating the transformer. Can you take that down?
He said – No problem.
The avocado tree looks bad, I said.
He pronounced it terminal.
Can you take it down? No problem.
What can got there instead? Don’t worry, we’ll figure it out.
What about the orchids we naturalized onto it? Can you cut the tree down and save me the pieces with orchids on them, I almost didn’t dare ask that one. Who cuts down a 30 foot tall dead tree without harming an orchid?
Issias does. No problem.
Can you find a place for the Budda Belly Bamboo?
We’ll work on it. ( I really wanted a “no problem here!)
AND…there are Jurassic ferns taking over the front of the house. Can you get them off?
No problem? The job just got many times bigger. Still no problem?
And I’d like it done in… ohhh… a week?
Still no problem.
And there’s a weekend and the Thanksgiving holiday in there.
Still. No. Problem. Don’t worry.
We made plans to meet the next day at Riverland to choose plants.
Mayer greeted us wearing a Twins baseball cap. I brought sketches and ideas, but Issias had beaten me to it. They already had drawings and ideas for a second planting area to replace the soon-to-be-late avocado.
They spent another two hours with us while I asked about every plant they had. Again. I revisited the Buddha Belly Bamboo.
They dragged potted plants to the gardens. We aren’t talking a vase of tulips here, people. We are talking about dragging 25 gallon palm trees.
They staged little vignettes to show what went well together in a real life setting. I finally choose plants, and they hand-picked the best of the best.
The project was on! We had a week before Rollo got back in town.
I was all worries – the weather, their schedules, on and on. Again, I was told…you guessed it…No problem. We are going to make this happen.
Those of you who know me might say that I can be a little “skeptical”. I would agree. But in this case I believed. I believed they would make it happen and I believed it would be beautiful.
And make things happen they did.
Issias and his team were on the scene 2 days later.
If Mayer is Riverland’s mayor, presiding with vast knowledge, I guess Issias should be called his deputy in the field. He is so much more than that, I haven’t come up with the right title yet. I’m working on it. He is more than a digger of dirt, a lifter of sod, a chopper of Jurassic ferns and vines, an avocado undertaker, and an orchid rescuer…(yes they saved them.)
It all looks beautiful. But, more than that! They made an extra trip to Riverland when I decided I could use one more (ok two) shrubs. Not the Buddha Belly though. Not yet.
They didn’t blink when I asked for an extra (ok two) invasive tree to be removed.
The yard was left cleaner than they found it. I mean that. They literally took trash that wasn’t theirs.
So what title should replace deputy?
Artist? Indeed. Issias hand-turned some of these plants a 3/16th of a turn so their best side faced the house.
Catalyst? Yes. Magician? Yes. Rainmaker? I think I made that up but it fits the best.
Thank you to Mayer Berg of Riverland Nursery and Issias of Amin Lawn Service!
I’m still going to find a way to get that Buddha Belly Bamboo.
Here’s the finished project. Ok, projects.