Scene: The Navage Patch front yard, two summers ago.
young youngish middle-aged man kneels before a slanted white lamp post, trowel in one hand, packet of dried bulbs in the other. The package reads, “Lily of the Valley,” but for all the middle-aged man understands from bulbs, it might as well read, “Valley of the Moon” or “Olive of the Martini.”
A martini would sure hit the spot, thinks the middle-aged man as he drops the trowel and wipes a gloved hand across his sweating brow. But there will be time enough for martinis once the sun touches the horizon, so the man shifts his attention back to the perforated green bag.
“Let’s see here…” The man tears open the bag and fishes out the only three bulbs inside. He appraises the sad little things. That’s it? Three?
“Meh…” He shrugs his shoulders, jabs the trowel into the soft dirt under the crooked white lamp post, and tosses the three desiccated bulbs into the hole.
“Sleep well, and dream of large trees.” Whispers the man, as he pushes the excavated dirt back into the hole.
The middle-aged man sputters and pops as he struggles up from his knees to regain his footing. He nods, satisfied with his work.
“A job well done!” He says to the two kibitzing crows keeping overwatch from a low branch in the tall oak nearby. “Now, about that martini…”
I told Handan about my brilliant feat of horticulture that night. Part of the ring around the lamp post was inhabited by a small Hosta, still working to gain its footing and claim its rightful bit of planet Earth. I figured the bulbs I’d introduced into Mother Nature’s womb would burst forth in their little slice of the ring and live in perfect harmony with the Hosta. I imagined they’d stretch their leaves out and embrace one-another while singing Kumbaya when the lamp turned on each evening. What’s more harmonious than freaking nature, right?
I didn’t realize that Lily of the Valley is a war-mongering species that will stop at nothing until it dominates whatever pot, plot, ring or garden it’s planted in. Like the old mailbox, I pretty much ignored the lamp post after tossing my bulbs. I remember last year there was growth and activity, but what did I know from plants? There was green stuff going on, so I figured everything was hunky dory.
Then this spring rolled around, and I noticed one thing immediately: Lily of the Valley is the best-smelling flower my nose has ever had the pleasure of sniffing! When it blossomed, I could smell it from anywhere in the yard. I looked at what I had planted. Jeezum Crow! I only planted three bulbs! Where the hell did the rest come from? And that Hosta is looking a little crowded…
But, whatever, it was green, so all was good.
Two months later…
Handan announced that it was time to give the lamp post a makeover. We actually have four lamp posts, but she was talking about the main one, pictured above. She’d get to the others in due time. Not only did she want to dig up everything and plant new stuff, but she also wanted to get rid of the stones and replace them with landscape bricks, make the ring bigger, and paint the post black. It was a pretty quick and easy project, so I presented myself for work duty.
Here’s how everything looked before.
The post (like all of our lamp posts) was leaning way off center, the stone ring was overgrown, weeds had crept in, and the whole thing was an untidy mess.
Handan started by pulling out the Hosta and the Lily of the Valley. I was wandering around the yard during this, probably chasing bugs and daydreaming.
Handan’s yelling shattered my reverie and sent me scurrying to her side.
“Yes, dear?” I said in my most milquetoast voice.
“My babes, the next time you take it upon yourself to plant something, either inform me first or learn what it is you are planting. Your Lily of the Valley not only took over the free space, but it is growing all through the Hosta and the Hosta’s roots! I’m trying to save this Hosta, but I’m destroying it from trying to remove the Lily of the Valley!” She was angry. Now I’d done it!
“Errmmm…” I said, and looked for an escape route. Damn, nothing but wide open spaces. She’d have me in her sights.
She sensed my panic.
“It’s okay, my babes. I love you so much. Just please don’t go planting things you don’t understand.”
“Yes, dear.” I said, and oozed myself backwards and out of sight.
Once she had the stones hauled away (a perfect job for a teenage boy) and the plants removed, I straightened the post by digging it out a little, and then leveling it with a post level. I compacted the soil around the post, so it should stay level for a while. Next, Handan cleaned the post and the light fixture, removed the glass (clear plastic, actually) and taped off the light socket of the lamp. She grabbed a few cans of semi-gloss black spray paint and started spraying.
The next step was perhaps the most dangerous and thrilling. I thought it best that I handle it.
Phew! That was tough!
Now that her post was black, she started in on widening the circle. Since the original circle wasn’t quite circular, and since the post wasn’t centered in the not-quite-perfect circle, Handan put her brain in gear and came up with a good plan for a wider perfect circle with the lamp past in the exact center. She tied a rope around the lamp post, ensuring that the knot was loose, so the rope could turn about the post without winding. She then secured the other end to an edger.
We removed the sod, leveled the area with some patio base, and then I started laying in the landscape bricks. In order to keep the perfect circle with the bricks, I used the same rope that Handan used for the edger. Each time I laid a brick, I pulled the rope over the center to see if the rope was perpendicular to the brick.
Here I’m using a mallet handle to better illustrate my point.
Handan planted some Salvia and Stella D’Oro Daylilies and then put down a bag of mulch.
What a difference it makes!
We still need to makeover the other three lamp posts.
That’s a project for another day…